You can start to resolve identity theft issues by visiting www.identitytheft.gov to report identity theft and get a recovery plan. This is an excellent, free website created by the Federal Trade Commission. In addition to reporting identity theft, you will receive a free action plan, and you’ll gain free access to people who can guide you through the identity resolution process.
It’s been only a year since I opened my first card last September, and I already have a solid FICO score – 720, the last time I checked. That’s not a perfect score by any means, but it lands me safely in the “good” credit range, meaning I probably won’t have trouble getting approved for new credit in the future. I still have work to do if I want to get into the “very good” credit category, which starts at 740, according to MyFICO, but for a credit card newbie I’m not disappointed in my progress so far.
If you are like many consumers and don’t know your credit score, there are several free places you can find it. The Discover Card is one of several credit card sources that offer free credit scores. Discover provides your FICO score, the one used by 90% of businesses that do lending. Most other credit cards like Capital One and Chase give you a Vantage Score, which is similar, but not identical. Same goes for online sites like Credit Karma, Credit Sesame and Quizzle.
The scoring system wants to make sure you aren't overextended, but at the same time, they want to see that you do indeed use your credit. 30% of the available credit line seems to be the magic "balance vs. credit line" ratio to have. For example; if you have a Credit Card with a $10,000 credit line, make sure that never more than $3000 (even if you pay your account off in full each month). If your balances are higher than 30% of the available credit line, pay them down. Here is another thing you can try; ask your long time creditors if they will raise your credit line without checking your Credit Report. Tell them that you're shopping for a house and you can't afford to have any hits on your credit report. Many wont but some will.
An example of when verification can work against you. Let’s say you missed a mortgage payment that you made on time because of an insurance issue. For example, if your flood insurance isn’t up-to-date with the mortgage lender, they increase your payment requirement. If you have recurring payments set up and don’t pay attention to correspondence, then the payment you make won’t cover the requirement for that month. Then they report to the credit bureau that you missed a payment even though you paid on time. Even if you correct the issue with the lender, the credit bureau may count the information as verifiable because you technically missed the payment, even though it was wrong.
There is one exception to that rule… If you default on a federal student loan and then bring it current, any negative actions from the late payments disappear. But for all other debts, charge-offs are usually sold to collections, which creates ANOTHER trouble space that causes issues for 7 years. So, letting a debt slip into default is almost a double or triple whammy to your game.
Making your credit payments on time is one of the biggest contributing factors to your credit scores. Some banks offer payment reminders through their online banking portals that can send you an email or text message reminding you when a payment is due. You could also consider enrolling in automatic payments through your credit card and loan providers to have payments automatically debited from your bank account, but this only makes the minimum payment on your credit cards and does not help instill a sense of money management.