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Credit Industry

If you’ve ever applied for a credit card, a personal loan, or insurance, there’s a file about you. This file contains information on where you work and live, how you pay your bills, and whether you’ve been sued, arrested, or filed for bankruptcy.

Companies that gather and sell this information are called Consumer Reporting Agencies (CRAs). The most common type of CRA is the credit bureau. The information CRAs sell about you to creditors, employers, insurers, and other businesses is called a consumer report.

Q. What type of information do credit bureaus collect and sell?

A. Credit Bureaus collect and sell four basic types of information. Identification and employment information Your name, birth date, Social Security number, employer, and spouse’s name are routinely noted. The CRA also may provide information about your employment history, home ownership, income, and previous address, if a creditor requests this type of information.

Payment history
Your accounts with different creditors are listed, showing how much credit has been extended and whether you’ve paid on time. Related events, such as referral of an overdue account to a collection agency, may also be noted.

Inquiries
CRAs must maintain a record of all creditors who have asked for your credit history within the past year, and a record of those persons or businesses requesting your credit history for employment purposes for the past two years.

Public record information
Events that are a matter of public record, such as bankruptcies, foreclosures, or tax liens, may appear in your report.

Creditors will use the information in these credit reports to help them decide whether or not you are able and/or likely to make the payments on the loan or account, based on your past credit experience. Most creditors actively cooperate with the credit bureaus, by giving them the very information that is later resold. The Bureaus work as an information exchange center for these institutions. For your information, here is the law limiting the permissible uses of credit reports.

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