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How To Read A Credit Report

Your credit report is an overview of your financial life. Anyone from car dealers, potential employers to lenders could review it. When you understand how to read your credit report and how to monitor it, you’ll be better equipped to handle your finances. Monitoring your credit report is a necessity while trying to rebuild your credit. Below are the different sections of your credit report and what information is important to focus on.

1. Personal Information

Identity information on your credit report may include:

  1. Name
  2. Social Security Number
  3. Date Of Birth
  4. Address
  5. Employer

The personal information section of your credit report is so essential. That's because the credit bureaus use your personal information to "verify" all of the accounts on your credit report.

This happens because all of your reporting accounts, inquiries and more (loans, credit cards, utilities etc) all present the information you give them to the bureaus every month, this is how the personal info section is populated. They come from your creditors. Anytime you apply for credit, the job, phone number, address and etc that you use is reported to the bureaus. Anytime you have monthly accounts reporting they are giving the bureaus the billing address you use, phone, employer etc.

So what happens is, when a collection account is sent to the bureaus from a collection agency, the bureaus matches the info presented with the collection to the info already in your personal info section to determine if the collection actually belongs to you.

That's why it's best to keep this portion of your report as clean as possible and only reporting current info.

2. Employer History

This may be included in the personal information section. You can file a dispute to change outdated information or add missing employer information, but it usually isn’t necessary. Employer information listed on the reports is typically there to help verify your identity.

3. Consumer Statements

This section may contain any brief statements you’ve submitted to a credit bureau. For example, if you disputed an item and the investigation didn’t resolve the dispute, your statement might explain how you disagree with reported information.

4. Account Information

This is where you’ll find specific details on your accounts, which could include mortgages, student loans, car loans, lines of credit, and other types of credit accounts. Take note that if you rent your home, rental payments don’t typically show up on credit reports.

The types of account information shown on your credit reports can include:

  1. Open accounts
  2. Closed accounts
  3. The dates accounts were opened or closed
  4. Payment history
  5. Credit Utilization
  6. Current account balance
  7. Loan payment status

If you’re paying bills on time and in full each month, this section will reflect that the account was paid as agreed. However, in the event a loan goes into collection, this section will reflect the delinquent payment status instead.

Late payments can stay on your credit reports for up to seven years from the date you missed the payment before they’re removed by the credit bureaus. Late payments are very harmful to your credit profile. Be sure to make a commitment to pay all bills on time if you choose to repair your credit.

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau recommends watching for the following errors:

  1. Accounts belonging to another person with the same name
  2. Accounts created through identity theft
  3. Incorrect payment history
  4. Wrong balance or credit limit information
  5. Reinsertion of previously corrected data

5. Public Records

Public records may include bankruptcies, foreclosures, tax liens and civil judgments against you, all of which can hurt your credit.

6. Credit Inquiries

Hard inquiries can negatively affect your credit scores. But that’s not the only reason to watch this section closely.

Hard inquiries generally occur when a financial institution checks your credit after someone has applied for credit in your name. This means that an unauthorized hard inquiry on your credit reports can be a problem. Unauthorized hard inquiries that you don’t recognize could be an indication of identity theft.

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