In the world we think we live in, our credit report should reflect exactly what we in our financial lives. Credit card payments we made on time should show up as current on our credit reports, only loans we took out are actually there and you would never find an unknown name or address.
But just like the Upside Down in Netflix’s Stranger Things, there may be a parallel universe where our credit report has changed even though our lives haven’t. This could be due to a misreported loan you forgot about, an account you opened but forgot about, or straight out identify theft. Here are the 5 stranger things to watch for on your credit report:
Balances you know you paid or don’t owe on a credit card
One of the spookiest things you can see on your credit report is money you don’t owe. If you see a credit card you didn’t open or a bill you already paid, you can file a dispute online with Experian or the site of the credit bureau showing the error on their report. If you are confused as to whether or not you owe the money, call the lender.
A defaulted student loan or other loan you forgot about
Talk about a ghost from the past. I had this happen with me. I had 16 loans, two per semester, and forgot to include one loan when I had the government consolidate all my loans into one. I didn’t hear anything about the loan for six years until I returned to college and couldn’t get any new student loans. I was able to go through a default rehab program with affordable monthly payments, but this situation could have been avoided by checking my credit report or checking my federal loan record at studentloans.gov.
Someone else’s name or address
One part of your credit that may forget to check is the address section. This lists any place you might have lived. I remember seeing an apartment on it that I lived in for a week. I barely remembered living there, but it could be used to verify my identity or for someone trying to steal it. If you see an unknown address, make sure you really lived there. If you didn’t, it could be a sign someone else might be using your name for criminal purposes. Also, fully check your name for accuracy, including your middle name. Order reports from all three credit bureaus to make sure everything is correct, especially if you notice an error.
Credit cards you thought you closed
Not keeping track of what credit cards you have open leaves an open door complete with a welcome mat and fresh cookies for thieves to steal your credit card and possibly your identity. Don’t play Santa to strangers. Check the usage on every credit card each month—which is easy to do using online statements. Even if you don’t use a card, if the number is compromised you could end up with charges that aren’t yours.
Wrong, negative credit history
It’s not unheard of to see a late payment on your credit report for when you paid on time. You can click on dispute from your electronic credit report and write in why you are disputing the error, or go to Experian’s Dispute Center. You can also contact the lender directly. The same procedure works for collection activities that are inaccurate. An account you don’t recognize could also be an indicator of identity theft. (See also: How to check your credit report for identity theft.)
Fortunately, you don’t live in The Upside Down or other parallel universe. We can get rid of stranger things from our credit report that shouldn’t be there. We also have the ability to check our credit report afterwards to make sure all errors are fixed, keeping your credit right side up.