Financial Literacy - Credit savvy
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7 ways to trash your credit

Ignore mistakes on your report

Say what you will about credit bureaus: They do make it easy to dispute inaccuracies on your credit report.

Sure, they may not fix them and it may be nearly impossible to ever speak to a live human being. But sometimes, probably more often than not, it works and it's easy.

In order to dispute something on a credit report, one must, of course, check one's credit report. Easier than it's ever been, consumers have unfettered access to their own credit information, a vast improvement over the laborious and time-consuming methods used in the dark ages before the Internet.

Unlike other issues that affect credit scores, mistakes can sometimes be remedied easily and quickly, so it's worthwhile to keep tabs on your report.

Make late payments or skip them entirely

It seems almost too obvious, but it bears stating that paying late and missing payments altogether are stellar ways to ensure that your credit score will scrape the bottom of the barrel.

Fortunately, as it happens, not all missed and late payments are counted equally in credit scores.

According to MyFICO.com's Paperno, the FICO score judges missed and late payments by several different criteria, including how recently it happened, how severely late the payment was and the frequency of missed or late payments.

The recentness of the incident has the most bearing on the FICO score.

"Believe it or not a 2-year-old incident of a payment being 90-days' late is not as bad as a recent 30-days' late. The older one may have been one blemish in a long history but a 30-day this month can lead to a 60 which can lead to a 90," says Paperno.

"The score is a predictor of future risk and all of the factors that are looked at are viewed as to how well they can predict the future. So the more fresh or recent the information is, the more predictive it is," he says. "Lenders are always looking to spot potential problems as early as possible."

The further back in time the mistakes are, the less impact they have on your credit score. Obviously, the fewer mistakes consumers make -- all the better for their score. Once the mistakes are several years old, however, they may not be affecting the credit score at all.

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