Mistakes on your credit report can impact your life in a big way. This can include affecting your ability to get loans or even certain jobs. Correcting credit report errors is important. According to a study conducted by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), one in five people have an error on at least one of their credit reports. That’s why it’s essential that you monitor your credit report and regularly check for mistakes.
Common credit report errors
- Identity errors. Yes, believe it or not, an incorrect name or address is an error you might find on your credit report. A creditor may have made a clerical error in entering your name or address. An account belonging to someone with a similar name may have somehow been mixed with yours. There are many ways an identity error can occur.
- Duplicate accounts. You may find that an account, such as a loan has been reported more than once. This may make it seem as if you have more debt than you actually have.
- Reporting of account status. This might include closed accounts still appearing as open. For example, you may have paid off a loan or closed a credit card, but they are still appearing as open. Another credit report error might be an account incorrectly reported as late with payments.
- Balance errors. You may find accounts with errors in the current balance or the credit limit. Either of these errors may affect your credit score.
- Incorrect public records. This might include bankruptcy, repossession, or foreclosure.
Steps for correcting credit report errors
1 First, request a free copy of your credit report from each of the three main credit reporting companies.
The Fair Credit Reporting Act (FRCA) requires each of the three credit reporting companies – Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion – to provide you with a free copy of your credit report, at your request, once every 12 months. You can request your free copies from all three companies at the same time in one of three ways in one central location. You may also choose to stagger your requests if you prefer. Staggering over a 12-month period enables you to keep a more watchful eye on your credit report over time. There’s no need to contact each reporting company individually. Simply request online by visiting one central website annualcreditreport.com. You may also request copies of your credit report via phone at 1-877-322-8228. If you prefer mail, you can complete the Annual Credit Report Request Form and mail it to:Annual Credit Report Request Service, P.O. Box 105281, Atlanta, GA 30348-5281.
A word of caution, annualcreditreport.com is the only website authorized to provide the free annual credit reports you are entitled to by law. Other websites may claim to do the same, but there may be strings attached or they may be trying to steal your personal information.
2 Carefully check your credit reports for errors
Look for the common credit report inaccuracies we mentioned above. This can include incorrect balances, duplicate accounts, or items that aren’t yours. Check to make sure your name, address, and social security number are correct as well. Careful monitoring is important for correcting credit report errors.
3 Contact the credit reporting company to help with correcting credit report errors
Credit bureaus are obligated by law to investigate a dispute in the accuracy of items on your credit report. Once you find an error, check to see which credit bureau created the report. Then, mail a certified letter (return receipt requested) asking the credit bureau to correct the error as soon as possible. Remember, if the error is on all three of your credit reports, you’ll need to send a dispute to all three credit bureaus.
To dispute an item or items, your letter should include your name and address, as well as line items of each inaccuracy that appears on your credit report that you want to dispute. Include the name of the source, such as a creditor, the type of item, or a credit account. Include exactly what is inaccurate. For instance, is a closed account appearing as open, is the balance incorrect, is there is an account appearing on your report that is not yours. Include copies of any supporting information. This can include payment records, a current statement with balance, an account closed letter, or anything else you might have. Again, request they investigate and delete or correct the disputed items as soon as possible. Include a list of enclosures at the bottom of your letter. Be aware that the process may take one to three months. Here are the mailing addresses of each of the credit bureaus:
P.O. Box 740256
Atlanta, GA 30374-0256
P.O. Box 9701
Allen, TX 75013
P.O. Box 2000
Chester, PA 19016
If the disputed items on your credit report are corrected, you can request that the credit reporting agency send a corrected report to any creditors that had received the credit report in the past six months. They can also send it to employers upon your request.
Follow-up disputes re correcting credit report errors
If you are not satisfied with the results of your dispute, you can submit a follow-up dispute. You can begin by contacting the creditor that furnished the data to the credit bureau and ask them to correct the information as soon as possible. If that is not working for you, you can also submit a complaint to the Consumer Finance Protection Bureau (CFPB).
Continue to check your credit score regularly so you can catch and correct errors on your credit report
Regularly monitoring your credit report is essential to maintaining a good credit score. Learn more about maintaining a healthy credit score by reading our ChoiceWords blog “4 Main Factors Impacting a Credit Score.”