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Contents Preface ix 1. The Power of Credit Bureaus 1 What Are Credit Bureaus? 3 Information in Your Credit Record 3 Who Sees Your Credit Record? 4 Investigative Reports 9 The Evolution of the Consumer Credit Industry and Passage of the FCRA 11 Criticism of Credit Reporting Agencies 17 2. Credit Report Basics 19 Which Credit Bureaus Maintain a Record on You? 20 Requesting a Copy of Your Credit Report 21 The Cost of Your Report 25 What's in a Credit Report? 26 What Your Credit Report Says about You 29 3. How to Read Credit Reports from the Big Three 31 Systems for Reporting Consumer Information 32 The Equifax Credit Report 32 The Trans Union Credit Report 38 The Experian Credit Report 50 CREDCO's Confidential Credit Report 62 4. Correcting Credit Report Problems 71 Credit Record Problems 72 Correcting Problems in Your Credit Record 74 The Credit Bureau's Response 77 When a Credit Bureau's Investigation Does Not Correct a Credit Record Problem 80 Other Actions for Consumers to Take 83 Negative but Accurate Account Information 88 Handling Omissions 90 5. Rebuilding Your Credit 93 A Creditwise Philosophy 94 Why Having Credit May Be Necessary 95 A Sound Approach to Credit Rebuilding 95 The Credit Rebuilding Process 96 Getting a Bank Loan 97 Getting a Second Loan 100 Shopping for a National Bankcard 100 Once You Have a Secured Bankcard 102 Beware of Bankcard Scams 103 Alternative Ways to Buy on Credit 104 6. Avoiding Credit Repair Company Rip-Offs 107 What Is a Credit Repair Company? 108 How to Spot a Fraudulent Credit Repair Company 110 Products and Services of Credit Repair Firms 111 Credit Repair Company Techniques 111 The Credit Repair Organizations Act 114 How to Find a Reputable Credit Repair Firm 115 What to Do if You Get Ripped Off by a Credit Repair Company 117 7. Women and Credit 119 Why Many Women Have Problems with Credit 120 Learning about Credit and Money Management 121 The Significance of Account-User Status Designations 121 The Advantage of Individual Credit 124 How to Build Your Own Credit History 125 Advice for Women Who Have Credit and Are Getting Married 132 Advice for Women Who Were Married before Enactment of the ECOA 133 Widows and Credit 133 8. Creating Divorce-Proof Credit 137 Planning for a Divorce 138 If Your Former Spouse Files for Bankruptcy 142 Property Settlement and "Hold Harmless" Obligations 144 Special Concerns for People in Community Property States 146 9. Protecting Your Financial Privacy 149 Privacy in the Age of Information 150 Unauthorized Access to, and Inappropriate Use of, Credit Record Data 151 Public Response to Privacy Problems 152 Federal Privacy Laws 153 The Credit Industry and Privacy 155 Special Products and Services 156 Beyond the Big Three 159 Government and Privacy 160 The Private Sector and Privacy 161 The Medical/Insurance Industry and Privacy 162 How Employers Are Using Information about Consumers 163 Credit Identity Fraud 165 Online Technology 166 Preserving Your Privacy in a High-Tech World 167 10. Now That You Have It 171 Strategies for Keeping Bad Habits at Bay 172 How Much Credit Is Enough Credit? 173 Profile of a Good Credit Manager 174 What Creditors Look For 175 Types of Credit Accounts 176 Evaluating Credit Offers 177 Credit Card Traps 179 Cash Advances-An Expensive Option 180 Do You Need Credit Life Insurance? 181 Debit Cards 182 Federal Laws You Should Know About 183 Write-Don't Call! 185 Appendix A The Fair Credit Reporting Act 189 Appendix B Federal Trade Commission Offices 231 Appendix C State and Local Consumer Protection Agencies 233 Index
Library of Congress Subject Headings for this publication: Credit ratings United States, Credit bureaus United States, Consumer credit United States, Consumer protection Law and legislation United States