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Analyzing Your Credit Report

If you ordered your credit report(s) through a third party you can skip this section. Otherwise pay close attention to the information contained herein, as you will likely have a hard time making sense of the reports.

When you first receive your report from the credit bureaus you will be completely lost. The information is coded in a way that is not intended for a human being to decipher. Included with each credit report should be a key that defines the codes and indicators on the credit report. Study this key carefully until you fully understand what each number and code means.

Do not write on your original credit report. Make your notes on copies of the credit reports only. The original report must stay intact because you will be submitting it along with your dispute letter. We recommend you make two copies of every report: one for your notes, the other to be kept as a clean reference for your records.

Identifying Negative Listings

Using a yellow marker, highlight each negative listing on a copy of your credit report. As you review the items you will notice that it is not easy to determine which listing is negative, and which positive. The following will help you distinguish between the two.

Equifax and Trans Union

A listing is negative if the any of the following indicators appear on your Equifax or Trans Union report: ratings higher than I1, M1, or R1; an ">>>" icon before or after the item; items listed as repossession, foreclosure, profit and loss write-off, charge-off, paid profit and loss write-off, paid charge off, settled, settled for less than full balance, or included in bankruptcy; collection amounts, whether paid or not; court accounts, including liens, judgments, bankruptcy chapters 11, 7, or 13, divorce, satisfied liens, or satisfied judgments; items showing one or more thirty-, sixty-, or ninety-day late payments; and any inquiry.


A listing is negative if the any of the following indicators appear on your Experian report: items marked with an asterisk; and any inquiry.

Identifying Inaccuracies or Inconsistencies

Once you've highlighted all negative items, go through each report again and identify any inaccuracy or inconsistency you find. An inaccuracy is something you know is not true, such as a listing that doesn't belong to you or a listing showing the wrong balance. An inconsistency is when the same information on the credit report contradicts itself, such as a listing showing 12 thirty-day late notations when the listing only shows 4 months reviewed. Later when you draft your dispute, you can use these items to lend credibility to your challenge.