Viewing your credit report for the first time can be overwhelming, as you might not know exactly what it is that you are looking at or what you should be looking for. But don't panic. We are here to help! Your report from each agency may look a little different, but they all contain the same basic sections which are described below.
The top of your credit report contains your personal, or identifying, information. This includes your name, previous names you have used, your current and previous addresses, and current and possibly previous employers. You should check this information for signs of identity theft or of your report getting mixed up with someone else's at some point. Signs may include previous employers for whom you have never worked, addresses you have never lived at, or a name you have never used.
Below your identifying information will be a list of your current and previous accounts. Information included here will be the name of the creditor, the type of account (credit card, loan, mortgage, etc.) the status of the account (open or closed), the date the account was opened, the highest amount of credit ever issued, your monthly payment, and the amount you currently owe. Each account will also include a graphic which shows on time and past due payments. Past due payments will be color coded for 30, 60, and 90 days past due. You should check this section of your report for creditors you do not recognize and payments reported as past due that were not. Inaccurate past due payment information can be corrected by filing a dispute with the creditor and the credit reporting agency and providing both with proof that payment was made on time, such as a bank statement showing an ACH transaction or a cancelled check. If you do not recognize a creditor, write down the basic information so you can do some research. Oftentimes store credit cards will appear under the name of the bank that issued the credit and not the name of the store. Accounts may also have been sold or transferred to another company, or a company could have changed its name.
Collections and Public Records
Accounts that are in collection and financial related public records, such as bankruptcies and foreclosures, will appear in a section below the account listing. Check this section for bills you thought you had paid, medical expenses that should have been covered by your insurance company, and duplications of information appearing the accounts section. If you do not recognize an account here, contact the debt collection agency and ask them to provide you with debt verification information. This information should include the name of the original creditor, the amount of the debt, and any documentation to prove you owe the debt. You can then decide if you wish to pay or dispute the debt.
The last section of your credit report contains a list of companies that have recently checked your credit report. Credit card, loan, and mortgage companies will appear here as may potential landlords or employers. If you do not recognize a company listed here, contact them to find out about the inquiry and if you did not authorize it, consider putting a freeze on your credit report to help prevent new accounts being opened in your name by an identity thief.
If you are experiencing problems with your credit report, such as inaccurate information from a creditor or debt collector or the inability to obtain a copy of your report, feel free to contact our office at 1-800-219-3577, for a free, no obligation consultation.