Many Americans know just how important it is to maintain a good credit score for a number of aspects of their lives and therefore work hard to make sure that everything is as it should be. However, in some cases, consumers may find that the issues they run into when trying to keep up or improve upon their current credit health doesn't have much to do with them at all.
You probably know many of the most popular ways to make sure your finances and credit are as healthy as they possibly can be, and do all the right things when dealing with all your monthly bills. Keeping debts down, making sure every payment is sent in on time, and doing the other things necessary to having as good a score as possible are certainly smart strategies for making sure you're set up for success, but another important aspect of being as well off as possible is to ensure no one else's information is having a negative impact on you and your overall finances.
This kind of thing may seem like one of those "it will never happen to me" situations, but in reality, it might be more common than you think. Some estimates show that the number of credit reports which contain at least some sort of erroneous marking — which can certainly have a negative impact on anyone's score — can range anywhere from less than 5 percent to about 80 percent or so. Even if it's the lower of those two numbers, or falls somewhere in the middle, that means there's still a pretty good chance that such an entry may be marring your standing, and there's only one way to find out whether that's the case.
Determine whether you've been affected
The simplest way to make sure such a marking doesn't appear on your credit reports is, obviously, to order copies of them. Fortunately, you are entitled to one credit report per year from each of the three major credit bureaus (Experian, Equifax and TransUnion), which means that you can keep tabs on your standing every several months to make sure you won't be unduly impacted.
Contained within a credit report should be a listing of all the accounts in your name as well as some of the basic details around them, such as how much you owe and your payment history. However, if there is an entry that you don't recognize, that's usually a pretty good sign that a mistake has been made somewhere along the line. In most cases, these are the result of simple errors on the part of a company reporting debt to a credit bureau; things including transposed digits in a Social Security number, or a person having a similar name to yours. While that account might not be in bad standing at the time you check your report, you should still make sure it can't lapse into such a state by getting it cleared from your report as quickly as possible.
Also, it may be possible that your identity was stolen, and someone opened an account you don't recognize in your name. This can be a little trickier to clean up, but is all the more important to handle, because it's very unlikely that an identity thief will take the time to make sure your bills are being handled on time.
Getting it cleared up
Fortunately, in either case the process of reporting an issue on your credit report is relatively simple. All you'll have to do is alert the lender controlling the account and the credit bureau that issued the report on which you discovered the error to the potential problem, which will prompt an investigation into the matter. At this time, you may be required to prove that you are not responsible for the account in question but doing so will help to clear up any issues you may run into going forward when you're trying to properly manage your credit.
It should also be noted that the sooner you do this, the more quickly the potential problems can be sorted out so that your credit can once again become as good as it deserves to be. Making sure your credit report is completely free of issues such as this is going to be vital to making sure you can reap the benefits of good credit for as long as possible.
When you're going through this process, you might also want to work with a credit repair law firm to help you deal with any issues you may encounter. These organizations tend to have a lengthy history of sorting out similar cases, and may therefore be able to assist you in dealing with yours in a manner that's more expedient than you may have been able to achieve on your own.