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Having a bad credit score can be really frustrating, particularly if it’s lower than you expect it to be. There are lots of reasons why your credit score is what it is, but you should know a low score might not be your fault.

The credit world is an imperfect one, so it’s important to regularly check your credit for anything that isn’t right. You can get your free annual credit reports on AnnualCreditReport.com and two free credit scores every month on Credit.com. Here are some reasons your credit score could be wrong.

1. Fraud

Have you ever seen a transaction on your credit card statement and thought, “Wait a minute, that’s not mine”? That’s actually fairly common. The good news is, there are consumer protections that keep you from being liable from fraudulent credit card purchases (though, if the fraud goes on for a while undetected, it could cause you credit problems).

However, if someone runs up a high balance on your credit card and that balance is reported to the credit bureaus before you catch the fraud and dispute it, your credit scores could take a hit from the high debt. Addressing the fraud with your credit card issuer should ultimately fix the issue, but until then, you could see your credit score drop.

2. Mixed Credit Files

There are many reasons to review your credit reports, and one of them is to check for items that don’t belong to you. It’s common for another person’s information to end up on your credit report, especially if you have a common name, so review the data closely. If you find a mistake, dispute it with the credit bureaus. (You can read these articles to find out how to do so and more about why credit report errors happen.)

3. Identity Theft

Data breaches happen frequently, sometimes exposing consumers’ personally identifiable information, including Social Security numbers. That data can help someone steal your identity and potentially open up fraudulent accounts in your name — and it’s not likely they’re keeping those accounts in good standing. Unless you’re regularly reviewing your credit, you might have no idea this is happening, and the longer it goes on, the more difficult it can be to undo the damage.

In addition to monitoring your existing accounts for fraud, be sure to check your credit reports and scores for accounts that don’t belong to you. They could be signs of identity theft.

4. Creditor Errors

While you can dispute credit report errors with the credit bureaus, sometimes you have to look to the source to find out what the problem is. Your credit card issuer, for example, could be incorrectly reporting that you missed a payment, so you’ll want to talk to them, too, about getting that fixed.

It doesn’t cost anything for you to dispute errors with your creditors or the credit bureaus, and you can often find instructions for how to do that on the bureau or creditor’s website. If you find yourself getting nowhere with or overwhelmed by the process, you could also seek out professional help. However you choose to address the problem, it’s important you resolve errors so you don’t unnecessarily suffer the consequences of bad credit.

More on Credit Reports & Credit Scores:

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