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Look at Your Credit Report

Credit reporting agencies, or credit bureaus as they have been called, are simply storehouses for information regarding your credit and how you pay your bills, as well as some additional personal and legal information.

Credit reporting agencies receive information about you, your debts, and your payment history from various creditors with whom you have done business or who have extended credit to you. Some creditors may report to all three of the major agencies while some may choose to only report to one or two. Therefore, it is imperative that you are aware of the information being reported about you to all three agencies.

Credit reporting agencies DO NOT make or dictate your credit or credit rating or any score that may be assigned to you. Your credit rating or credit score is simply a documented record of your bill paying behavior over time, which the credit reporting agencies keep together for the purpose of determining credit worthiness in the future.

There's a lot you can learn from looking at your credit report. If you would like to receive copies of all three credit reports, visit to order them online. offers a few free copies of your credit report every 12 months from each credit reporting company.

When you receive your credit reports, you will also receive information explaining how to read and understand them. If you have further questions or need assistance with particular issues that need attention, help is available through either the credit reporting agencies themselves or through a nonprofit like Greenpath Financial Wellness,

Locate a similar office close to you by visiting These services help with credit report clarification at little or no charge.

Certified Credit Counselors will sit down with you and look over credit reports to help you understand, challenge, or resolve any concerns that may arise.

Before we leave this topic, be aware that there are many predators out there who would love to steal your identity and ruin your credit. Identity thieves do not care about you or the consequences you might suffer, but are only concerned about themselves and what they can gain by taking on the identity of individuals who are unaware of what is happening, often until the point of absolute credit chaos. There are many great tips for protecting yourself from identity theft at the Federal Trade Commission's website.

In addition, be aware of companies that promise to "fix" your credit or sell you a package to help you "fix" your own credit. The only way a consumer will ever "fix" his or her credit is by consistently making full and timely payments on all debts over time. Although this may take some time to accomplish, debts did not happen overnight and neither will the "fix." But, with time, consistency, determination and wise planning, the "fix" will become reality.

Visit to learn more about successfully managing credit.

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OCAP believes that financial literacy and understanding the financial aid process are critical aspects of college planning and student success. OCAP staff who work with students, parents, educators and community partners in the areas of personal finance education, state and federal financial aid, and student loan management do not provide financial, investment, legal, and/or tax advice. This website and all information provided is for general educational purposes only, and is not intended to be construed as financial, investment, legal, and/or tax advice.