"Hey! I never lived in Boise, Idaho! When did I ever have a Toys R Us credit card?"
If you are checking your three credit reports regularly, you are bound to find a mistake at some point. In fact, in 2012, the Federal Trade Commission found that 25 percent of Americans who checked their credit reports (35 percent of us never check!) had at least one significant error on at least one of their credit reports. That is 1 in 4! Think about it—if your spouse and both of your parents don’t have errors on their reports, you probably do! So, what can you do about it? Read on to find out.
Step One: Get Your Free Credit Reports Every Year
Too many of us live by the mantra, What you don’t know can’t hurt you. When it comes to your credit report, what you don’t know can definitely hurt you. Are you and your spouse saving up to buy your dream house? A serious error on one of your credit reports could mean you don’t get the mortgage approval you need—or the good interest rate you are hoping for. That’s why it’s vital that you request your free copy of each of your credit reports every year—and that you go through them with a fine-toothed comb. If you see anything that looks wrong, you need to get it corrected.
What Kinds of Errors Could You Find?
Really, anything could be on your report, including information about a total stranger that has a name similar to yours. Sometimes, it’s negative stuff that has expired and should have been removed. Common errors people find all the time include:
- A late credit payment that’s more than seven years old
- A credit or loan account that’s not yours
- An account that you closed, but your report says it was closed by the creditor
- A debt you paid is showing as unpaid
- A paid tax lien that’s more than seven years old
- Debt discharged in bankruptcy is showing as active with an unpaid balance
- Incorrect personal information, like your name, previous addresses, or employers
Anything on your report that you can’t account for should be checked out and corrected.
So You Found a Mistake On Your Credit Report—How Do You Fix it?
Theoretically, correcting a credit report is simple. Under the Fair Credit Reporting Act, all you have to do is tell the credit reporting agency (CRA)—Experian, Equifax, or TransUnion—that there is an error on your report and they have to remove it. As an added bonus, if they don’t remove it in a timely manner, you can sue them for damages. To get the ball rolling, take these steps:
- Send a dispute letter to the CRA telling them what should be removed from your report and why. If you have documents that prove your point, send COPIES of those as well. It’s a good idea to send a printout of your credit report with the mistakes highlighted.
- If the mistake came from a creditor, send a dispute letter to them as well. Explain what the mistake is and send copies of documents that prove it.
The CRA or data furnisher has about 30 days to investigate your dispute and tell you what they found. If you disagree with their findings, it’s probably time to call me. If you don’t hear from them within about six weeks, it’s also time to call me. You may be owed not only a correction, but financial damages for all the trouble you’ve been through!
Call Me to Help You Fix Your Credit Report
Having an accurate credit report is important. It could mean the difference between getting the house or car you love and staying in your dingy apartment or driving your beat-up old car. Take the first steps yourself, but if you get stuck—don’t hesitate to contact me online or call me directly at 855.982.2400. That’s what I’m here for!