The credit report is a reflection of you and your credit history. When was the last time you reviewed it?
Maybe you have accessed your credit report and realized that there is an error. The task of reviewing your credit report is necessary for your financial fitness and your peace of mind — and of course, for finding errors. (You can download a free report directly from the three credit bureaus annually at AnnualCreditReport.com.)
If you do find inaccurate information, you need to address it immediately. There are the two effective ways to fix the issues:
- Reach out to one of the three credit reporting agencies to inform them of the issues.
- Figure out the creditor that reported the mistake and work with that company to remove it from your report.
The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) indicates that their number one complaint concerning credit reporting agencies is incorrect information on a consumer’s credit report.
People make mistakes, but if those mistakes negatively affect your credit, it’s a bigger issue than just ‘human error.’
Having misinformation on your report could affect your ability to get new lines of credit, loans, better lending terms, and interest rates. This is why checking on your credit report annually is imperative, especially if you’re planning on buying a car or a home.
So, what happens if you do notice a discrepancy on your report?
3 Types of Errors You May Find on a Credit Report
The first step is to understand the error itself and how it happened, as that guides both the remedy and prevention.
1. Incorrect information
When reviewing the report, you do need to confirm if human error was the reason the mistake was made. For example, you may have used nicknames in the past and now use your formal name. That lack of consistency could be the reason behind the mistake.
To ensure that this doesn’t occur, try to use the same first name and middle name each time that you apply for a credit card or car loan, and for all of their related paperwork. If not, you could easily mix up your report with someone who has a similar name.
2. Insufficient credit file
If you’ve been denied credit due to an insufficient credit file or no credit file, it is possible that your report does not have all of your credit accounts on file.
Not all creditors are required to report consumer credit and therefore these companies may not have supplied it to the credit bureau.
If there is an account missing, reach out to that creditor and ask them to report your credit information to a credit bureau. If they refuse, consider moving your account, as you should receive acknowledgment for paying your bill on time.
3. Errors after divorce
If you’ve been through a divorce, your credit report may not reflect that change. Take time to double check that any of your former spouse’s debt does not appear on your report. If so, contact the reporting agency and request its removal.
Your Rights Under the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA)
Created by Congress in 1970, the Fair Credit Reporting Act is to ensure that all credit bureaus provide correct and complete information to any business or financial institution that may evaluate your financial application.
Know that you do have rights under this Act. You have the right to the following:
- A copy of your credit report. In some states, this is provided to you for free on an annual basis. By law, this report will contain all the information that is currently in your file on the date that the request is made to a credit reporting agency.
- If your application is denied due to inaccurate information supplied by a credit bureau, you are entitled to a free credit report. Note once you receive the denial letter, you need to make this request within 60-days.
- A list of anyone that has inquired about your credit score or access your credit report within the last calendar year for financing purposes or last two years for employers.
- If your loan application is denied, that company must supply the name and address of the credit bureau they contacted, but only if the denial was based on that information.
If you are not content with the outcome of your dispute, you are entitled to a summary explanation of your credit report.
If you do find inaccurate information, you need to address it immediately with the credit reporting company and the business that reported the incorrect information. By law, both the company providing the information to the credit bureaus and the credit bureaus must investigate all disputes within 30 days.
Good to know: Sometimes credit inquiries from multiple lenders count as only one hit on your report.
Contacting the Creditor to Fix Credit Report Errors
When disputing misinformation on your report, you can reach out to the creditor directly to fix the error.
Find which of the three credit bureaus has your information incorrect by reviewing your report, and then contact that organization. Pro tip: You have the right to request that the creditor copy you on any correspondence they send to the credit bureau, so don’t be afraid to make that request.
How to Connect With the Credit Bureaus to Dispute Errors
You can also reach out to Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion by phone or online in order to correct your information. This step is important as your FICO score is computed from the information from your credit reports. This process can take between 30 and 90 days.
|All disputes are handled through their website.
||All disputes are handled through their website.
||Disputes may be handled online or you can reach out by phone (1-800-916-8800) or via mail.
|Equifax’s Disputes Website
||Experian’s Disputes Website
||TransUnion’s Disputes Website
P.O. Box 740256 Atlanta, GA 30374
P.O. Box 4500 Allen, TX 75013
P.O. Box 1000 Chester, PA 19022
Prepare your case
Plan to provide proof that a change needs to be made. Gather all documents that prove your claim and make several copies.
Do not send the originals to any of the credit reporting bureaus, as you may need to make this request several times in order to have it fixed.
If you plan to send the documents via snail mail, be sure to send the package via certified mail with a return receipt.
What Should Your Dispute Letter Say?
Within the letter, clearly identify each disputed item and include a printed copy of your credit report. Make sure that your communication states the facts and the reason why you are disputing the information, and state specifically any request to delete or correct information in the report. The law states that credit bureaus must investigate these issues.
The CFPB website has example letters to use as a guide when disputing credit report information. Remember to not send the original with your dispute and to keep a copy of the claim for yourself. Once you have submitted your letter, the credit bureau may take an estimated 30 to 90 days to investigate your request.
If You Disagree With the Credit Bureau’s Response
You may not agree with the credit reporting bureaus response when it arrives. A decision summary will accompany the response. A reason for receiving a rejection to your request could be simply because the error is not really an error.
You do have the right to take your complaint to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), your state attorney general, or the Department of Consumer Affairs. If you do decide to pursue the issue further, keep it mind that any negative errors on your report will eventually no longer appear on your report after a period of seven to ten years.
So, if the effort of challenging the credit bureau’s decision outweighs the benefits of removing the error altogether, it may be best to let the issue be.
Things to Remember When Fixing Errors on Your Credit Report
- Once you realized that there’s an error, contact both the credit bureau and the reporting agency about the issue.
- Under the Fair Credit Reporting Act, both parties are responsible for correcting inaccurate or incomplete information in your report.
- When submitting your dispute to the credit reporting bureaus, do not send the original paperwork. Instead, make copies as you may have to submit the documentation again at a later date.
Checking your credit report annually is a must. You need to ensure that all personal information, accounts, and inquiries from employers or businesses (both soft and hard) is stated in your report correctly. If not, you can’t catch potential fraud or errors early.
Some of your issues on your credit report could be a result of a clerical error from a hand-written application, entering your name incorrectly, or the inadvertent addition of someone’s bad debt added to your account. Either way, errors do give lenders some pause and it is important to have your credit report as up-to-date as possible. Stay financially fit by understanding your credit report — it matters.
About The Author
Julia Guardione is an auto refinance writer based in Austin, Texas. She is a graduate of Texas State University and a lover of all things outdoors.