December 3, 2008  
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Featured Issue: Know the Score on Your Credit Score

How Credit Report Errors Can Hurt You

Are you paying too much for your credit? You may be.

A recent report by consumer advocates has concluded that all-too-common errors and discrepancies in credit reports end up costing consumers a bundle: in lowered credit scores and resulting higher interest rates on mortgages and other forms of credit.

"A single point reduced from your credit score can translate into tens of thousands of dollars in unnecessary mortgage interest, " says Richard Roll, president of the American Homeowners Association. "Consumers and prospective homebuyers need to be alert for any errors that may appear in their credit reports and take immediate steps to have them corrected."

Many consumers are unaware that the three primary credit reporting bureaus arrive at credit scores independently. And, that those individual credit scores frequently vary from bureau to bureau by a significant margin. It's the margins that can hurt consumers.

The better your credit score the better your interest rates are likely to be. So, it's a big deal when one score comes in lower than it should because of mistakes, omissions or discrepancies.

The 2002 report by the National Credit Reporting Association and the Consumer Federation of America, which reviewed the credit reports of a half million consumers, found that the credit scores of one in three consumers varied by as much as 50 points or more. One in twenty credit scores varied by as much as 100 points or more.

"Credit score ranges of that magnitude can be devastating for consumers," says Roll. "The best defense against paying too much for credit is a good offense." Roll recommends that all homeowners and consumers become familiar with their credit reports and credit scores by getting a copy of their credit report from each of the main bureaus.

"The more you know your credit report and credit score the better you'll become at spotting costly errors. Then, armed with a better understanding of how the system works, you can take action to have any discrepancies corrected, and to improve your credit score. It's all about learning how to manage and optimize your credit."

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