Credit reports don't tell all
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Do you feel like your credit report is spying on you?
Sometimes it seems like just about everything personal is included in your credit history, including your name, address and Social Security number. Even your birth date is on it.
But you still have a few secrets even your credit report doesn't know.
Here are seven items that lenders won't see when they pull your credit report.
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Salaries haven't "been on a report since the early 1990s," says John Ulzheimer, president of consumer education for SmartCredit.com. Even then, it was "highly dubious" because the information came from the consumers themselves, he adds.
If you ask someone what they will make this year, there are "too many variables," such as layoffs, raises, commissions and bonuses to get an accurate answer, says Ulzheimer.
Another reason you won't see salaries on credit reports: "Income really isn't a measure of creditworthiness," he says. "It's a measure of capacity."
Your credit report and your credit scores are meant to tell "a creditor whether or not you're going to make a payment, not whether you can make a payment," Ulzheimer says.
Other income sources that also don't appear on your credit report: unemployment benefits, alimony, child support or public assistance.
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Your employment status
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Lose your job and you probably feel like the bad news is tattooed on your forehead. One place no one will see it: your credit report.
Even if you tell individual lenders, such as your mortgage holder, that information won't make it onto your credit report.
Employment information, though, could be there and will vary slightly depending on which of the three credit bureau reports a lender pulls.
Names of your employer or past employers could be on the report if you applied for credit and listed them on applications, says Rod Griffin, director of public education for Experian, one of the three major credit reporting agencies. But an Experian report won't list your job title or dates of employment, he says.
Your Equifax report will list your last known employer and occupation, but not your dates of employment or whether you're still employed, says Jennifer Costello, director of public relations with the credit bureau.
Your TransUnion report will list, "if available," your current employer and occupation, plus the date employment was verified, the hiring date and/or the date the information was reported, says Clifton O'Neal, spokesman for the bureau. It also lists the same information for the previous employer, he says.
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Your spouse's credit history
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Merging lives doesn't mean merging credit files.
Contrary to popular belief, marriage doesn't result in one joint credit file for both parties, says Ulzheimer.
When someone pulls your credit, whether you're married or not, the lender will see only your individual credit history, along with the debts and accounts with your name on them.
Some of those obligations may show that you're a joint account holder, co-signer or authorized user on certain accounts, says Ulzheimer. However, your report won't show the names of the other people on those accounts, or your relationships to them.
If you live in a community property state and your spouse defaults on his or her individual debts, then a collection action for the debts, which could be considered yours also, could show up on your credit report, he says.
One thing you might notice no matter where you live: When you pull your own credit report, some versions will include your spouse's name, says Ulzheimer. But the reports lenders and others view won't have that.
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Your criminal past
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Relax: That arrest for trespassing when you were a teenager won't affect your credit. That's because it won't show up on your credit report.
Credit bureaus don't include criminal conduct on credit reports, says Ulzheimer.
Three exceptions: First, if you have a financial snafu that also involves the court system, such as a judgment or lien, it will show up on your credit report.
Child support payments can also show up as a regular debt on your credit report, says Costello.
And if you receive a fine or ticket, don't pay it and it goes to collection, then that collection activity could show up on your report. But it would appear as a debtor trying to collect an overdue debt. There wouldn't be any details on the initial infraction, says Costello.
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The Fair Credit Reporting Act prohibits listing information on your report that jeopardizes your medical privacy. Often, this means medical debt doesn't appear unless it goes to collections, says Ulzheimer.
One possible exception: Pay with a credit card or through a third-party lender and the balance could show as a regular debt, minus any medical information, he says.
In collections, medical debt can pop up on a credit report. But privacy rights are still in effect.
For Experian, the report lists the item as medical debt, along with the balance, default date and collection status. There is "no information on the type of condition treated, where you received the treatment, the name of the medical collection company -- anything that would be of concern," Griffin says.
For Equifax, the report includes "the name of the creditor (i.e., medical corporation, treating agency, doctor's office) but would not include information denoting that it is for medical services," says Costello. If the provider's name breaches confidentiality, the provider more than likely would report using the "parent company or holding entity" instead, she says.
For TransUnion, says O'Neal, it includes the balance in collections and that it's medical debt, with no information on providers or services.
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Pawned some valuables? Taken out a payday loan? Signed for a car title loan?
Those transactions don't show up on your credit report, says Ulzheimer.
"But if you default and the lender enlists a collection agency to come after you for the balance, that action likely will go on your report," he says.
Another item that doesn't show up on credit reports: reloadable debit cards. "They are not on your credit report because they are not credit," Ulzheimer says.
One "lender" that's also often missing from credit reports: utility providers.
While some power, gas and phone companies routinely report to credit bureaus and as a result, show up on your credit report, more often they don't, Ulzheimer says.
When that can change: If you dodge a bill that goes into collections, you can probably expect that notation to end up on your report.
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Your net worth
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A credit report is basically a list of all your current and recent past debts and obligations.
What's missing from the report: assets that you own outright.
Which means it can't include your net worth. That surprises some consumers, says Ulzheimer. "A lot of people think their net worth is on a credit report."
"There's nothing on a credit report that talks about how much money you have in the bank, the money you have in a brokerage account, your stock options" or any other assets, he says. "And if you own a piece of property free and clear, there's nothing on your credit report."
Also not on the report: the worth of your home or home equity, says Ulzheimer. "The value of your home is not on your credit report."
The only related item that you could see: your mortgage, plus any loans or liens you have on the property.
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