What to look for in your credit report.

Each section of your credit report is important – here are some red flags you should identify.

There are three major credit bureaus, each of which produces its own credit report. Though each report may have different information than another and reports may differ as to how they organize that information, they generally show similar categories. Below, we will walk you through credit report categories and some items you may need to follow up on.

Account Summary

This section is pretty straightforward – it'll show you a snapshot of your credit report, including current balances, payments, open and closed accounts, delinquent accounts, inquiries over the past 2 years, and public records.

What to look for: If you see anything unfamiliar or inaccurate, go to its corresponding section farther down in the credit report to get more details.

Sample Credit Report showing Accounts Summary

Personal Information

This section lists the name(s), date of birth, current address, previous address(es), your current and previous employers (if you have provided this information), and any of the consumer statements you've asked to be included in your file.

What to look for: Unfamiliar names/addresses/employers or an incorrect date of birth may be signs of suspicious activity that could be the work of a criminal. If you believe your identity may have been stolen, please take a look at our recommended steps here.

Credit Inquiries

This section lists requests for your credit report made by companies evaluating an application for credit in your name.

What to look for: If there are inquiries you're unfamiliar with they may be signs of fraud or they may have been inaccurately reported. Make sure to dispute any inquiries you don't believe you made because too many listed inquiries may be viewed negatively by creditors.

Credit Accounts

This section lists all the accounts the bureau producing the report has on file. This includes open and closed accounts. It will also separate out revolving accounts, like credit cards, where you can carry a balance month-to-month or pay everything off each month.

What to look for: As with other sections, keep an eye out for anything that looks unfamiliar. Pay particular attention, here, to any accounts showing late payments or delinquency. Those are the kinds of things that can really hurt your perceived credit health, so make sure they're accurate.

Public Records

This section lists any civil judgments, tax liens or bankruptcies on your credit file.

What to look for: Hopefully nothing. Virtually anything listed in this section will negatively affect your perceived credit health. In other words, no news is good news.

Okay, I found something. Now what?

If everything in your credit reports looks fine, great. Just know that your reports can change anytime new information comes into the bureau producing the report. So you'll want to stay on top of your credit reports.

If you suspect you may be a fraud victim, take action immediately.

If you do find something unfamiliar or inaccurately reported, follow up with the creditor listed as reporting the information and consider disputing it with the bureau producing the report. Act fast because negative items can really affect your credit health, which in turn, goes a long way toward determining whether you'll get approved for a loan, qualify for the lowest rates and otherwise reach your financial goals.