WASHINGTON (11/12/10)—The Federal Reserve has announced the release of an online resource for consumers struggling to understand credit reports, credit scores, and the importance of protecting personal credit histories. The Fed’s new “Consumer’s Guide to Credit Reports and Credit Scores” describes the content of a credit report, explains how a credit score is used by companies that request them, and discusses the role of credit bureaus in collecting and disseminating this information. Mortgage lenders, financial institutions, insurers, utilities, employers, and other businesses may obtain credit reports from credit bureaus to assess how an individual manages financial responsibilities. n announcing the new online resource, the Fed noted that consumers “need to know what's in their credit report and understand how negative information, such as late payments or a bankruptcy filing, might affect a lender's decision to grant credit.” The agency said the guide answers questions ranging from "What is a credit score?" to "How can I get a free copy of my credit report?" to "How long does negative information stay on my credit report?" It also provides tips to consumers interested in improving their credit scores, as well as step-by-step instructions for correcting an error in a credit report.