One of the most important aspects of your financial life is your credit score. Your credit score is based on information that can be found in your credit report. When your credit report is inaccurate, it can lead to a lower score. In order to keep tabs on the information that is used to form your financial reputation, you should check your credit report regularly.
While you can go to the individual bureaus and pay for a copy of your credit report, it is possible to get a free copy each year from each major bureau (Equifax, TransUnion, Experian) when you go to www.annualcreditreport.com. You can also receive a free copy of your credit report when information from a bureau was used to deny a credit application.
Some estimates assert that 70% of credit reports contain errors, with some 30% of credit reports containing errors that can impact a person’s credit score. Checking your report regularly can help you identify errors, and then it becomes possible to fix them so that you increase the likelihood of an improved credit score.
Correcting Credit Report Inaccuracies
The process of fixing errors on your credit report is fairly straightforward. The first thing you need to do is notify the credit bureau, in writing, that you have found information that you believe is inaccurate. Your letter should include the following information:
- The item you are disputing (clear identification)
- Why you think it is a mistake
- Facts supporting your position
- A request that the item be corrected (or removed)
You should also enclose copies of documents that support your position. Keep originals for yourself, and send copies to the credit bureau. Your letter and supporting documents should be sent via registered mail, so that you receive confirmation that the credit bureau has received your documents. You may have to pay a little more, but the peace of mind is worth it.
Next, you should send a dispute letter to the creditor or other institution that provided the information to the credit bureau. Someone has to give the information to the credit bureau. Re-work your letter to address the issue with the creditor. Send copies (NEVER originals) of documentation along with the letter, and use registered mail. This way, the creditor can’t claim that it never received the information.
Investigating Your Dispute
By law, credit bureaus have to investigate your dispute, unless it is frivolous. For the most part, the investigation has to be done within 30 days. Information reporters are also required to look into the dispute. Credit bureaus will look at the information you have provided, and it may check with the information provider. Then, a decision will be made about whether or not your dispute is valid. If you are right, the inaccurate information will be fixed, and your credit history will reflect that.
The credit bureau has to notify you in writing of the decision made with regard to your dispute. If a change has been made to credit report, you are provided with a free copy of the report — and it doesn’t count as your free annual report required by law. The disputed item cannot be changed unless the information provider can show verification that its version of events is correct. In such cases, the credit bureau must notify you in writing, and enclose contact information for the provider.
You can request that the credit bureau send copies of your corrected report to those who received it in the last six months. This is free, but you have to ask for it; the credit bureau won’t do it automatically. For employment, you can have your report sent to anyone who requested it in the last two years.
If the dispute is not resolved to your liking, you can make a statement to be included with your credit report. This is relatively easy to do online at most credit bureaus. Your statement of the dispute will be included, and creditors can use it when evaluating applications. If you are willing to pay a fee, you can also have your statement sent to those who have requested your report recently.