Credit report, explained
- Personal information
- Credit summary
- Account information
- Public records
1. Personal informationAlso referred to as the "credit header" portion of the credit report, the top part of your credit report contains your identifying information. It will include your legal name(s), Social Security number, date of birth, current and former addresses, any employment history reported to the credit bureau, alerts on file and a consumer statement if you have one.
Where the information comes from: Creditors report consumers' identifying information along with their account information to the credit bureaus, as do public record collectors with public records, says Maxine Sweet, vice president of public education for Experian. Sometimes when inquiries are made, identifying information that's typed in also gets reported by creditors.
The easy way to update your legal name and address with the credit reporting agencies, she says, is to contact your creditors and change your identifying information with them. Creditors will then report the change to the agencies. "Any consumer at any time can update it with us but that's a lot of work and typically the normal procedure is they just update their accounts and that automatically updates the credit report," says Sweet.
What to look for: Make sure your Social Security number, primary name and address are correct. "They need to be not overly alarmed if there are alternate spellings or alternate addresses because what that means is that someone who's reporting the information to us about them has provided that information. As long as they have the correct spelling or the correct address on there, alternate spellings or alternate addresses aren't really alarming," says Sweet. If your current address has suddenly changed, then you should be looking out for signs of fraud, she says.
Don't be alarmed if your employment history is blank. Because it doesn't get updated, employment history is not a critical piece of information like Social Security numbers and names, says Sweet. "They don't really care who your current employer is as long as you're paying."
2. Credit summaryThis section is just what it sounds like -- it lists and categorizes your credit account activity, including how many closed accounts you have, how many accounts are in good standing and the number of accounts past due. It also quantifies the types of accounts you have, such as mortgage, revolving or installment.
Where the information comes from: your account information section.
What to look for: Scan it for any inaccurate information about your accounts, then go into your account information section for the details.
Tip: Read "Correcting credit reports."
3. Account informationThis is where you'll find detailed information about your individual accounts. It will include all the facts about your account, such as the type of account it is and when it was opened, but also payment information, such as the highest balance and the amount past due.
Where the information comes from: "The account information comes from the creditors who have those accounts, who own those accounts," says Sweet.