You have probably read the advice everywhere: CHECK YOUR CREDIT REPORT! However, what does that really mean? What are you supposed to be checking?
While pulling your credit report at least once a year is very good advice, a person needs to know what to look for when reviewing their information. Start with these tips to make certain you are making the most out of the credit report:
1: Check out identifying information. Look over the names, addresses, and social security numbers appearing on the credit report. While slight misspellings are common, alarms should sound if an entirely different name or address is associated with your social security number, or if there are multiple social security numbers showing up on the report.
2: Examine the creditors. All tradelines of credit should be reviewed closely. Note any creditors that you are not familiar with. Also review the balances on each account, looking for discrepancies.
Another important piece of information that is in the creditor tradelines area is joint or individual account information. This tells you if you are the only one on the account, or if you share it with another person.
3: Note any late payments. Accounts showing late have the single biggest impact on your credit score. The date of the late payment should be reviewed to see if the account really was paid late, or if the late was reported in error.
4: Review all public records: Serious financial missteps such as bankruptcies, foreclosures, collections, and tax liens will show up in this section. Go over these closely to see if any of the items are reported in error. If you have relevant public records in this section, make certain the dates are reported correctly.
The hope when assessing your credit report is that you will find no surprises. That is not, however, always the case. Various reports have found that up to 25% of credit reports contain errors.
What should you do if you find errors on your credit report?
Contact the bureaus. Write all 3 bureaus (either on their website or by mail) and tell them about the error. Send copies of any documentation that backs up your claim.
Notify the creditor. Send the creditor a letter saying that you dispute the item, along with copies of documents that give evidence to your claim.
Follow up. The credit bureaus have 30 days to investigate your dispute. They will then contact you to give you the outcome.
Implementing these tips can help you understand your report, catch any errors or mistakes, and assist you in staying on top of your reported credit history. Pulling and reviewing your credit report once a year is an important aspect of maintaining a successful financial life.