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It’s important to check your credit report

Federal law gives everyone the right to request three free credit reports each year. Copies of the reports can be requested – one each from the three credit bureaus: Equifax, Experian and TransUnion.

The University of Wisconsin-Madison Extension’s “Check Your Free Credit Report: 2/2, 6/6, 10/10” campaign, makes it easier to remember to order a free credit report. Anyone can sign up to receive an email reminder from the extension three times a year– on Feb. 2, June 6, and Oct. 10 – on the campaign’s website,

The campaign conducts an annual year end survey of participants. In 2018, 35 percent of respondents reported knowing very little, or nothing, about how long information stays in a report.

It can be helpful to understand what types of information appear on a credit report and how long that information is legally allowed to appear on a report, from the three major credit bureaus.

Positive or satisfactory account information, such as ontime credit card and loan payments, will appear in a credit report for as long as the credit card or loan is still open, and active.

Once closing a credit card or paying off a loan, that positive information typically stops showing up in a credit report 10 years after the account is closed.

Negative or adverse account information could include missed or late payments, debts that were sent to a collection agency, or were “charged off,” meaning that the company reported the debt as lost income and may have sold the debt to a collection agency.

Negative items can legally be removed from a credit report, if it has been more than seven years from the date the debt first became overdue. Note that a Chapter 10 bankruptcy can also be removed after seven years, but that a Chapter 7 bankruptcy is allowed to remain on a credit report for 10 years.

One reason to review a credit report regularly, is to check if any old items are listed and to contact the credit bureau to ask for older negative information to be taken off.

Even if debt does not appear on a credit report, the credit reporting bureaus still keep an older debt on file.

The bureaus can then release the information when applying for the following: A credit of $150,000 or more, such as a mortgage; life insurance with a face value of $150,000 or more; or a job with an annual salary of $75,000 or more.

It is also important to know that although debt may not show up on a credit report after seven years, a person may still owe the debt and be taken to court, depending on the state and the type of debt.

Inquiries that appear on credit reports are often another point of confusion since there are two types of inquiries. Regular or hard inquiries appear in a report, when applying for credit or buying insurance, for example.

These hard inquiries stay on a report for two years, can be seen by all creditors who look up a report and will usually lower a credit score by several points for many months.

Account review, promotional or soft inquiries, are when companies review credit information to see if a person qualifi es for their services or when an individual checks their own credit report. That inidividual is the only one who sees these types of soft inquiries and they do not affect a credit score.

There are three options for ordering a free credit report: through the mail, toll free by phone or at the official website,

Sometimes, individuals have trouble accessing their credit reports online, because they cannot match the credit bureau’s detailed identity questions. It’s possible to be denied online access to the report, which then requires a written request form, with copies of specific documents in order to verify identity.

For more information on credit reports, contact Chippewa County Extension the office at 715-726-7950.