Managing Credit and Debt

What kinds of errors should I look for on my credit report?

Those credit bureaus that create your credit report aren’t infallible. In fact, one in five participants in a recent study by the Federal Trade Commission found errors in their credit report. One in ten of those errors made a difference in the person’s credit score; one in twenty were so grievous that they could have led to the person paying higher rates for loans or, in some cases, even being denied credit entirely. “The financial downsides to errors are huge,” says John Ulzheimer, president of consumer education at CreditSesame.com, “Besides the credit issues, it can even affect your insurance rates and ability to get a job.”

When you periodically review your reports, you should watch out for accounts you never opened, which may signal that you’re a victim of identity theft or that the bureau or lender has confused you with someone of the same or similar name.

Verify, too, that negative information isn’t listed past the date it’s supposed to be removed from the report—seven years for late payments, collection notices, and foreclosures, 10 years for bankruptcies.

Confirm that any billing issues that have been resolved are noted as such.

Even if a mistake doesn’t seem like it will impact your ability to get credit—a misspelled name, for example—you’ll want to take steps get it fixed. You don’t want something silly like that to hold up your process of credit approval once you’re, say, applying for a mortgage on your dream home.

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