What Should Be on My Credit Report and What Do I Do if There's a Mistake?

You can get a free credit report from each of the three credit agencies once per year.

A credit report is a collection of information about you that will provide potential lenders with an idea of how you pay your bills and how good of a credit risk you are.  It's a good idea to check your credit report every year to make sure there aren't any mistakes. The following information can be found on your credit report.

-Personal Information. This will include your name, date of birth, social security number, address (both current and previous), phone numbers, and your employment history.

-Public Records. This will include judgements against you, tax liens, bankruptcies, that type of information.

-Credit History. This section will report how well you have or have not paid your bills. The bills that are reported include those from credit card companies, banks, retail stores, unpaid medical bills, any bills that you owe or owed in the past. This information will include the amount that is owed and how well you have paid.

-Inquiries. This section will show potential creditors who else  is looking at your credit history.

If you are concerned there may be a mistake on your credit report, the first thing you should do is contact each of the three reporting bureaus, Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion about getting a copy of your report. You are eligible for one free report every year, don't fall for one of the companies that claims it will get you a copy of your reports for free but then wants you to pay for one of their services before you get it. You are entitled to one for free every year from each of the agencies. You can go to the Website www.annualcreditreport.com to get a copy of all three reports.

Once you have your report, check it for errors and omissions. Check to make sure all the personal information is correct; check to make sure that all the information about your bill-paying history is correct; and check to make sure no one has opened an account in your name without your knowledge.

If you do find a mistake, it will take a good bit of work to fix it, but if you follow through with the creditor and the reporting agencies you should be able to resolve the problem fairly quickly. You will need to first file a dispute with all the credit agencies that are showing the erroneous information and then also contact the creditor. Your involvement in the process will make sure that the mistake is fixed quickly. For example, if the bank that holds your home equity loan makes a mistake and tells the agencies that you haven't made your loan payments for three months, you should dispute the information and then contact your bank about the mistake. They should be able to supply you with a letter saying that a mistake was made. You can then forward that information to the credit bureaus to accelerate the removal of the wrong information from your credit report.

If you find that an account was opened using your personal information without your permission, you should contact the creditor and  the credit reporting agencies. If they determine the account was opened by someone else in your name, you will have to contact the police to file a fraud report and go from there.

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