There are several different factors that go into your FICO score. If you want to improve your FICO score, you need to know where to start. Since your credit score is based on your credit report, this is where you should begin. You need to review your credit report to make sure information is correct and there are not any inaccuracies. Fixing these errors is the starting point to improve a FICO score.
The first step is getting a copy of your credit reports. You have three different reports and you are entitled to one free copy per year. You can go to the credit bureaus websites or there are a couple sites you can get them all in one. You can also call to get a copy. You should print out the reports and put them on file for reference. Listed below are the three credit bureaus and their contact information:
- Experian – (888) 397-3742
- Transunion – (800) 888-4123
- Equifax – (800) 685-1111
The first part of your credit report that needs review is your identity. At the top of the report you will find your name, social security number, birth date, and address. This section usually just quickly glanced over, but errors here could represent larger problems such as identity theft.
The next thing you will find is your accounts. This could include credit cards, auto loans, and installment loans. Included will be the name of the lender, credit limits, how much you owe, payment history and closed accounts. A careful review is very important in this section. Errors could include spouse debt that came before your marriage, past due amount when it was taken out by a bankruptcy, accounts that are not yours, and late payments that are older than seven years. Again, here you could find identity theft specifically if you have multiple accounts that you have never heard of with late payments.
Inquires will be the next section to review on your credit report. Counted in this section are hard inquires by lenders. Hard inquires are when you have applied for credit not when you get a pre-approved credit card in the mail. If something does not look right again add to your list for you to dispute.
Collections and public records is the last section. Items that you possibly could find are: bankruptcies, lawsuits, jurisdictions, tax liens, and collections. Errors could be a bankruptcy that is older than ten years, double collections for the same account, or liens showing due that are paid off.
You might have no errors on your credit reports, but chances are you have at least one if not several. Each credit report comes with a form to dispute errors and the credit bureaus are required by law to investigate all disputes. They must also report back to you within 30 days of receiving the dispute. When investigating a dispute the credit bureaus will contact the creditor and ask them to check their records. If the creditor does respond or can not backup their claim it will be removed from your credit report. This process does give the power to the creditor. If they check their records and say the item is accurate, it will stay on your account even if it is clearly not. If you have errors and get them removed could be a quick way to improve your FICO score and is the true starting point.