How to Report and Dispute Credit Report Errors
- It is important to check your credit report as often as allowed (up to 3 times a year).
- Errors are caused by mistakes and fraud, both can be bad.
- You can dispute an error by reaching out to the credit bureaus or the furnishers.
In today’s world of constant credit, living without a decent credit score is getting harder. That means it is essential to know your credit score and be sure it is accurate. Your credit score is generated using your credit report.
Any inaccuracies in your credit report can cause huge problems, so it is vital to get those squared away. But before we can fix errors, we need to understand the basics.
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What is a Credit Report?
Many people know roughly their credit scores, but relatively few understand their credit reports. Your credit report is a curated credit file presented by the three credit bureaus, Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion. These companies maintain this file and then sell your credit report to companies who want an idea of your creditworthiness. This report includes different types of credit, such as credit cards,
It includes personal information such as your name, birthdate, address, and Social Security number. Next, it includes your credit history, such as what accounts you have and whether they were paid on time. Third, it includes credit inquiries, a list of how often you’ve asked for credit in the last two years. Lastly, it includes public records, such as bankruptcy information.
In short, your credit report is an attempt to give a whole picture of whether or not a lender should extend credit to you. The better your report is, the more likely it will lend to you. Therefore, ensuring your report is accurate is vital to get the best credit possible.
How to check your credit report
Now that you understand the importance of your credit report and making sure it is accurate, it begs the question, how do you check it? You can request a free copy of your credit report from each big credit bureau once per year since there are three major bureaus, which translates to checking your credit report once every four months if you spread it out evenly.
ConsumerFinance.gov recommends using AnnualCreditReport.com to check your credit report, which is a good place to start. You can also sign up for a free account with the credit bureaus, and they can send you credit alerts to your email. It isn’t a full credit report, but having an account with a credit bureau is like having a peephole in the door of your credit report so you can keep an eye on it without opening the credit report door.
Once you’ve received your credit report, it is time to check for errors. These errors could include incorrectly reporting missed payments, paid-off loans that weren’t written as closed, loan activity that you don’t recognize (whether inaccurately reported or fraud), your name is misspelled, and more. Generally, you want to look for anything you didn’t initiate yourself or anything that isn’t right about current loans.
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Why are there errors on my credit report?
With all of the types of errors listed above, you’re probably wondering why there are errors at all.
First, remember businesses are run by humans who make mistakes. For example, a business could forget to report your loan is paid off or send a late payment notice even though you’ve paid.
The most common error on a credit report is having your name spelled wrong when the business reporting a loan sends in your information. This can lead to credit bureaus confusing you with someone else and lead to other problems. So make sure this gets corrected.
Second, fraud is rampant worldwide, and your credit is a playground for fraudsters. This is the biggest reason to keep a watch on your credit. You don’t want someone to take advantage of your credit for their gain. Many people become victims of identity theft each year,
So any time you see a new credit line or inquiry appear on your credit report, ask yourself if you initiated that. Take action immediately if you can’t think of why that would be there.
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How to report and dispute a credit report error?
Now that you’ve spotted an error, it is time to dispute it. The process is as simple as filling out a form online, making a phone call, or writing a letter if that’s what you do.
Forms of contacting the credit reporting company
Call: (866) 349-5191
Equifax Information Services LLC
P.O. Box 740256
Atlanta, GA 30348-5281
Call: (800) 916-8800
TransUnion LLC Consumer Dispute Center
P.O. Box 2000
Chester, PA 19016
Call: (888) 397-3742
P.O. Box 4500
Allen, TX 75013
When disputing a report, make sure you come prepared with the reported item you are disputing, your complete name and address, and copies of documents that support your claim. It is also a good idea to have your report on hand. If you are sending a letter, include all of this information with a formal request that they fix the error and a copy of your credit report highlighting what you want to have fixed.
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Contacting the Furnisher
When you dispute an error on your credit report, the credit bureau reaches out to the business that gave them that information to verify the facts. That means that the fastest way to fix a problem is reaching out to the business that supplied the information in the first place. That business is called the furnisher.
If the furnisher acknowledges the problem, they can contact the credit bureau and get it fixed without the bureau acting as an intermediary.
How long does it take to fix the mistake?
After a credit bureau has received a dispute request, they have 30 days to address the dispute. So, given postage time, it is time to follow up if you haven’t heard from them in 45 days. The response will either be a correction of the error or a reason why they chose not to move forward. Their decision isn’t final, and it could be as simple as you need to provide more information.
The Money Wrap-Up
Your credit report is extremely important, and therefore it is super important that you keep it accurate. The most immediate action step is viewing your free credit report if you haven’t done so. Then, start the process of disputing any errors you find.
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