Mistakes happen but if that mistake negatively impacts your credit rating, you need to take proactive steps to get it corrected. As you probably know, incorrect information in your credit file can affect your ability to get a loan, rent housing, or get a job because many times those decisions are based on information in your credit report.
According to MyFico.com, “26% of participants in a study by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) identified at least one error on their credit report that could make them appear riskier to lenders.” Here’s how we recommend you stay on top of the information in your credit report.
Get your free report.
You are allowed one free credit report every 12 months from each credit bureau: Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion. Visit annualcreditreport.com to order yours. This free report does not include your credit score; however, you can see all of the information contained in your reports. Reviewing each credit report helps to identify errors and also helps you catch identity theft early.
Check the basics.
Check variations in your name, Social Security number, and address. Experian lists all name variations reported to ensure the consumer has a full account of the identifying information reported. Make sure you’re consistent and always use the same first name, middle initial and last name when you apply for credit, otherwise your report may actually contain information about another person with a similar name.
Look for errors.
When you identify an error on your credit report, it’s important to start the correction process right away. It does take a little time and effort but it’s essential your report is accurate. Contact both the credit bureau and the organization that provided the information to the bureau. Both of these parties are responsible for correcting inaccurate or incomplete information in your report under the Fair Credit Reporting Act.
First, contact the credit bureau and tell them what information you believe is inaccurate. The credit bureau must investigate the item(s) in question, usually within 30 days, unless they consider your dispute frivolous. Include copies (NOT originals) of documents that support your position. In addition to providing your complete name and address, you should:
- Clearly identify each disputed item in your report.
- Explain why you dispute the information.
- Request a deletion or correction.
- You may also want to enclose a copy of your report with the items in question circled.
Most disputes can be filed online. Here are the links to the credit bureaus showing the incorrect information:
Equifax – Equifax Disputes
Experian – Experian Disputes
TransUnion – TransUnion Disputes
Second, write to the appropriate creditor explaining that you are disputing the information provided to the bureau. Again, include copies of documents that support your argument. Many providers specify an address for disputes.
If the provider reports the same, inaccurate information to a bureau, it must include a notice of your dispute. Request that the provider copy you on correspondence they send to the bureau. This process to take between 30 and 90 days.
Unfortunately, after their investigation, the credit bureau may not resolve the dispute in your favor. If that happens, ask the credit bureau to include a statement of your dispute in your file and in future reports. If their investigation does not produce the results you feel are correct, and inaccurate credit information is causing you harm, you may want to consider consulting an attorney, as a last resort.
We also recommend adding a calendar reminder to request a free copy of your credit report every 12 months. A lot can happen in 12 months when it comes to your credit report so be vigilant about reviewing and repairing your information.
If you run into problems, you can always contact a Members Trust loan officer and we would be happy to help.