How to Read Equifax Credit Reports

By Nicki Howell

  • Overview

    You can get a free credit report from Equifax every 12 months, but with so much information, it's sometimes difficult to read your report. The Equifax credit report has four sections of information, including your identification information, credit history, public records and inquires on your credit. Once you understand how to read the information in each section, identifying errors and unauthorized use of your credit is much easier.
    • Step 1

      Check your identification information for accuracy. This first section of your credit report includes your full name, address and Social Security number. Don't be surprised if there are several different spellings of your name; creditors often make mistakes when processing your information. But you should be alarmed if your Social Security number is incorrect or if there are multiple numbers for your name.
    • Step 2

      Look through the credit-history portion of your report. Evaluating this section of your report is the most important part of reviewing your credit. Each line will include the following: creditor name, date account was opened, amount owed on the account, and total credit available. Also, there will be a field that indicates if payments are 30 days or more overdue. When evaluating this part of your credit report, look for accounts that don't belong to you, inaccurate reporting of late payments, and anything else that looks suspicious. Make note of any inaccuracies.

    • Step 3

      Evaluate the public-records section. If you have bankruptcies or financial judgments against you, this is where they will show up. If there is anything in this section that doesn't belong to you, it's important to clear it up immediately. That's because information reported in this area of your report adversely affects your credit rating.
    • Step 4

      Check out inquires on your credit. This lists every company that has pulled your credit report. Expect to see mortgage lenders, auto dealers or anyone else you've done business with. But don't be alarmed if you see companies you don't recognize. Creditors that send you pre-approved credit-card offers in the mail have often pulled your credit. This section won't typically affect your credit rating, unless you have hundreds of inquires into your credit in a short time frame.
    • Step 5

      Correct any inaccuracies on your credit report. Fill out an online dispute request (see Resources); Equifax will respond within 30 to 45 business days with a resolution.
    • Skill: Moderate
    • Tip: Order a free credit report every 3 months. Individuals are entitled to a free credit report every 12 months. To receive a free credit report from Equifax and the other two credit bureaus, contact Annual Credit Report (see Resources), answer a few online verification questions, and receive instant access to your credit report online.
    • Warning:
    • If you think there has been unauthorized use of your credit, place a fraud alert on your account. Contact Nationwide Consumer Credit Reporting Agency (see Resources); they will make it harder for individuals to get access to your credit.

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