Your Credit Report

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Have you viewed your credit report recently?
Whether you have debt or not, you should pull your credit report to verify the information on your report is correct.  There can sometimes be mistakes, particularly if two family members have the same name.

Pulling your own credit report is free and it doesn't hurt your score.

What's in a credit report?
There are a lot of companies who send information about you to credit bureaus.  They compile information about loans you have taken out, even co-signed on, and report on your repayment of that loan.  When loans don't get repaid according to the terms, they may report negatively such as missed or late payments.    

What you need to know

There are several places you can get your credit report for FREE.  
There are three major credit bureaus collecting credit information: Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion.
They each offer one free credit report per year at their websites.  You can also link to all three of their sites by going to www.annualcreditreport.com.
You can view a somewhat generic credit report, with the information being provided typically from one or two of the major bureaus at www.creditkarma.com
Credit Karma also provides a score at no cost. 

(I do not receive any affiliate income for these suggestions.  I recommend them because they are credible and free to you.)

Credit Karma allows you to look at your credit information as often as you want!  (Winning!)
Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion will allow you to pull one free credit report every 12 months.  I highly recommend NOT pulling all three at the same time!  If you pull one in January, one in May and one in September, you get year round credit monitoring.  This way when January rolls around - you're ready to start the cycle again!
Identifying information
Right upfront you will see your name, current and previous addresses, former names, Social Security number, date of birth, and (sometimes) current and previous employers.  I find the employment section is often out of date, but it really doesn't matter.  If anything else in this section is wrong, you'll have to submit documents to verify the discrepancy and get it corrected.  That is an urgent issue.
Public Records
In this section you will find  Bankruptcy, Judgments, Foreclosure, Unpaid Tax Liens, Unpaid Child Support, and other public record information that may have been filed in the courts.  Chapter 7 Bankruptcy remains on your credit report for 10 years after the filing date, and Chapter 13 remains for 7 years.  If you have a Judgment that is paid in full, please checked to make sure that it shows as Satisfied.  If it does not, you'll want to contact the court where the judgment was filed to have that corrected.
Credit History
This section is the meat and potatoes of your report.  It shows all the loans you ever had and your repayment history.  Good information stays on the report for 10 years from date of payoff (like on a student loan).  Negative (late payment) information remains for 7 years from the last date of delinquency.  In order to keep this fair for everyone, the Fair Credit Reporting Act states that negative information will be deleted after 7 years unless you prove that it is incorrect.  Please don't fall victim to scams that ask you for money to clean up your credit report.  If your credit history is true, it must remain on the report for that 7 year period.  Here you don't just want to look at payment history for accuracy, but also the line of credit, and the current balance.
Inquiries
The end of the report shows records of any lender who has pulled your credit.  This can be a bank when you open an account, or apply for any credit card, loan, even car shopping if you allow the dealer to pull credit for financing.
Inquiries come in two forms - soft inquiries and hard inquiries. Inquiries stay on your credit report for 2 years from the date of inquiry. Hard inquiries let a lender know that you have been seeking loans recently.
{Note:} If you apply for a car loan or mortgage, you may shop around around several lenders to get the best rate.  If you do this, be sure to shop around in a short period of time (2 weeks - 1 month).  In that case the inquiries only count as one since you were shopping for the best rate!
If you have pages and pages of inquiries, this may be due to inquiries that you have not requested (Soft Inquiries).  You may want to get your name off of the pre-screened credit offers!  Do this by registering at optoutprescreen.com