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Public Records on Credit Reports

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The information provided on this website does not, and is not intended to, act as legal, financial or credit advice. See Lexington Law’s editorial disclosure for more information.

If you’ve ever looked at your credit report, you’ve probably noticed a section called “public records.” These are entries that are also on file with local, county, state or federal courts. Keep reading to learn more about which public records appear on credit reports.

What Are Public Records?

Public records are documents or pieces of information that are not considered confidential. Some examples include arrest records, marriage certificates and some court records. These are records that other people or entities could look up about you, as the information isn’t private or protected.

In the context of your credit report, historically, only three types of entries were public records: tax liens, civil judgments and bankruptcies. Now, only bankruptcies should show up as a public record on an individual’s credit report.

The Public Record Entries

First, it’s essential to understand the three types of public record entries that can impact your credit report.

A tax lien is a law-imposed lien upon property for the payment of taxes. Typically, a tax lien occurs when a person fails to pay taxes owed on property (personal and other), income taxes or other forms of taxes.

A civil judgment is a legal ruling against a defendant in a court of law. It refers to a judgment on a noncriminal legal matter and often requires the defendant to pay monetary damages.

Bankruptcy is a legal process in which people or other entities who cannot repay debts to creditors try to seek relief from some or all of their debts. In most jurisdictions, bankruptcy is usually imposed by a court and is often initiated by the debtor.

Understanding the Updated Public Record Policy

In 2017, the National Consumer Assistance Plan (NCAP) went into effect and changed how data is collected for civil judgments and tax liens before these entries appear as public records on credit reports. The act was initially launched in 2015 by the three major credit bureaus to modify credit reporting rules and set stricter standards. These new standards would ensure that the data found on credit reports are more accurate and up to date.

There are two primary ways this act affects how credit bureaus obtain and report tax lien and court judgment data on consumer credit reports. First, for either of these types of entries to appear on a credit report, the public record must contain a person’s:

  • Name
  • Address
  • Social Security number or date of birth

This standard applies to both new and existing records that are already on credit reports.

Secondly, public records reported on credit reports must be checked by the credit bureaus for updates every 90 days to ensure their accuracy. If the records are not checked, they should be removed from the credit report.

Bankruptcy records already hold these strict requirements, which is why the changes don’t impact this type of public record. However, many tax liens and civil judgments do not uphold these standards, in large part due to different standards of record-keeping at various courthouses.

This higher standard for public records is estimated to have positively impacted millions of US consumers. As this change applies to public records that were already on credit reports before the NCAP, it’s essential to review your personal credit reports to see if any public records are still being shown. Generally, tax liens and civil judgments shouldn’t be on your credit reports anymore.

By 2017, almost half of all tax liens and civil judgments were removed from consumer credit reports, and by April 2018, the three credit bureaus had removed all tax liens from credit reports. Currently, the only type of public record that should be present on your credit report is a bankruptcy.

Not a Permanent Change

It’s crucial to note that tax liens and civil judgments might not stay off credit reports forever. This is because reporting on them isn’t illegal and the credit bureaus only promised to remove them for a time. This could change sometime in the future, so you still want to avoid incurring these types of public records if possible.

How Do Public Records Affect Your Credit?

Typically, when a public record is added to your report, it’s considered a negative item. That’s because most public records on credit reports stem from a debt or financial delinquency. Therefore, it will usually lower your credit score.

Bankruptcy

A bankruptcy can remain on your credit report for seven to 10 years.

If you go through a Chapter 13 bankruptcy, you must repay a portion of the money you borrowed. This type of bankruptcy has a shorter impact on your credit report (seven years) because you paid some of the money back.

Under a Chapter 7 bankruptcy, the individual doesn’t pay any of their debts back. This type of bankruptcy will remain on your credit report for up to 10 years.

Bankruptcy will have a devastating impact on your credit, lowering it by anywhere from 130 to 200 points.

It is difficult to rebuild credit after a bankruptcy filing, but not impossible. For example, while you may not be approved for a regular credit card, you can start with a secured credit card. You will still have financial options available to you.

Tax Liens and Judgments

The Consumer Data Industry Association revealed that the changes showed “only modest credit scoring impacts” on consumer reports. Still, millions of Americans had public records wiped from their reports, which was beneficial overall.

While these two types of entries may not be on reports anymore, they can still affect your finances and life in general. For example, a judgment can impact your ability to qualify for a loan or credit. Lenders may check to see if you have outstanding judgments and reject your application. Similarly, the presence of a tax lien may cause a lender to reconsider your application.

What Can You Do About Public Records on Your Credit Report?

If bankruptcy is on your credit report, and all the information is accurate, you can’t do very much to remove it from the account. However, if the bankruptcy data is incorrect, you can file a dispute.

For tax liens and civil judgments, file a dispute to remove these public records from your credit report. You can contact each of the three major credit bureaus by phone or email and ask them to remove the public records from your file.

For more detailed information on how to remove a tax lien, check out this blog post. And for step-by-step instructions on removing a civil judgment from your credit report, refer to this resource.

It’s essential you check your credit report regularly so you can note when new data appears on your report. If a negative item appears and it’s inaccurate, you should dispute it quickly, before it can significantly impact your credit score.

Your Credit Can Recover From Derogatory Marks

Having derogatory marks on your credit report is not a life sentence. With sound financial behaviors, your credit score can recover. You’ll need to make payments on time, get rid of debts and maintain a good credit utilization ratio. If you don’t know where to start, consider credit repair services.

Lexington Law knows how to spot incorrect data on your credit reports and give you helpful credit tips. Credit repair takes time, so it’s essential you start today.


Reviewed by John Heath, Directing Attorney of Lexington Law Firm. Written by Lexington Law.

Born and raised in Salt Lake City, John Heath earned his BA from the University of Utah and his Juris Doctor from Ohio Northern University. John has been the Directing Attorney of Lexington Law Firm since 2004. The firm focuses primarily on consumer credit report repair, but also practices family law, criminal law, general consumer litigation and collection defense on behalf of consumer debtors. John is admitted to practice law in Utah, Colorado, Washington D. C., Georgia, Texas and New York.

Note: Articles have only been reviewed by the indicated attorney, not written by them. The information provided on this website does not, and is not intended to, act as legal, financial or credit advice; instead, it is for general informational purposes only. Use of, and access to, this website or any of the links or resources contained within the site do not create an attorney-client or fiduciary relationship between the reader, user, or browser and website owner, authors, reviewers, contributors, contributing firms, or their respective agents or employers.

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What is Financial Profiling? – Lexington Law

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The information provided on this website does not, and is not intended to, act as legal, financial or credit advice. See Lexington Law’s editorial disclosure for more information.

FICO, the company that created the credit scoring system most often used by bankers, reports that your credit score is defined by five simple factors:

  • Repayment habits
  • Credit card utilization
  • Length of credit history
  • New credit acquisition
  • Account type diversification

Although those facts are known, a less publicized force also has the power to influence your creditworthiness: financial profiling.

It’s no secret that your credit score is partially based on how you spend, but is it affected by what you buy? When it comes to financial profiling, the answer is yes. Despite consumer outrage and FTC criticism, such factors are sometimes used by credit card companies to assess client behaviors and overall risk. Such creditors may decide to reduce limits based on profiling information they identify.

Financial profiling comes with a slew of implications and consumer consequences:

  • Assumptions. Creditors using financial profiling tactics sometimes draw harsh conclusions about what you buy. Excessive spending on travel, entertainment, and even healthcare costs could result in lower credit limits. Why? Creditors may view these expenses as frivolous or at risk for non-repayment. Whatever the reason, assumptions play a vital role in financial profiling and creditors’ resulting actions.
  • Grouping. Consider the following scenario:

You and your neighbor are both in the market for a motorcycle. You decide to shop together and end up purchasing bikes from the same pre-owned dealership. Despite a high credit score, you realize shortly after your purchase that your credit limit has been reduced by $1,000, but you have no idea why.

While this scenario may be a bit dramatic, the practice of grouping consumers is a common component of financial profiling. Creditors may choose to consider your spending and repayment habits alongside others who have shopped in the same places and bought similar items. If you bought a motorcycle from a dealer whose customers are notoriously delinquent spenders, you could be marked with the same red paint.

  • Credit damage. A reduced credit limit is more than an inconvenience. In fact, it can actively damage your credit score by affecting your utilization ratio. Credit utilization is measured based on the amount you currently owe vs. your total credit limit. For example, if Marshall has a credit credit card with a $2,000 balance against an overall credit limit of $20,000, then his ratio is 10 percent. Your credit utilization ratio should never exceed 25 percent. If Marshall fell victim to financial profiling and his credit limit was reduced to $10,000, his utilization ratio would automatically rise to 20 percent, putting him at risk for unbalanced debt utilization.
  • Unfair practices. You are probably thinking, “What gives a creditor the right to judge my spending habits?” Countless people are asking the exact same question. Although creditors have access to your personal spending information, do they have the right to analyze it without your knowledge even if you’ve proven to be a reliable customer? Further, is it fair to make account changes based on a list of recent purchases?

While these practices are not often acknowledged, it seems clear that financial profiling can be a significant factor in creditor business practices. If your credit limits are taking an unprovoked nosedive, call your creditor and ask for a written explanation. Contact the FTC for help if they cannot provide the information you seek. Credit is a choice, and you should never be forced to settle for an unfairly damaged credit score.

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Will My Credit Score Drop if I Don’t Use My Cards Regularly?

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The information provided on this website does not, and is not intended to, act as legal, financial or credit advice. See Lexington Law’s editorial disclosure for more information.

Credit health is a lifelong goal, one that requires attention and consistent credit use. An improved score means access to lower interest rates, insurance premiums and even high-reward credit cards. As you move forward in life, what happens to credit cards of days gone by? Will neglecting your old accounts affect your future? The short answer: Maybe.

Each credit bureau uses their own method of credit scoring. In general, payment history and credit length have the potential to impact 50% of your total score. Your oldest accounts play a role in these calculations as time lengthens your history and timely payments are recorded on your credit reports. Review the following dos and don’ts as you decide how to manage old accounts. They will help you protect your credit score along the way.

  • Do: Remember the value of each credit account. It’s easy to forget about old credit cards as you gain access to newer accounts with better rewards. That said, that first credit card carries more influence than you realize. Consider the following example:

Carrie opened her first credit card just after college in 2006. She plans to buy a home this year and is working on her finances. A friend advises Carrie to close her first credit card because, “Mortgage lenders are wary of too many credit accounts.”

While it’s true that mortgage underwriters don’t like seeing applicants with lots of debt, open accounts are another story. A credit account with a low balance isn’t likely to impact your ability to gain new credit elsewhere. An available limit also improves your credit utilization ratio by increasing your cumulative credit limit (more on that here).

  • Don’t cancel cards due to inactivity. Carrie’s first credit card solidifies 10 years of credit experience. Closing her oldest account erases her history, credit length, and available credit, three factors that could significantly lower her score. Dust off your oldest account and use them for small, regular purchases. Pay your balance in full each month to ensure a steady payment history and a positive credit influence.
  • Do: Consider your budget needs. In addition to boosting your credit score, reviving an unused credit card can have a valuable impact on your budget. For example, suppose you opened a Visa account in 2004. Your credit score was sub-par and you didn’t qualify for any perks. 12 years of history and an improved score could entice your lender to upgrade your account to include rewards and a lower interest rate, two factors that save you money simply by using your card.

The bottom line: Neglecting old credit cards may not hurt your score drastically, but it won’t help, either. Don’t miss an opportunity to improve your financial strength by building experience and keeping your accounts active.

Related Articles:

What is My Credit History?

Five Factors of Your Credit Score

Credit Cards: What We Found in the Fine Print

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The Importance of Establishing a Good Credit History

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The information provided on this website does not, and is not intended to, act as legal, financial or credit advice. See Lexington Law’s editorial disclosure for more information.

Looking around at the number of people struggling with debt, it’s easy to see why someone might think the best route to staying out of trouble is to avoid credit altogether. On the surface, this may seem like a good plan; without taking on any debt, it is certainly impossible to be buried by it. Unfortunately, for the majority of people, the credit-free lifestyle simply isn’t an option.

From car loans to home mortgages, most consumers will need to use some sort of credit in their lives, and, thus, take on some type of debt. Furthermore, when it comes time to get that big loan or mortgage, not having a well-established credit history can make the process much more difficult — and, often, more expensive.

Consumers Without a Credit History are an Unknown Risk

Whether taking out a loan or opening a credit card, when a borrower receives a line of credit from a creditor, that creditor is faced with the inherent risk that the borrower will default on (fail to repay) their debt. To help mitigate as much of that risk as possible, creditors rely on a consumer’s credit history to determine the actual likelihood of the consumer repaying the debt.

Borrowers with well-established credit histories showing consistent, on-time payments to a variety of credit types are considered to be good credit risks. These consumers will be offered the best interest rates and lowest fees when they seek new credit.

When a potential borrower does not have an established credit history, however, the creditor is left without any information on which to base a lending decision. While some creditors are happy to give an unknown borrower the benefit of the doubt and assume they are more likely to pose a good risk than a bad one, other creditors are less optimistic.

Of course, even when creditors are willing to take on the unknown risk of an unestablished applicant, they rarely extend that optimism too far. Borrowers without proof they can pay back their debts in full — and on time — will pay higher rates than their established counterparts.

Most consumers looking to begin establishing credit will have the best luck starting with a credit card, and there are a good number of options for consumers who need credit cards for no credit. All of the major credit card issuers report to the three main credit bureaus, and many also offer cards with no annual fees.

Having No Credit is Bad (But Bad Credit is Worse)

From the time of the first credit card bill or loan payment, consumers start establishing their credit history. Each payment made to a creditor according to the credit agreement (that is, at least the minimum amount, by the due date), counts in the consumer’s favor when reported to one of the three major credit bureaus, and is the best path toward developing a good credit history.

At the same time, when a consumer makes a late payment, misses a payment, or defaults on a debt entirely, those actions are also reported to the major credit bureaus. Where those without an established credit history are considered to be an unknown risk, those who demonstrate a pattern of missed or late payments are considered to be high risk, and more likely to default. This, of course, is reflected in your credit score.

In the case of high-risk applicants, creditors know there is a greater chance of not being repaid; they attempt to mitigate some of the increased risk by charging those consumers much higher interest rates. For consumers with extremely risky credit profiles, the only option for new credit may be to turn to a creditor that specializes in subprime credit cards and loans. The easiest credit card to get with bad credit will be a secured card, which requires a cash deposit; that said, some unsecured options are still available.

Depending on the types of negative accounts impacting a consumer’s credit report and score, some may benefit from going through credit repair. An experienced credit repair specialist, such as those at Lexington Law, will have the tools necessary to find any disputable accounts on a credit report and may be able to have some or all qualifying items removed.

Don’t Hide From Credit, Build It

Anyone who has watched a loved one struggle with debt, or been through it themselves, may be tempted to swear off any type of credit. Unfortunately, credit has become a necessity for many people, especially those interested in one day owning their own home. The best way for a consumer to ensure they will qualify for an important loan in the future is to establish a good credit history early on.

Whether they have no credit or bad credit, every consumer’s path to a healthy credit profile is the same: use credit, in moderation, and make all payments as required by their credit agreement. The best credit histories are built over years, not days or months. With a little patience and a lot of diligence, even a blank or bad credit history can be made creditworthy.

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