What to look for on a credit report

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By Catherine Holland By Catherine Holland

One of the most personally identifying documents and often the most overlooked is a credit report. A credit report is a factual record of a borrower’s payment history and is used by lenders to determine creditworthiness.

There are three main credit-reporting agencies (Equifax Inc., Experian PLC, and TransUnion). The information included in each file may be different, so it’s important to be familiar with all three. Your credit reports contain a wealth of information, including your last three known addresses, current and previous employers, list of businesses that has inquired about information within your credit file, and your credit accounts – both open and closed within the last seven years. Since your credit file is constantly being updated with new information, it pays to understand exactly what is included in your file and to monitor the accuracy of what is being reported about you.

The financial experts at Money Management International (MMI) are here to help you identify what you should watch out for on your credit report.

Personal information – make sure the names and addresses listed on your report are accurate and up-to-date. In some cases, an incorrect address or suffix, such as Jr. or Sr., can cause your file to be mixed with a person with a similar name. Also, a recent address change may indicate that someone is fraudulently opening accounts in your name and routing the new cards to their address.

Account balances – review all open and closed credit accounts. Make sure the balances and dates are accurate. Remember to report any unfamiliar account activity, including invalid purchases and payments. Someone else could be using your account.

Inquiries from other credit lenders – review the list of creditors and businesses who has received information on you from the credit bureaus. Inquiries result from new credit applications or when you authorize an employer or insurance company to check your credit history. Too many inquiries can have an adverse affect on your credit score.

Credit score – pay attention to your credit score. A significant drop or rise in your credit score could indicate a problem. Watch for legitimate increases in your credit score and take advantage of better interest rates.

Monitoring your credit report is one of the best ways to ensure the accuracy of what’s being reported about your credit, and is one of the most important steps in protecting your financial well-being. A good rule of thumb is to review your reports at least once a year. To obtain one free copy of each of your credit reports every year, visit www.AnnualCreditReport.com.