Are you an American resident under 30 years old? If so, chances are you’ve made at least one major credit blunder, or credit mistakes that could haunt you for a while and make it difficult to get a low interest rate or even approved for credit at all.

That’s right, according to a recent survey conducted by Credit Karma, some 68 percent of all Americans have at least one negative mark on their credit report. According to the survey, such marks often include maxing out a credit card, late payments, defaulting on a loan or having an account sent to collections. About three out of every four respondents stated that they believed the credit mistakes had a negative impact on their life.

Needless to say, but the more severe the blunder, the more it will impact your credit. What’s more is that such penalties can stay on your credit report for up to 10 years.

Avoiding a Credit Disaster

While it makes sense that a younger age demographic would experience more credit mishaps than a more experienced one (live and learn, right?), the Credit Karma survey concluded that the best way to avoid a credit disaster among these youngsters is to be properly educated about the importance of your credit score, as well as how to manage personal finances. Bottom line: before you get that first credit card, know the importance of your credit score and the responsibilities associated with properly managing your finances.

Repairing Credit

If you’re among the 68 percent of Americans that did some damage to your credit score before you were 30 and are still paying the price, here’s a look at how to get that credit score repaired and back into shape:

  • Get under 30 percent: Always strive to have your debt-to-credit allotment under 30 percent. For instance, if your credit limit is $10,000, try to keep the balance at or below $3,000 for the best possible credit score.
  • Pay down debt: Always pay down the high-interest accounts first, as you’ll not only work toward a no balance account, but also save money in the long-term.
  • Make payments on time: This is perhaps the easiest way to up your credit score, yet it’s one that people struggle with. The bottom line is that late payments can greatly impact your score, so do what you need to do (schedule auto payments, set phone alerts, etc.) to remind you when bills are due.
  • Get a secured credit card: These cards require cardholders to put up “collateral” to obtain a credit line. They’re a great way to build credit and eventually can be helpful in the desire to apply for an additional, standard credit card.

Inaccurate Credit Reports – $13 Million in Fines

It’s commonplace for many employers to pull background checks on job applicants to view things like credit history, criminal history and other factors that can better help them to determine potential risk during the hiring process. Employers who don’t pull background checks based on company policy might even do so with the candidate’s permission.

But what happens when the background check firms report faulty information to employers?

That’s been the case recently, as General Information Services and Backgroundchecks.com, two of the biggest background check firms in the country, were ordered to pay a $10.5 million fine to consumers for selling inaccurate background checks. The fine was ordered by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), which also ordered the two background check firms to pay an additional $2.5 million civil penalty for failure to verify the accuracy of the reports that were sold.

The two companies sell about 10 million background reports each year to employers. And many of the inaccuracies on the reports that they are now being held accountable for weren’t exactly minor errors – they were major ones. Things like including judgments that were older than seven years, misdemeanor crimes being reported as felonies and criminal record mix ups between consumers with similar names were just a few of the issues that were reported. Affected consumers are believed to be receiving about $1,000 each from the issues fines.

It’s a bad look for the background check companies – and it brings about the question of just whether background checks for employment purposes are really worth it or not. That’s because the biggest loser in this entire background check debacle is the millions of people that were likely passed up for a job.

Know Your Credit Report

As we made mention of earlier in this piece, the practice of background checks for employment screening purposes is one that’s been the subject of much debate. However, in most cases, the potential employer makes it very clear what the company policy is in this regard during the interview process. On this note, it’s worth noting that you should be checking your credit report on at least an annual basis, especially if you expect to be looking for a new job soon. That’s because inaccuracies are common on credit reports and checking your report will give you time to sniff out and dispute errors.

Additionally, if your credit isn’t exactly up to snuff, knowing what your score is and how you might be perceived will allow you to better proactively address and clear up any issues with your would-be employer.

You can receive a free credit report once per year, and you can receive a complimentary credit summary once per month from many reputable credit report consumer websites.