7 steps to clean up your credit report

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Start with your identification basics
Start with your identification basics © Andrew Williams/

Start with your identification basics

It's easy for people to forget the most important part of their credit report: checking their identifying information, including name, current address and Social Security number, says Natalie Lohrenz, director of counseling at the Consumer Credit Counseling Service of Orange County.

"People obsess over tiny fluctuations in their credit score, but what they should focus on is the question, 'Is it accurate?'" she says.

Small discrepancies, such as an account that has your nickname listed instead of your given name, don't impact your score. But if there's a more serious discrepancy, such as an incorrect Social Security number, you'll want to get it straightened out, says Maxine Sweet, recently retired vice president of public education at Experian.

After checking all of the identifying information, look at the accounts and make sure they're all yours. Keep in mind that some lenders, such as the financing companies that issue many store-brand credit cards and companies that handle medical billing, might have a different name than the one on the storefront or hospital.

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