EAGAN, Minn., April 23, 2013 /PRNewswire/ -- Despite its importance in everything from obtaining a credit card or mortgage to employment background checks, nearly a quarter of Americans have never checked their credit report, according to a new survey by FindLaw.com, the most popular legal information website.
Twenty-two percent of Americans have never checked their credit report to verify the accuracy of the information, even though by law, credit reporting agencies are required to provide free copies upon request.
Women are more likely than men to check their credit reports. Twenty-five percent of men have never checked their credit reports, compared with only 18 percent of women.
People with more income are somewhat more likely to check their reports. However, a significant percentage of people even at the highest income levels say they have never checked their credit reports, including 14 percent of people with household incomes of $75,000 a year or more.
A credit report is an overview of how much debt a person currently has, as well as whether he or she has a history of making debt payments on time. It also contains personal information such as recent home addresses, employers, and bankruptcies and court judgments.
Credit reports are used by lending institutions, such as mortgage and credit card companies, as part of their decision-making on whether to grant credit. In addition, in most states, credit reports can be used as part of employment background checks. Credit reports are different from credit scores, which are numerical values applied by the credit reporting agencies as a measure of credit risk.
Under the Fair and Accurate Credit Transactions Act, all Americans are entitled to a free credit report from each of the three major credit reporting agencies once every 12 months. Federal law also sets requirements for resolving disputes involving the accuracy of information in a person's credit report.
"The accuracy of your credit report can have a major impact on your finances, and even your chances of obtaining a job," said Stephanie Rahlfs, an attorney and editor with FindLaw.com. "Inaccuracies in information such as late payments or defaults could play a major role in whether you can obtain a home mortgage, credit card, car loan and other types of debt, and how favorable your terms will be, such as interest rates. Credit reports are increasingly used in background checks, and could determine whether you are offered a job or rental housing."
Free, helpful information on credit reports and other aspects of consumer credit can be found online, including at FindLaw.com's Financial Consumer Protection site: http://consumer.findlaw.com/credit-banking-finance/
The FindLaw survey was conducted using a demographically balanced survey of 1,000 American adults and has a margin of error of plus-or-minus 3 percent.
Note to editors: Full survey results and analysis are available upon request.