You may already know the common items that appear on your credit reports, like personal identifying details as well as the debts you hold, payments you’ve made and hard inquiries generated whenever you fill out an application for credit with a lender.
But knowing all that, you could still find surprises on your credit report. Even if you are confident you’re building a great credit history, it’s a good idea to check your reports on an annual basis. (You can do this for free once each year by visiting AnnualCreditReport.com.) Here are four surprising items that can land on your credit reports and affect your credit scores.
1. Hard Inquiries From Service Providers
Hard inquiries usually occur when you apply for a loan or credit card and the lender performs a check on your credit. These inquiries usually only prompt a minor ding on your credit, but too many at once can damage your credit scores.
Hard inquiries can come from other sources, too. Many car rental companies perform credit checks. Cable providers, landlords, phone and utility providers sometimes perform credit checks that cause hard inquiries on your report as well. When signing up for a service, you may want to check if they will be pulling your credit and avoid putting other hard inquiries to your credit reports in the short term.
2. Accounts You Don’t Own
Accounts you never owned can land on your credit report. These accounts could even be in collections. Sometimes these accounts are errors, such as an account belonging to someone with the same name (that would be considered a mixed file). Other times, they could be an identity thief opening accounts in your name and damaging your credit. This is why you may want to check that the items on your credit report actually belong to you. If you do discover any of these accounts, you can file a dispute. (You can read this guide to learn about how to dispute an error on your credit reports.)
3. Forgotten Debts
Forgotten debts are unexpected for obvious reasons: they’ve slipped your mind. Sometimes, debts can land on your credit reports after several months have passed. Other times, you may have moved and the company never sent a follow-up to your new address. Even old unpaid parking tickets, utility bills and other very small debts can wind up on your credit reports.
4. Accounts You Already Paid Off
If you’ve paid off an account that was in collections, you may have expected that debt to be removed from your credit report, but this doesn’t always happen. Accounts in collections can stay on your credit report for seven years, and could potentially be damaging your credit even once you’ve settled.
If you discover any of these unexpected items on your report and opt to repair your credit, it’s important to remember you can do this on your own or turn to the help of a professional. You can see how your improvements are affecting you by viewing two of your credit scores for free, updated every 14 days, on Credit.com.