In order to effectively protect your credit history, you must first understand how credit information is reported to the consumer reporting agencies. The consumer reporting agencies (Trans Union, Experian, Equifax and CSC Credit Services) receive credit related information and store that information in sophisticated databases. Those that provide credit information to the agencies are known as "furnishers." Furnishers are typically lenders (such as those that provide revolving credit lines, mortgages, student loans and the like) but may also include others like public information venders that collect and provide public record information (such as judgments and bankruptcies) to the consumer reporting agencies.
One common misconception is that when furnishers report your credit information that information posts directly to your "credit report" which in turn is provided to potential creditors when you apply for new credit. This misconception is wrong for many reasons all of which relate to how the agencies collect, sort and then disseminate credit information.