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How to Read Your Credit Report

March 14, 2017

So, you’ve received your free credit report…now what? Checking your credit report regularly is an important way you can help protect yourself from identity theft. If you’ve never reviewed one before, it’s easy to get overwhelmed or have questions. We want to help you fully understand your report, so we’re providing you with the details and key components of each section.


Personal Information

This section contains basic information about you; name, birth date, Social Security number, current and previous addresses and employer information. This information is not used to calculate your credit score but to verify your identity and confirm that the information you included in a credit application is accurate. This is also where a “consumer statement” may appear – something you asked the agency to include in your report, perhaps to outline the circumstances of an event that appears on your report, such as why an account was paid late. While such a statement does not alter your credit score, it does provide additional information that may help a potential creditor reach a decision.


Summary

This section, as its name implies, is a summary of the information included in the report – your total debt and monthly payments, and the number of open and closed accounts, past due accounts, public records that might affect your credit report and inquiries made about your credit history.


Credit/Account History

This section lists detailed information about credit accounts in your name. This includes any mortgages, installment accounts (such as car loans), revolving accounts (credit cards), accounts that have been turned over for collection and other types of accounts. The entries will list the creditor’s name, account number, whether the account is open or closed, the balance due, the type (real estate, automobile, etc.) and the payment status.


Public Information

This section details any legal matters that would affect your credit, including state and federal tax liens, civil judgments, bankruptcies, marital items (a filing related to a marriage or divorce), foreclosures or garnishments to your wages. Each entry will include the type of record it is, identifying numbers, dollar figures and other information to allow creditors to understand your role in the record, your liability and the status of payment.


Inquiries

This section will list the businesses that have requested a check of your credit in the last two years. A “hard inquiry” is listed when creditors or lenders review your credit for the purpose of an application. Each hard inquiry will list the name, date and credit bureau that handled the request. Checking your own credit, placing a fraud alert or subscribing to a monitoring service does not cause a hard inquiry. Inquiries stay on your credit report for up to two years. “Soft inquiries” are listed below the “hard inquiry” section. These inquiries are typically generated when companies send you pre-approved offers for credit. You can opt-out of receiving these pre-approved offers by calling (1-888-567-8688).


Creditor Contacts

This section lists the name and contact information for each creditor on your report. It can include those creditors that have made inquiries even where credit was not extended.

Understanding your credit report and the basic components of each section is important in identifying if there is any unusual activity you don’t recognize. If you see anything that doesn’t look right, or have any further questions, we are always happy to help! And don’t forget, you can request one report from each bureau for free every year.

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