A credit bureau is a private business that acts as a clearing house for credit information. When you apply for a loan or a credit card, the lender will assess your ability to pay. Since they do not know you personally, the lender will base their decision on factual information about you and how you pay your bills. They usually get this information from your credit application and from your file at a local credit bureau.
Your credit file will usually include such information as your full name, present and past addresses, birth date, and social insurance number. In addition, it may include your present employer's name as well as your employment history. Other things that may be included are your marital status, spouse's name and employment, number of dependents if applicable, your credit card application and payment records. Information that is available in public records, such as court judgements, foreclosures and seizures may also make up part of your file.
Most of the information in your credit file is provided by credit grantors such as banks, mortgage companies, department stores, oil and gas companies, finance companies and car dealers. Some information is collected through public records such as registered chattel mortgages and bankruptcies. Your file does not contain hearsay, gossip or speculation. There is no information about your friends, personal habits or morals.
A credit bureau does not give credit ratings. Each credit grantor has a different way of deciding whether or not to give you credit. The decision may depend not only on the facts in your credit file, but also on your employment, your collateral, your marital status, and the purpose of the loan.
A credit bureau provides the information in your file to any company subscribing to its services. You may look at your own credit file by going to the bureau and showing proper identification. A fee is usually charged both to subscribing members and to individuals requesting their own credit file information.
If you wish to challenge information on your credit file, the credit bureau may allow you to file a statement which tells your side of the story.