You’ve probably heard, if you’ve done any research on the subject at all, that you should pull copies of your credit report at least once a year. The truth is, though, that you should actually get a copy of your report from at least one major credit reporting bureau at least once every three months. There are many reasons for this. Mainly, this allows you to catch bureau mistakes, which are surprisingly common, early, and it allows you to catch identity theft right away.
When you pull your credit report, you may not even know what to look for. This isn’t where you get a credit score. You have to pay to get your actual number, although there are many good sites that can give you some idea as to your actual score based on information from your report. Your report will be full of personal information, though. Here are the things to check for on this sheet.
First, you need to check the personal information. Credit reporting bureaus commonly make spelling and numerical errors in addresses and even names. Also, if you have recently moved, you may need to alert the reporting bureau about this fact.
Next, look through the list of your open lines of credit. These will show things like credit cards and car loans. Make sure that all of these are correct. If you’re in doubt, check the balances, as well. The balances of these things can seriously affect your credit score! Remember that the date here isn’t real time. It’s updated once a month, so if you recently made a major debt payment, it may not show up on your report yet.
You’ll also want to look at the list of late payments and other things that may be counting against you on your credit report. Check these against your own records to make sure they’re correct. Sometimes things are mis-reported or mis-recorded. In this case, you’ll need to file a complaint with the credit reporting bureau and potentially the company who said you were late so that you can get the black mark removed from your report.
Finally, check out the list of recent inquiries on your report. You should recognize every single name on that list. If you don’t, then you need to contact the bureau immediately to get more details. Inquiries that you didn’t authorize could mean that someone has stolen your identity and is trying to take out credit in your name.