First Person: How to Audit Your Credit Report

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I recently had a questionable alert come up with my finances. Fearing identity theft, I quickly moved to protect my credit health. I pulled a free credit report from Trans Union that I am entitled to obtain. The report was long and a bit confusing. After becoming comfortable with the report, I became a better consumer when it came to my own credit health.

This experience reinforced how important it is to regularly monitor credit reports from each of the three main credit bureaus: Trans Union, Experian and Equifax. I will be checking a report from each of them every couple months until I am sure that no fraudulent activity has occurred on my account.

Double Check your Personal Information

Check your personal information on the credit report. This is especially necessary for people with common names or families with similar sounding names among several members. My husband's family has similar sounding names. At one point, three different member's credit profiles had pieces showing up on my husband's credit report. It took some leg work to get the accounts entwined.

Make sure the spellings of all names are correct on your report. This is true not only for your current legal name, but check previous names such as maiden names. Also, variations of your legal name may appear if you sign up for credit with initials instead of full name or use a nickname instead of your legal name. Check to ensure the spelling and use of the names are correct. Incorrect spellings could be a red flag that items which are not yours are on the credit report.

Thoroughly check the rest of the personally identifiable information. Ensure your date of birth is correct. Read each previous address on your credit report to ensure accuracy. Dispute any address that you did not live at. Check the telephone numbers associated with your account.

Identify each creditor on your report.

Carefully read the name of each creditor. If the name does not seem familiar, look at the account type and loan type information. Between this information and the origination date of the credit, it should be possible to determine what that particular item was.

Important Tip: If you are certain any item on your credit report is not yours, immediately dispute the entry. Follow the dispute procedures with the credit bureau.

Review Your Account History

Each creditor will report the status of your credit account on a regular basis. Review the status to view any late payments, items sent to collections, charge offs or other reports that could negatively impact your credit score. If any of these entries is incorrect, dispute the findings. Be prepared with proof of timely payment or other documentation to prove your claim.

*Note: This was written by a Yahoo! contributor. Do you have a personal finance story that you'd like to share? Sign up with the Yahoo! Contributor Network to start publishing your own finance articles.

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