If you notice there’s an error on your credit report, you’ll want to deal with it as soon as possible.
Your credit report reflects your habits as a borrower, and financial institutions look at it to predict how well you may manage debt. What they see may affect whether you’re approved for a loan or personal line of credit, and it may set the rates and terms you qualify for.
With all this on the line, you want your report to be an accurate reflection of your borrowing habits. But sometimes, your report shows an error that impacts your credit history negatively. Although it’s difficult to know what type of impact an error may have on your report, it’s best to ensure that your report contains only accurate information.
Unfortunately, errors happen more often than you think. One in four consumers found errors that might affect their credit scores according to the most recent data on this topic from the Federal Trade Commission.
If your latest report check shows something’s not quite right, don’t wait for it to go away on its own. It won’t!
Watch for These Common Credit Report Errors
Before looking at a step-by-step guide on how to dispute credit report errors, let’s look at the most common ones you might see. Knowing what you may come up against is an important first step.
So, the next time you check your report, keep your eyes peeled for these common credit report errors.
Your report verifies who you are by using personal information like your full name, address, and Social Security Number (SSN). All these individual data points come together to make a profile that’s unique to you.
But sometimes, if you share a name with someone else (like a if you’re a Jr. and your parent is a Sr.), your two reports could potentially be merged into one by mistake. The likelihood of this happening goes up if you happen to live at the same address of the person whose name you share.
You never want someone else’s information in your file because there’s no way to guarantee this person will use their credit wisely. Their poor decisions could drag your history down along with their own.
If you have an account that is recorded on your credit report twice, it may be able to cause double the trouble. This is because a credit reporting agency may count this account and all of the data that comes with it twice. This may amplify the impact the account in question has on your overall score, and if this account is in poor standing, it may possibly have some sort of negative impact your credit history.
Outdated information may affect your history in one of two ways.
- The data in your account has been reported incorrectly
Generally, once an agency receives information about an account, the agency will add this information on your report using their typical process. However, it’s possible that mistakes may happen. Your report may not show a payment you’ve made, or it might show an account you closed months ago as still open.
- Your file shows expired info
Most negative entries in your file have an expiration date — whether it’s a late payments, bankruptcy, or various other negative marks. Once this day passes, the entry should be removed from your report, and any impact it has on your score should go with it.But sometimes, a glitch means it hangs around for longer than it should. It may keep your score low if it happens to be a derogatory mark.
Inaccurate Account Information
Your report gives financial institutions an idea of how you’ll handle future loans by showing them a history of how you’ve handled various payments and debt in the past. It does this by sharing the following details about each account in your name that’s been reported:
- Type of account (i.e., whether it’s a closed-end loan or revolving credit)
- Payment history
- Credit utilization
These make up some of the factors major credit agencies look at when calculating your score. Any wrong information may have an impact on your score.
Pay close attention to any accounts you’re an authorized user on. As an authorized user, you may have access to the account, but you aren’t the account owner and this distinction should be clear on your report.
If you share various accounts and aren’t sure who is the authorized user and who is the account owner, take the time to sort this out.
Use this as an opportunity to reorganize your shared finances. Having too many loans or credit cards in one partner’s name is one of the things new parents do to hurt their credit, but any family can make the same mistake.
Besides incorrect additions to your accounts, you should also keep an eye out for any accounts you didn’t open, as well as any hard credit checks you didn’t authorize.
These unauthorized accounts and checks may be attached to your report due to a clerical error — like if your personal information matches someone else’s.
If your personal info is all correct, and you’re still left wondering “what is a personal line of credit doing on my report?”, you might be a victim of identity theft.
Whose Responsibility is it to Identify Credit Report Errors?
For a lot of people, finding incorrect or missing information may be annoying. That’s because, even though they’re mistakes, this information may still have an impact on your history, similar to intentionally reported information.
If a clerical error results in your report displaying inaccurate information, and the inaccurate information lowers your score, it’s not your slip-up. Many of the clerical errors, software glitches, or even criminal acts behind these credit report errors may be the fault of a financial institution or credit reporting agency.
Unfortunately, you’re still the one left on the hook. It’s up to you to check your reports, recognize the problem and alert the appropriate party to get it fixed.
The Importance of Checking Your Credit Regularly
If you don’t check your report, you may not realize there’s an error on it. This might be bad news for your score. A mistake can add a derogatory entry to your file and damage your score without you even knowing it.
If you don’t check your score, you may assume everything is normal, until one day, you decide you want to buy a car or a home. When you start applying for loans, a financial institution might offer you loans with higher interest rates than you were expecting. They may even deny you!
Checking your credit regularly means you won’t get caught off guard the next time you need a loan or personal line of credit. You may be able to notice an error and work towards removing it from your report before the error can do lasting damage.
Everyone gets one free report from each of the major credit agencies per year, so take of advantage of this free report so that you’re in the know about the status of your credit.
Can Errors and Omissions be Corrected on a Credit Report?
Yes, the good news is there are ways to correct these issues — no matter how wrong they are.
How to Dispute Credit Report Errors
If your next check reveals something’s amiss, don’t panic. Follow this simple step-by-step guide to fix the mistake.
Step #1: Contact the Credit Reporting Agency Showing the Error
You’ll want to reach out to the reporting agency that shows the error on their report and identify the information that you think is wrong. You’ll have to put this down in writing, in either an email or a letter.
A letter on its own isn’t enough. You need to show supporting documents (like statements, emails, or bills) that prove, without a doubt, that there is an error. Just remember, if you are sending these documents, make sure to use copies. You’ll want to keep the originals in your own records.
If you aren’t sure what to say in your letter, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau has a sample letter that you may copy. If you send yours by mail, you may also have to print out a form to send along with it.
If you are relying on the USPS, send your dispute by certified mail and ask for a return receipt. This will help you keep track of your dispute in the mail system, and you’ll receive a notification when the company receives your letter.
Whether by email or mail, Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion make it easy to contact them should you find a mistake. Check the table below to find out where you can send your dispute:
|Submit a dispute online||Disputes online||Start a new dispute|
|Equifax Information Services LLC|
P.O. Box 740256
Atlanta, GA 30374
P.O. Box 4500
Allen, TX 75013
|TransUnion Consumer Solutions|
P.O. Box 2000
Chester, PA 19016-2000
Step #2: Get in Touch with the Information Provider
The information provider is simply the company or individual that reported the incorrect information to the reporting agency.
For example, it could be a credit card company that reported the same missed payment twice. Whatever it is, make sure you also notify them of the error in writing.
Like your letter to the reporting agency, it should go over what item you think is wrong and why. If you send supporting documents, make sure you send copies and keep the originals for your files.
Step #3: Be Patient
When it’s your financial standing on the line, you want incorrect marks removed from your report as quickly as possible. Unfortunately, disputing errors takes time, and it may be a slower process than you expect.
Generally, the agency has roughly 30–45 days from the time they receive your notice to investigate the issue. From then, they have another five days to share their results with you and provide you with a free copy of your report.
Step #4: Confirm the Error is Removed
It may take even more time until you see any updates to your report. When you dispute something on your report, the credit bureau that you’re in contact with will need to speak to the institution that provided the incorrect information. That institution will then need to review that information to see if what they’ve reported is actually inaccurate. This process could take a month to get through. If the errors still show after that time, get in touch with both the credit reporting agency and the information provider.
Step #5: Try Again
You can usually trust this system to work, but don’t be discouraged if the credit agency doesn’t resolve their investigation in your favor. Usually, this ruling happens when:
- There are errors or inaccuracies in your dispute form
- You don’t provide sufficient evidence with your dispute
Without enough proof, an agency may categorize your dispute as frivolous. If they do, you may submit a new dispute. Just make sure you shore up your evidence with new information to help prove your case without any doubts. Otherwise, the agency may label your new dispute as frivolous, too.
If the agency still won’t fix your report after your second attempt, you may want to reach out to the following organizations:
- Your local Attorney General
- The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau
- The Federal Trade Commission
These institutions won’t guarantee changes, but they may help you with getting the agency to take action.
If you think someone is used your info to open fraudulent accounts, go to the Federal Trade Commissions’ portal on identity theft. It acts as a one-stop-shop on all things identity theft-related, answering FAQs, providing actionable recovery plans, and other helpful tips.
Make Your Concerns Heard!
Inaccurate information may impact your credit and affect your chances of getting a loan, so it may be alarming to find an error in your file. But don’t despair. You may be able to get these errors removed from your report as long as you follow the steps you learned here today.
If you see something you can’t explain on your report, get in touch with a credit reporting agency immediately.
Posted in: Credit Score