The first step in rebuilding your credit is to request a copy of your credit report from all three major credit reporting agencies. This is the only way of knowing the negative listings impacting your credit score (i.e., the negative listings you need to dispute via debt validation letters). In other words, this is an imperative process, so if the thought of going over your credit report overwhelms you, don’t let it, and with good reason. Though at first glance credit reports can be a little intimidating, they really are pretty reader-friendly once you know what to expect.
The credit reports from Equifax, Experian and TransUnion each have their own formats, but they contain the same categories of information:
- Identifying information. Name, date of birth, social security number, address (current and previous), employment (current and previous).
- Trade lines. Mortgages, revolving accounts (credit cards), installment accounts (car loans, student loans, etc.)
- Credit inquiries. Voluntary inquiries (approved by you so that creditors can consider approving you for a loan), involuntary inquiries (submitted by credit card companies, for example, who want to extend to you pre-approved lines of credit).
- Public records. Bankruptcies, foreclosures, lawsuits, wage garnishments, liens, judgments.
- Collection items. Overdue debt that has been turned over from the original credit to a collection agency.
- Accounts in good standing. Section devoted to a list of your accounts that are considered to have a positive impact on your credit (i.e., accounts you have historically always paid on time).
- Accounts in bad standing. Section devoted to a list of your accounts that are considered to have a negative impact on your credit (i.e., accounts for which you have paid late, or have been sent to collections or charged off.
Learn more about understanding your credit report, including more on credit report formats and codes.