Credit – The Snapshot-Frozen Scan

Information in a bureau’s repository is always changing. This is due to the internal factors inherent in the database itself, such as items automatically dropping off after the data-retention period expires or closed accounts dropping after 10 years. (Credit bureaus are not required to keep positive information any longer than they do adverse, yet their common policy is to retain non adverse closed accounts for 10 years.) Database information can also change due to external factors, including the direct modification of the data by virtue of deleting or changing existing entries or adding new ones.

Since a credit report is a living record that is constantly in flux, bureaus need a way to go back and view the report the way it was at a specific point in time. Using this archival system of data retrieval, often referred to as a snapshot or “frozen scan,” assists them in discovering the source of errors and other problems and is particularly useful for rooting out identity theft or file merger mistakes. There are at least two types of snapshots.

The monthly snapshot is created every 30 days automatically. This data has actually proven extremely valuable in lawsuits against the bureaus, where it has served to demonstrate systematically how bureau mistakes and shoddy database management have negatively affected large groups of people. What I refer to as a general snapshot is generated any time an inquiry is made on your credit report-including one you make when you run a credit report on yourself, either directly from a bureau or through a third-party credit report provider. Should discrepancies arise, this enables the bureaus to go back in time and look at the exact report that existed at the time of the inquiry if necessary, in order to deal with any problems. However, when you pull a report for yourself through a third-party credit report provider, such as FICO, a snapshot is not taken.

This is a shame, since it’s the FICO score that matters most because it’s the one most lenders use. FICO is closely associated with the Big Three, providing the national bureaus’ reports directly to consumers and tying in its software scoring model to those reports in order to generate a FICO credit score. You also want a snapshot in the bureau’s database because it can be very useful when attempting to have changes made to your report. It will also prove helpful in any legal action that you may embark on later. For this and other reasons, always get your Big Three reports directly from FICO, but also obtain the individual reports directly from each of the Big Three at the same time. It may seem redundant, but the creation of a snapshot in the bureau’s database is important in light of common bureau errors and identity theft.