what to look for on your credit report

What to look for on your Credit Report

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In a word, inaccuracies. Mistakes are not entirely uncommon on credit reports. Sometimes they're caused by simple human error, other times they occur when credit files of people with similar names are inadvertently mixed. Increasingly, unfamiliar or inaccurate information can also be an indicator of identity fraud—when someone uses your name and accounts without your knowledge. Look closely at the following areas to catch mistakes or fraud:

1. Personal Information—Are the names and addresses listed on your report accurate? Often, an incorrect address or unfamiliar suffix, such as Jr. or Sr., can be an indication that your file may have been mixed with that of another person. Additionally, a recent address change may indicate that someone is fraudulently opening accounts in your name, but routing the bills to their address.

2. Public Records—If any bankruptcies, judgments or liens are listed in this section, make sure they are accurate and complete. Remember, some bankruptcies can stay on your report for up to 10 years while others cycle off after seven years.

3. Accounts—You will notice basic information such as your credit limit, current balance, and date the account was opened. Also check out the detailed payment information by month for incorrect late payments or charge-offs.

Remember to check for unfamiliar accounts or activity on accounts that you thought were closed. Someone besides you could be using the account.

4. Inquiries—This section shows you who has received information from your credit report and who was given your name during the recent past, as allowed by law. Often, credit grantors will "pre-screen" your credit file in order to offer you special rates. Additionally, inquiries are recorded when you apply for new credit or authorize an employer or insurance company to check your credit history.

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