Image 1 Data Source: FTC Study, Five Percent of Consumers Had Errors on Their Credit Reports That Could Result in Less Favorable Terms for Loans | Federal Trade Commission. N.p., 11 Feb. 2013. Web. <https://www.ftc.gov/news-events/press-releases/2013/02/ftc-study-five-percent-consumers-had-errors-their-credit-reports>.

What Should I look for in my Credit Report?

So now that you know what you’re looking at, what are you looking for? Three key things:13

Incorrect information. You’ve already checked to ensure your personal information is accurate. Next you’ll want to go through your report and make sure all of the information reported is also correct. This is not only important to make sure you’re not getting unfairly dinged for a bill you paid on time—your credit report can also serve as an early warning system to alert you to identify theft.13

Expert Advice

Rod Griffin, Director of Education for Experian.

“A credit report is the information about how you pay your debts. So it has info about your credit cards, installment loans, and so on, and whether you paid them on time or not. When a lender asks for a credit report, they can also ask that a credit score be calculated, or they can calculate it themselves, using that information from the credit report. The score is a representation of that information at that moment in time.”

Suspicious information.  Unfamiliar addresses, incorrect social security numbers, new activity on an account you don’t use, new lines of credit that you didn’t open, unfamiliar accounts, “surprise” delinquencies and collections proceedings or overdue notices on accounts that should be current are all potential identity theft red flags. You should also note the appearance of any hard inquiries when you haven’t applied for a new loan or credit card, as this can also signal identity theft.13

Image 2 Data Source: “Helping Victims of Identity Theft.” Victims of Identity Theft, 2014 (n.d.): n. pag. Bureau of Justice Statistics. Sept. 2015. Web. <https://www.bjs.gov/content/pub/pdf/vit14_sum.pdf>.

Outdated information. As a rule, most reported information stays on your credit report for seven to ten years, depending on the type of information (you can view Equifax’s list here for a complete list). While that’s not exactly a short stay, the good news is that there is an expiration date. You’ll want to make sure that you don’t have any unwanted credit history overstaying its welcome and weighing down your credit score—and if you do, that you request its removal.13

It’s always a good idea to check your credit report from each of the three major credit reporting bureaus each year to guard against incorrect reporting and suspicious activity.  If you do find a mistake on your credit report, never fear. You can report possible identity theft, errors and outdated information to the credit reporting bureau from which you ordered the report.

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