In the age of identity theft and credit card usage, much is said about credit bureaus, credit reports, and credit scores. If you are curious about what all these things are, contacting credit bureaus is the place to begin. There are three major credit bureaus. Here is some information about how to contact credit bureaus and get the facts you're seeking.
- Know what a credit bureau is. A credit bureau is a company which collects information on an individual's credit, including how much credit a person has, how much money he owes (loans, credit cards, etc.), if he filed for bankruptcy or had a lien put on his property, and of course, if he has ever been delinquent in paying off any debts. The credit bureau also has your name, current and past addresses, and social security number. I'm not sure exactly why they have a right to all this information, but there it is.
The credit bureau takes your debt and credit information and gives each individual a credit score based on that information. This score is than accessed by lenders, credit card companies, apartment landlords, etc., to see if the person can be trusted to pay what's owed. The 3 major credit bureaus in the U.S. are Experian, Equifax and TransUnion. Why three companies have a monopoly on the business, again I have no idea, but there you go.
- Know what information you can get and what information you want. Individuals usually contact credit bureaus for two reasons--either they want copies of their credit reports or they want to clear up mistakes on their credit reports.
You might want a copy of your credit report for a few different pieces of information. First, you may want your credit score. In other words, if someone checks your credit, will he be getting a good report, or one that says "By God, don't lend to this person!" Generally, people have a pretty good idea of whether or not they've got good credit by considering if they pay their bills on time, have tons of maxed out credit cards or have defaulted on student loans. But getting your actual score is concrete information you can use when preparing to apply for a loan or when planning how to repair your credit.
You also might be contacting credit bureaus because you want a copy of your credit report to see who has been asking about you. Have you applied for a loan or credit card lately? Your credit report will indicate if that company checked your credit. Or you might want to check out your credit report to see if anyone has been perpetrating any identity theft--signing up for a credit card in your name, for instance. You credit report will list all the credit sources you've taken out money with, including credit cards you've already paid off. If there's one on there you don't know, that's a red flag to do some checking.
- Disputing your credit report. Another reason to contact a credit bureau is to dispute something on your report. I have checked my credit a few times and unfortunately, all the information has been painfully accurate. But sometimes, credit bureaus get it wrong, and you need to dispute something on the report. That's when you contact the credit bureau's customer service line and follow its procedure for filing a claim. I have never done this personally, but I have a feeling it's a great deal of fun, as most bureaucratic matters involving credit tend to be. I think they have credit bureau dispute codes and all kinds of tedious hoops you have to go through to get credit disputes resolved.
- Don't pay if you don't have to. Some of my favorite Internet irritants are credit reporting agencies offering you free credit reports...if you sign up for their special security plans. I have never clicked on one "get a free credit report" link and not then learned it's actually connected to some monthly plan I have to pay for. So annoying.
But the good news is, you can get a totally free credit report. In fact, you can get three totally free credit reports--one from each credit bureau--and you can get these three totally free reports once a year, every year. It's your right by law. So, instead of going through some credit security company (do your research on those before dismissing or investing in one), you can contact the bureaus directly yourself and get this information. If you want more than one report, you'll have to pay the credit bureau for it.
- So, how do i contact credit bureaus?
Experian is the largest of the three bureaus. It's located in Texas. I guess this means we shouldn't mess with it. To contact Experian about a credit report or to report fraud or dispute a claim, call 1-888-397-3742. The mailing address is: P.O. Box 2104 Allen, TX, 75013. Or you can find Experian online at Experian.
Contacting Equifax: Equifax is located in Atlanta, GA. It can be found on the web at Equifax. Equifax has two separate numbers, one for general consumer help at 1-800-865-1111 and one for reporting problems/fraud at 1-800-525-6285. If you want to contact Equifax via snail-mail, its address is: Equifax, PO Box 740201, Atlanta, GA, 30374-0241.
Contacting TransUnion: TransUnion is located online at Tuc. Its mailing address for general customer service is: TransUnion, PO Box 2000, Chester, PA, 19022. The general customer service number is 1-800-916-8800. For fraud reports, write: TransUnion Fraud Victim Assistance Division, PO Box 6790, Fullerton, CA, 92634.
Whether you just want to check up on your credit score or whether you want to know who may have been monkeying around with your credit, any of the three major credit bureaus are a place to start. And remember, the first credit report is free every year!