How to read a credit report

Once you know how to read a credit report, you’ll have a better sense of what to look for.

You have a different credit report at each of the 3 national credit bureaus: TransUnion, Experian and Equifax. Each bureau’s report may have information from different sources reported at different times. If this sounds overwhelming, don’t worry. Once you know how to read a credit report, you’ll get a good idea of the categories of information all credit reports show. You’ll also have a better sense of what to look for. So let’s jump right in.

Personal Information
Each of your 3 credit bureau reports shows basic identifying information like: name, current and past addresses, date of birth and employer. There’s also a space for a consumer statement, a place where you can explain certain parts of your credit report.

Look for:

  • Inaccurate information. Sometimes you’ll see your name or address spelled in different ways because whoever reported your information had it that way in their records.
  • Unfamiliar addresses. This could be a sign someone is using (or is trying to use) your information fraudulently. 

Inquiries
This section lists creditors who’ve asked to see your credit report. When you apply for credit—a mortgage, credit cards, car loans and all sorts of other kinds of financing—the company considering giving you that credit will almost always pull your credit report to evaluate whether giving you the credit is worth the risk. This request is called a credit inquiry.

The reports you see show “hard” and “soft” inquiries. Hard inquiries are those that happen when you apply for credit cards or other types of loans and they stay on your report for 2 years. “Soft” inquiries, which aren’t listed on the reports creditors see, come from companies making you credit offers.

Look for:

  • How many inquiries are listed. This is a good way to pay attention to how often you’re applying for credit. Too many hard inquiries may be viewed by creditors as a negative.
  • Unfamiliar inquiries. If you see any of these, investigate them immediately. You may have just forgotten about a credit application you made last year, but it also may be a sign a criminal has applied for credit in your name. Better to double check now than be sorry later. 

Accounts
This area of the credit report lists all your accounts, open and closed, active and paid, individual and joint. For each account, you’ll see information on: 

  • The loan/credit itself
  • The creditor (including contact info)
  • Balance
  • Account status
  • Monthly payment history
  • Whether or not you paid on time 

Look for:

  • Unfamiliar accounts. If you see an account you don’t recognize, follow up with the creditor to verify it. It may be a sign someone has fraudulently opened an account in your name.
  • Negative information. Look for any late payments or accounts in collections. By law, the credit bureaus must remove most kinds of negative information from your report 7 years after the information first appeared on the report. 

Public records
If you have court judgments against you, they will be listed along with the settlement amount and the date the record will be expunged. This section also may show information about tax liens and bankruptcies.

Look for any listings, whatsoever. Public records showing up on any of your 3 credit bureau reports can seriously impact your credit. If there is anything listed in this section, make sure it’s accurate. If it isn’t, dispute it with the credit bureau as soon as possible. 

Take the next step: protect your credit and start saving money.

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5 Crimes You Need To Safeguard Yourself Against

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Is crime really on the increase in the United States? Some people, especially those who work in the media, would certainly have you think that it is. Some people also believe that now there are many new crimes that take place online, these are also pushing the number up too.

The jury is still out as to whether the crime rate is actually on the rise, but one thing that might be interesting to note is that the five most common crimes over the past few years are still those that have been quite common for the past decade or more. Here are five common crimes that we all need to safeguard ourselves against. 

Burglary

Lots of homeowners go to many different lengths to secure their home. Thankfully, there is no shortage of security methods right now. You might want to install a burglar alarm so that you are always notified whenever an intruder tries to get in. Some homeowners also equip their home with CCTV as well. It’s worth taking a look on some home blogs to see the various ways other people have secured their home. 

Car Theft

There are a lot of car-related crimes carried out these days and many people end up hiring a defense attorney to help them get out of DUI and car theft charges. You might be surprised to learn that there are more car theft crimes carried out than DUIs, generally speaking. Just like securing your home, there are also different ways to keep your car safe. If you don’t have a garage to store it in, then it is really worth investing in a car alarm.

Cybercrimes

As mentioned above, cybercrimes are quite widespread these days, so much so that they are one of the five most reported crimes these days. As long as you use very strong passwords for each of your online accounts, then you should be fairly safe. It’s also a good idea to use the latest anti-virus software and firewalls to ensure that no viruses try to infiltrate your network.

Fraud

Fraud is still a very common crime as well, and a lot of it is being fueled by online scams. As long as you are always aware and use common sense, you should find that it is simple enough to stay away from fraudsters. If you are ever in any doubt about a strange email that you receive from your bank, it is best to phone them and query it before you do respond to it or click on any links. 

Assault

Sadly, assault is still a very common crime. The best way to not be targeted is to stay discreet and keep your purse and phone away in pockets or a bag at all times. Also, use your common sense and don’t walk alone at night through a dangerous area or neighborhood.

Crime is always going to be a problem unfortunately but, as you can see from the points above, there are various ways you can protect yourself from it.

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