Credit Reports: How to Get (Good) Copies
Whether you’re filing for bankruptcy or trying to repair credit, it is often necessary to get copies of your report from the three major credit reporting agencies. There are many ways to get credit reports, but it is important to get good copies.
Some clients know exactly who their creditors are and may not need credit reports. This would be someone who was either current or pretty current on their payments and had recent copies of bills from each creditor. Most people who are thinking about bankruptcy are more than a few months behind and it would be beneficial to have good credit reports to aid in the filing process.
The Sale of Debt Can Complicate Matters
One thing that happens when you fall behind in your payments is that the creditor sells the debt to another company. What typically happens is that the bank sells the debt for pennies on the dollar and the purchaser then has the right to collect the full amount. You may think you owe money to Bigcity Bank, but it may have been sold to someone else. This will most likely show up on your credit report. The longer it has been since you made payments, the more likely this is to happen.
Certain Types of Bills Do Not Show Up on Your Credit Report
One thing to be aware of is that certain types of bills do not show up on your credit report. For example, medical bills do not appear on your report. Debts to local merchants, such as the oil company or utilities, do not show up. And debts to cell phone companies do not show up unless the cell phone company has sold the debt, and then it will show up under the new creditor’s name.
Free Credit Reports
There are many places online where you can get credit reports, and many of them are free. They are free because usually the company that is getting them for you will try and sell you something else, such as credit monitoring or your credit score. With few exceptions, these commercial free credit reports are not that useful to your bankruptcy attorney because they leave out many details that your attorney will need. However, there is one place to get free credit reports that you should use.
Federal Law: Every Consumer is Entitled to One Free Report Each Year
Under federal law, every person is entitled to one free credit report each year from each of the three main credit reporting companies. These companies are Experian, Equifax and Trans Union. When you go to a site like Free Credit Report and get a report from them, what they are actually doing is getting for you your annual credit report from all three companies. Since Free Credit Report leaves out much of the detail your attorney will need, you will use up your annual free report and not have the information you really need.
The way to get the reports you need is to go to www.annualcreditreport.com, a web site created by the three companies to dispense annual free reports. You first have to say what state you are from and then, on the next screen, indicate which of the three reports you want. Click all three boxes so you can get all three reports. Before you do this, though, make sure you have a working printer with plenty of paper in it attached to your computer. And never do this from a public computer in a library, or Kinkos or an internet café.
You will be taken to web sites for each of the three reporting companies, and they will ask you questions about yourself and your credit history to verify that you are who you say you are. For each question, one of the choices is “none of the above” and that is often the right choice, so check that answer if needed. For example, you may never have had a mortgage, but the questions will say your credit report indicates you got a mortgage in 2008 and please check which bank you got it from. If you never got a mortgage, the answer will be “none of the above”. And, if the next question is how much your mortgage payment is each month, that would also be “none of the above.” This happens often, so do not be worried if it comes up when you are getting your reports.
When your report appears on the screen, there is usually something to click to produce a printer friendly report. Sometimes there will be a button to print the report, and sometimes you have to hit Ctrl-P or Cmd-P to print. Print your reports, and do not be surprised if they are long reports.
When you are done with each report, you have to indicate that you want to go back to Annual Credit Report by clicking on a link. (For each report, you are sent to the company’s own web site.) Do not click on the link until your report is completely printed, then go back to Annual Credit Report and get the next one. When you have all three, you can close the browser.
Sometimes you will not satisfy the company’s verification process and will see a screen telling you to send in documentation to get the report. If so, print this page and follow the instructions. Your report will come in the mail. This can happen if your answers to the verification questions do not match up with what the company has in its files. If this happens, after printing out the instructions, return to Annual Credit Report and go on to the next company.
Credit Reports Are Helpful When Filing Bankruptcy
Credit reports are very helpful when filing for bankruptcy, but remember they are not always completely accurate, so the more bills and letters from creditors you can find and give to your attorney, the better. And, if you ever leave out a creditor, it is not the end of the world, because there is a way to take care of missed creditors.
Allan Bloomfield practices bankruptcy law in Forest Hills, Queens. Contact Allan today for a free consultation.