When reviewing your credit report, here’s what you’re looking at — and what you should do if something is incorrect.
All reports contain four categories of basic information:
- Identifying information – your name, Social Security number, and address
- Your credit accounts – type, limit, balance, and date they were established
- A list of all credit inquiries made in the last two years
- Information regarding overdue debt, foreclosures, bankruptcies, liens, or judgments in your name
To get a complete picture of your credit, make sure to pull a report from each credit agency.
(Experian, TransUnion, and Equifax)
Here are some areas where you’ll need to watch for errors –
Be sure that all the accounts listed are indeed still open and are accounts that you opened yourself. If there are any accounts that you did not open – this could be a first indication of identity theft.
Payment history makes up 35% of your credit score, so it is very important to look at any late payments or account delinquencies that are being reported. Notice how late the payments were, as the longer it took you to make the payment, the more damaging it will be to your credit (60 days late is more damaging than 30 days, for instance). Also notice, how long ago the late payments occurred (the more time has passed, the better it will look).
Credit utilization, (the amount of credit you are using in comparison to the amount available to you) makes up 30% of your score. Check ratios for each account and ensuring you are using no more than 10%–30% of your available credit.
Accounts in collections, bankruptcies, liens, and judgments
Check for any discrepancies with any collection activity, bankruptcies, liens, or judgments on your report. Check that there aren’t accounts that have been turned over to collections you weren’t aware of and that all the listed dates are accurate. These items will fall off your report in seven years and have less of an impact over time.
Hard credit inquiries
Hard credit inquiries appear on your report when you attempt to acquire new credit, fro example a loan or credit card. These only appear after paperwork has been signed and the official request has been made. It is very important to make sure each of these inquiries was of your own doing and not the result of identity theft.
If you believe that any information listed on the report is inaccurate, it’s important to begin by alerting the responsible credit-reporting agency.
All three agencies allow disputes to be reported online; but, it still may benefit you to make a written-letter inquiry, including all information necessary to support your claim, so as to establish a paper trail
After receiving your claim, credit-reporting agencies should send you a response within roughly 45 days stating whether or not your claim has been substantiated. If it has the information will be changed, or if it hasn’t been proven it will remain the same.
You have the option of filing a complaint with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), if your claim is not proven, at which point the credit agency must provide a response to both you and the CFPB.