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Scan your report for discrepancies

"Be alert for accounts that you don't recognize and check with the credit bureau to see what's going on," says Anthony Sprauve, former senior consumer credit specialist with FICO. "Verify that any negative information associated with any account belongs to you. It is possible that someone else's account is included in your report by mistake."

Sprauve 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, who retired from credit counseling organization CredAbility (now ClearPoint Credit Counseling Solutions) in 2012, 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.

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