Your credit is a vital part of your financial well being. A good credit score is becoming increasingly important as things become more automated and an increasing number of sectors will turn to your credit score to determine everything from your interest rates on mortgages, credit cards, and car loans, to your insurance premiums, to whether or not to hire you.
Your credit is stored, primarily, with the three major Credit Reporting Agencies: Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion. While regulated (to some degree) these are private, for-profit companies that are in business to record and sell your information to interested parties.
In addition to being used when you apply for credit, your report is sold to marketers for pre-approved offers (unless you OPT OUT), to "skip tracing" companies, and potential employers, among others.
Is is also a sad truth that not enough effort goes into maintaining accurate credit reporting. The burden of making sure your credit report stays both accurate and secure is placed on you as a consumer. A majority of credit reports have some error on them and 25% have a serious enough error to deny you credit.
It is primarily for this reason that we recommend you get prequalified well in advance of shopping for your home. The drop list that appears when you bring your mouse over the Your Credit icon at the left contains a number of relevant and useful topics.