It’s the worst.
You check your credit report and find a credit card on there that you definitely do not own. To make matters worse, it’s a card that has a pretty bad history of missed payments.
You may not have this exact situation happen to you, but credit reporting mistakes are way to common, and they can really drag your score down.
If anything should drop your credit score, it should be something YOU have done – and not an error.
With that said, this is how you go about fixing problems on your credit report that may be bringing your credit score down.
Step 1: Pull all three of your credit reports
Did you know there are actually three main credit reporting bureaus? They are TransUnion, Equifax, and Experian. Each of them collect information into what’s called a credit report. And it’s very likely each of them will have DIFFERENT information included in your report.
It’s very important to obtain your credit report from all three main credit reporting agencies because whenever you need your credit report is looked at, the person looking at your report could be looking at a report from any of the three agencies. You therefore want ALL of them to be accurate.
How to get your free credit reports?
You are entitled to your free credit report from all three credit reporting agency every 12 months. You can get your free report at annualcreditreport.com.
Step 2: Check for inaccuracies on your credit report
You’ve probably already done this step since you’r reading this article now. However, make sure you do this step for all three of your credit reports.
Make sure all information is correct. Especially any items/information that could be dragging your credit score down.
Some common credit report errors include:
- personal information (your name, home address, etc)
- an item that doesn’t belong to you at all (example, a credit card, other loans, collections, or bankruptcies)
- wrong dates (dates matter if it’s a “bad” item, you want them to fall off your report on time)
- Incorrect loan amounts of credit payment history
You want all details to be correct.
If you find any information on your reports that are wrong, you need to dispute them.
How to dispute errors on your credit reports
There are two main ways:
1. Contact the credit reporting agency to dispute it
Get in touch with whichever credit reporting agency who is showing the error.
There are two main ways to do this. Each credit reporting agency will have a place on their website where you can “dispute info on credit report”. Go to their website and fill out the form online.
The other way is to write a letter to them and mail it. You can find the appropriate forms online.
When you contact them with your dispute, they are required by law to look into your dispute and give you an answer within 30 days (sometimes 45).
2. Contact the person/company that has incorrectly reported the information
The second way to dispute an error on your credit report is to contact the person or company who reported the error. This could be a credit card company, auto loan company, a bank or other financial institution, etc.
The best way is to send them a letter identifying the problem and why it is wrong. Be very clear about the issue.
They will be required to look into the error and get back to you with their findings. They will also be required to inform the credit bureau a dispute has been issued. You can use the FTC’s website for a sample dispute letter to send the company.
3. Do both
If you wish, you can contact both the credit reporting agencies and also the person/company who reported the error.
Step 3: Wait for a response
You should get a response within 30 days. Credit reporting agencies tend to not like dealing with disputes and may give you a bit of a run around. If this ends up being the case, be persistent.
Who’s responsibility is it to identify credit report errors?
It is absolutely YOUR responsibility to identify all credit report problems and errors. Nobody will find these problems for you. Nobody knows what information is actually correct or incorrect on your reports besides yourself.
That is why it is absolutely imperative that you check your credit reports at least once every 12 months to make sure everything being collected on it is accurate. Credit reporting bureaus simply aggregate info about you. They make mistakes.
There could be another person in your city with the same name as you having their bad credit habits being reported on your credit reports. You must check your reports and constantly monitor it.
The last thing you want is to go apply for a car loan or a mortgage only to find your score is lower than expected and to learn that the reason for this is because you have bad credit information on your report that does not belong to you.
You should expect an increase in credit score once you remove an item or items that negatively impact your credit score.
What to do when you don’t know to fix credit reporting errors
If you’re not really sure how to go about fixing errors on your credit report, or you simply don’t have time or don’t want to deal with something like this, there are people and places that help you with this.