• Here's how credit reporting agencies share information with consumers and creditors:

    • Credit reporting agencies only share credit reports and scores when there's a request, formerly called an inquiry.
    • There are two kinds of inquiries: hard and soft.
    • Hard inquiries are requests made by institutional creditors like credit card companies and mortgage lenders and by rental applications to a landlord. Soft inquiries are made by the consumer himself or by an employer.
    • Negative events like bankruptcies and foreclosures stay on a credit report between 7 and 10 years, while positive events, like on-time mortgage payments, can stay on even longer

    It's important to remember that the Big Three credit reporting agencies are independent companies that each collect information in different ways. Therefore, a credit report from Experian will contain slightly different information than a credit report from TransUnion, which will differ slightly from Equifax. Not every creditor and lending institution reports to all three credit bureaus, leading to further discrepancies.