After pulling your credit reports, the next thing to do is to carefully review them. No surprises here – we need to review our reports before we know if anything is wrong with them.
As we review them, a couple of suggestions. First, don’t mark on your originals. Make a copy and that way you can circle, highlight, write crazy stuff, etc. on the copy and the original still looks nice.
Second, go through your personal information – any addresses that are wrong; social security numbers that aren’t yours; date of birth wrong, etc.
Next, look at the “Inquiry” section.
- Who is pulling your report?
- Is it a debt collector? That will let you know that you may get a rather unpleasant call or letter (we’ll write more about how to deal with debt collectors in another post).
- Is it a business you never applied to, such as a car loan or a mortgage? This may be a sign of identity theft.
- We do need to remember that the “promotional” (or sometimes called “soft”) inquiries will likely include companies you have never heard of but if you have this experience in the type of inquiries that count against your score (“hard inquiries”) then you need to pay attention to these.
Next, look at each and every account.
- Is it yours?
- Is it listed and you are really just an “authorized user”?
- Are the dates correct? Many debt buyers buy your debt for 3 or 4 pennies on the dollar and then change the date of last activity to keep the negative account on your credit report to leverage payment out of you. This is called “re-aging” the account.
- Is the history correct – were you really 90 days late?
- If you have filed bankruptcy and had an account discharged, is it still showing up with a balance?
- If your account has been sold to a collector or debt buyer, is the original creditor still showing a balance and the debt buyer showing a balance?
Finally, start gathering any documents you have that can show that the information on a particular account is wrong. Maybe you have a settlement letter saying a creditor would delete the account if you paid $1,000. Maybe it is not your account and you have a police report where you reported identity theft. Whatever the case may be, gather those documents so you can start to prepare your dispute letters to the credit bureaus. That will be our next topic. Until then, go through and mark your credit reports — copies, not the originals, please… 🙂
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