How Do I Read My Credit Report? Second, How Do I Fix My Credit Report?

Article by Vanessa Doguiles

How Do I Read My Credit Report? Second, How Do I Fix My Credit Report? – Finance – Credit

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First, make a copy of your credit report to mail along with your disputes to the credit bureaus. Keep one copy where you indicate with a marker the items that are to be disputed.

I recommend you use a highlighter on one copy to mark the negative information you find. It is always helpful to write yourself a note if the negative information is not clear.

When you get the reports, there will be an information page telling you how to read your report so review that.

Most all credit reports contain these six categories:

Creditors or Lenders – a listing of all accounts current and within last 7-10 years History of Account (payment history) Comments, Remarks, Details Status (open/closed)

Public Records (tax lens, judgments, and bankruptcies) Inquiries

Personal Information

Now locate the personal information section. Are the addresses wrong? Are any variations on your name incorrect? Are those employers ones you worked at? Simple errors such as a misspelled name, missing Jr/Sr and a wrong address could mean you are viewing information from someone else’s report. Review every entry for accuracy and highlight anything that needs to be deleted or changed. Derogatory Negative Items Think of your credit report like a map with a legend key, once you understand the key it is easier to read.. Equifax lists negative items at the beginning of the report, Trans Union designates a section with all negative information and Experian gives a brief paragraph explanation of all accounts.

If you look at each listing you can decode it as follows,

All installment loans are indicated with an I, like an car loan;

Revolving, like credit cards, with an R; and

Mortgage loans with an M.

After the letter there is a number indicating what the listing is. Any number greater than 1 is considered a negative entry. The higher the number, the more severe the derogatory | negative entry is

R1 or I1 = pays as agreed never late

R2 or I2 = 30 days late

R3 or I3 = 60 days late

R4 or I4 = 90 days late

R5 or I5 = 120 days late

R7 or I7 = making regular payments under wage earner plan

R8 or I8 = repossession

R9 or I9 = charge off

Any item that is not rated 1 is a possible negative and warrants a second look. Once you familiarize yourself with the coding symbols used by the credit bureaus, look for and mark any damaging information recorded on your report. Now start reviewing each item in your report. Are there any accounts you do not recognize, credit cards, debts? Be sure all accounts you closed are marked “closed by consumer” Incorrect items such as late payments, a premarital debt of your spouse, and credit entries you do not recognize require your immediate attention.

Look for duplicate items, if they are reporting negatively it is a double whammy on your score. You should especially be looking for negative information that is erroneous.

These negative entries can appear on your report coded as this Negative entries may appear as:

30/60/90 = 30, 60, 90 Days delinquent or past due.

P&L = Profit and Loss (Creditor considers debt uncollectible)

C/O = Charged Off (Bad Debt, Balance still owed.)

COLL = Seriously Delinquent, (usually sold to a collection agency).

REPO = Voluntary or involuntary repossession of merchandise. (usually associated with a vehicle)

BANKRUPTCY = Chapter 7, 11, 13.

SETTLEMENT = Paid less than full amount of debt owed.


DEBT MANAGEMENT/CREDIT COUNSELING = Enrollment in a financial help program that reduces interest rates and fees, implying you may be having financial difficulty, may also be reported as a third party paying your bills. Many prospective lenders will view this as a

Chapter 13 bankruptcy or hardship program.

DUPLICATE ACCOUNTS = (Same account reported more than once.) Implies you have more outstanding debt then you actually owe, and may lower your credit rating

Additional information on common negative marks:

1. Past due history: This is a history of the timeliness of your payments for each one of your listed creditors. The past due symbols will state the number of past due payments, if any, that were 30, 60, or 90 days old. These kinds of “dings” are the most common negative remarks and also have the highest likelihood of being erroneous.

Late Payments – If you have a late payment on an open account write a letter requesting a Goodwill Adjustment as a courtesy. Closed accounts the creditor may not be concerned enough to investigate.

2. Collections or P&L Write-Off (profit and loss) and Charge-Offs: Collections appear when your account has been turned over to a collection company for collecting. P & L Write-Off or Charge-Off appears on your credit report when one of your creditors has decided not to bother trying to collect the money from you. Rather, the creditor wrote your account off as bad debt.

Collections can be successfully disputed by requesting a debt validation. You should do this with the collection company and the credit reporting agency.

Charge-offs can be more easily disputed by disputing a piece of information within the listing as the date account opened, the balance, the high credit, etc. If any of this is incorrect it could have the entire listing deleted.

3. Inquiries: These marks result from potential creditors requesting your credit report. Whenever you or anyone else asks for a copy of your credit report, the request is supposed to be noted as part of your credit history. If you apply for lots of credit cards in a short time, this will produce a flurry of “inquiry” notes on your credit report. Lenders often turn this around and assume that a flurry of inquiries means you’ve recently applied for lots of credit, so they turn you down on that basis even though the inference is not strictly valid. Remember, they cannot request your credit report unless you have given them permission. Accordingly, review these inquiries for accuracy. Inquiries like these are referred to as “hard inquiries” and can decrease your credit score. “Soft inquiries” have absolutely no impact on your credit score. Viewing your own credit report is a soft inquiry. Other inquiries that you do not initiate such as an account review by an existing creditor or a promotional inquiry for the purpose of offering pre-approved credit are soft inquiries. Report checks by prospective employers or landlords are also considered soft inquiries. Potential creditors do not see soft inquiries and they do not affect your credit score. Inquiries are getting tougher to remove and it may be better to just send a letter directly to the company listing the inquiry demanding removal if they can’t produce your written authorization.

4. Public records: Bankruptcies, tax liens, judgments, foreclosures etc also appear on the public records portion of your credit report. These seriously impact your creditworthiness and you will want to look at these closely to see if you can find an error to dispute within the listing.

Easy to verify items like bankruptcies and foreclosures can be the hardest to get off your report. You may also find that in the case of bankruptcy you have several accounts reporting as “included in Bankruptcy”. If so, you may want to dispute the “include in bankruptcy “accounts first before challenging your bankruptcy listing for best results.

Look for collection accounts. Equifax lists them at the beginning of the report, Trans Union designates a section with all negative information and Experian gives a brief paragraph explanation of all accounts. There may be a collector’s name or account number you do not recognize. If you don’t recognize the account as being one of yours, please don’t assume that it is!

***If you have problems reading your report, contact the CRA as they are supposed to provide assistance. Or visit for more free credit info you can use to help you down your path.

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Vanessa Doguiles

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Use and distribution of this article is subject to our Publisher Guidelines
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