Your credit reports are made up of data compiled by the Equifax, TransUnion and Experian reporting agencies, which sell your information to financial institutions and other lenders when you attempt to get credit. These inquiries become part of your records for two years, but too many can hurt you. The MyFICO scoring website warns that six or more applications within a few months mark you as a higher bankruptcy risk. You may be able to remove some of those inquiries.
Your right to free annual credit reports allows you to see which inquiries currently appear on your three credit reports. The Federal Trade Commission explains that AnnualCreditReport.com is the official source for no-cost, no-obligation reports once every year. Each bureau provides a key so you can easily read the report entries and determine which ones represent lender inquiries. This data may differ on each report, since some creditors use only one bureau for their credit checks.
The website of the Illinois Attorney General advises that you can often remove credit bureau inquiries by questioning the lender's authorization to review your credit records. The Fair Credit Reporting Act entitles you to proof of authorization, so write a letter to the bank or other company that made each inquiry and ask for that proof. Explain that you want the inquiry removed from your credit reports if the company cannot fulfill your request. Some requesters may provide validation, but many will remove the entry because that is the easier option compared to reviewing, copying and mailing their records to you.
You do not have to worry about negative effects from multiple inquiries generated while you are rate shopping for car financing, a mortgage, a student loan or other account for which you are seeking the lowest possible interest. MyFICO advises that credit scoring models recognize rate shopping and consolidate all similar applications made within a month so they only count as a single inquiry in your score. Credit checks done over a wider time span are considered individually.
Inquiries generated by credit applications are different from your own credit report reviews. You make a "soft inquiry" when you request your reports from Equifax, TransUnion and Experian, the Lendingtree loan site explains. Marketing companies also create soft inquiry entries when they purchase your data to send you offers. Do not worry about removing these types of credit checks because lenders cannot see them when processing applications and they are not figured into your credit score.
Based in Kissimmee, Fla., Barb Nefer is a freelance writer with over 20 years of experience. She is a mental health counselor, finance coach and travel agency owner. Her work has appeared in such magazines as "The Writer" and "Grit" and she authored the book, "So You Want to Be a Counselor."