Your credit report is one of the most important pieces of your financial history. It shows prospective lenders what type of debt you already have, what loans you’ve applied for, and your repayment history. Sometimes errors can appear on your credit report and if they aren’t fixed, they can damage your financial health. Therefore, it’s very important to review your credit report for any inaccuracies. You’re allowed one free credit report per year from each of the three credit reporting companies. Order yours at annualcreditreport.com to review the following sections of your report.

Identifying Information

The first section of a credit report contains the specific information that identifies you as an individual. You'll find your name, date of birth, Social Security number, current and previous addresses, and phone number. Make sure the key information matches your personal history—creditors may make mistakes in data entry.

Credit History

This section lists your entire credit history. Each item on the list will contain similar information:

  • Type of account—installment loans such as mortgages and auto loans, or a revolving account such as a credit card, a store card, or a line of credit
  • The company or creditor name
  • Account number
  • Date opened
  • Account status—whether it's still active, closed, charged off or paid
  • Whether it's an individual or joint account
  • The total amount of the loan, and the credit limit or highest balance
  • Amount still owed
  • The fixed or minimum monthly payment amount
  • Number of months reviewed—essentially your payment history
  • Past due amounts

It's vital that you read each item in this section carefully to ensure accuracy.

Collection Accounts

If one or more of your creditors have turned an unpaid account over to a collection agency, it will be listed in this section. You'll find the collection agency's name, the amount owed, the contact information, the original account number, and possibly the date of last activity. If you do have data in this section, check it carefully to verify that it is your debt that's listed.

Public Records

This section will contain a record of any financial-related judgments, bankruptcies, or tax liens. Information in the section will stay on your credit record for seven years.

Inquiries

This section lists every request to view your credit history. Inquiries are categorized as "soft" and "hard." If you requested a copy of your report, or a current creditor checked your credit status, it's considered a "soft" inquiry. Loan or credit card applications are "hard" inquiries, and the total number of these impact your overall credit score.

Errors

If you find accounts with outstanding balances from creditors you haven't dealt with in the past, a public record that is incorrect, or your Social Security number is incorrect, you need to dispute these inaccuracies in writing with each credit reporting bureau. Nowadays, errors on your credit report can be disputed online on the credit bureaus’ websites. Go to the “Filing a dispute” page on the annualcreditreport.com site for more information.