CLEVELAND, OH (WOIO) - There is a lot of mystery surrounding credit scores and credit reports.
Stephanie Shelton has a familiar story -- she had a lot of debt and was only paying the minimum on her credit card bills.
"I'm a shopper, so I've had a lot of credit cards just shopping doing things unnecessarily," said Shelton.
Her credit score made her goals, like buying a house, seemingly impossible for her and her son.
"I'm still a work in progress but getting there," said Shelton.
About a year ago, Shelton signed up for classes through the Cleveland Housing Network. She said over the course of several classes she learned how to take control of her financial future by budgeting, learning about compound interest and the dangers of only paying minimum payments.
"I kind of just bought things out of not of necessity just because I wanted them," said Shelton.
After a year of hard work, Shelton said she's raised her credit score by about 100 points. She has a goal of "at least a 792," with a more permanent goal of buying her dream home.
In an effort to untangle the credit conundrum, here are several common credit myths, debunked:
"I think people are generally really confused about credit score and credit reports and I think they're also, a lot of times, really afraid to check their own. They understand it so little they're afraid of what they might find there," said Sheryl Harris, the director of consumer affairs for Cuyahoga County.
One study claims that nearly 60 percent of American adults don't know what their credit score is.
The first misconception is that it hurts an individual's credit score if that person checks his or her own credit.
"When you check your own credit, that's a soft hit and those soft hits don't affect anything on your score at all. You're allowed to look at your credit report in fact you have a right to look at it by law," said Harris.
Another common mistake is which website is authorized by the federal government to give out yearly credit reports. That website is annualcreditreport.com, and anyone can get their score from each of the three credit bureaus once a year.
"That is the only site that is the official site don't pay any fees just get your report," said Harris.
She pointed out people can also call a toll-free number, 877-322-8228, to get their report as well.
Harris also said that when someone is trying to improve or build credit, know that it will take time and hard work.
"If you get a credit card, you make a small purchase on that -- something you know you can pay off and you keep doing that -- from time to time you will establish a good credit history and you will become more credit worthy," said Harris. "Even people who get really far off the rails, the simple rule is the more payments and on-time payments that you make in the more time that you give yourself your credit history your credit score will recover."
Harris went on to suggest not freaking out about temporary dips.
"You don't need to know your score every minute of every day, that's like stepping on a scale all the time when you're trying to lose weight it's living in a crazy town. You don't need to worry about it you just need to do the right things," she said.
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