Credit Reporting 101: How To Read Your Credit Report
It is important to understand how to read your credit report so you can spot any inaccuracies and take steps to fix them.
At Wells Law Office, Inc. in Chicago, Attorney Amy Wells is committed to helping consumers stand up for their rights with regard to credit reporting. She can help you take action to correct your credit report and exercise your rights under federal law. Based in Illinois, Ms. Wells handles credit reporting claims for consumers nationwide, drawing on 17-plus years of experience to provide knowledgeable representation.
Anatomy Of A Credit Report
A consumer credit report compiled by any of the “Big 3” credit bureaus (Experian, Equifax and Trans Union) is broken down into four general sections:
- Public Records
- Account Information
It is important to note that the information in the consumer reports prepared by different credit bureaus will be listed differently. Also, inaccurate information on a credit report from one credit bureau may or may not appear on your credit report with another credit bureau.
The consumer identification section will contain personal identification data about you. This may include your name, other names you have used, current and past addresses, employers, date of birth and Social Security number.
If any of the information in this section is wrong, this could be a red flag that your consumer file has been compromised.
Public records data, just like it sounds, is made up of information in the public record. This could include anything filed with the courts, like judgments, liens or bankruptcies.
If any of this information is incorrect, this could have a substantial impact on your credit standing.
Account information, sometimes referred to as trade lines, makes up most of the data found in most consumers’ credit reports. This information lists your credit accounts, and usually details the identity of the creditor, account numbers, dates the accounts were opened and closed (if applicable), and your payment history and balances. It will also indicate whether the accounts are past due, in collection or disputed.
The final section in most credit reports lists inquiries and lets you know the identity of anyone who accessed your credit report. There are generally two types of inquiries. First are inquiries that may impact your credit score (“hard” inquiries), which usually arises when you apply for credit. Second, there are “soft” inquiries, which won’t impact your credit score and occur when you access your own credit report or when your credit file is accessed for reasons not related to application for credit (e.g., by an existing creditor to ensure you are still in good standing).
Federal law prohibits accessing a consumer report without a legally permissible reason. If you see an entity listed in this section with whom you have not applied for credit or do not have an existing account, this may indicate an illegal pull of your credit report. Learn more about steps to take to protect your credit report.