7 steps to spring clean your credit report
Scan your report for discrepancies
"If you see an account you don't recognize, you definitely want to call that to a credit bureau's attention," says Craig Watts, public affairs manager for FICO. "Definitely find out what's going on. If you see any negative information like a collection account that you don't think belongs there, it could be somebody else's account that got into your report by mistake, or something you forgot about," he says.
Watts says another red flag can be an account with a much higher balance than you carry. Since any of these items could indicate a case of mistaken identity or identity theft, these are issues to address right away.
Jessica Cecere, a regional president at credit counseling organization CredAbility, says one common -- and more benign -- credit report error she encounters is the inclusion of old negative information that should have come off the person's record. Most negative information stays on for seven years, and Chapter 7 bankruptcies remain for 10. "A lot of times the information on your report doesn't automatically fall off at that seven-year mark," she says.