Your credit is a critical feature of your overall financial well-being. Lenders use it to determine how much to charge in interest on a loan; potential employers and landlords may also have a look at your credit before making decisions that could significantly impact your life.
So, if there was a misrepresentation on your credit report, you’d want to know about it, wouldn’t you?
If you’re one of the one-in-five consumers in the United States who has at least one error on their credit report, chances are you’re going to want to do something about it. Thankfully, there are actions you can take to restore your credit, and they’re easier than you might expect.
In this article, we’re going to list three important steps you can take if and when you detect an error on your credit report.
Step #1: Gather all of the information you can from all three of the credit reporting agencies.
Transunion, Equifax, and Experian are the ‘big three’ credit reporting bureaus in the United States. These three organizations are chiefly responsible for the credit information that is specific to your history in dealing with your debtors. If just one of these three companies obtains false or inaccurate information about your credit, then that’s all it might take for a loan to be denied or an application for employment to be declined.
As frustrating as this may be, you’re not without options. The first thing you should do if you notice an error on your credit report is to contact all three credit reporting bureaus and request a copy of your official credit report.
It’s a common misconception that you have to pay for this information every time you need it. The truth is that every consumer can get a free copy of their credit report from each of the big three credit reporting bureaus, once a year, by visiting www.AnnualCreditReport.com.
After you’ve obtained all three credit reports, compare them side-by-side to see who has it right and who has it wrong. This will help to determine what next steps you should take.
Look for things like:
- Loans or lines of credit that don’t belong to you
- Inaccurate mailing addresses, contact information, or other identifying data
- The same debt accounts listed multiple times
- Old, closed credit card accounts that are listed as open or active
- Anything else that looks ‘off’
If you do detect an error, check to see if it’s only listed with one of the bureaus or all three. Then, move on to step two.
Step #2: File a formal dispute.
Filing a dispute with a credit reporting agency isn’t as difficult as it sounds. All you need to do is explain in writing what the error is and include supporting documentation.
Thankfully, this can all be done online. The links you need for each of the reporting bureaus are below:
Be sure to keep your communication professional and fact-based. Try not to ‘take it out’ on the credit bureaus—they’ll probably be less motivated to help you.
It’s probably a good idea to get in touch with the company that is responsible for reporting the error. That could be an older bank you used to be with or a credit card company that you’re no longer a customer of.
If your situation is excessively complicated or if you want some guidance in how to defend yourself in a credit report dispute, consider hiring a consumer rights attorney that specializes in dealing directly with the reporting bureaus.
Step #3: Keep meticulous records of everything, including dates and phone calls.
When it comes to protecting your credit worthiness, every potentially relevant piece of information could help you in the long run. Keep a physical file folder dedicated to resolving your credit reporting issues, and keep every bit of communication inside of it—include email responses, updated reports, and logs of all the phone calls you received and placed.
By law, the credit reporting bureaus must take action within a determined time window after you’ve contacted them. Typically, this time window is 30 days.
If you are ignored by Transunion, Experian, or Equifax, or if you’re not satisfied with the action they take to restore your credit, consider hiring a credit attorney to act on your behalf.
By following the above-listed steps, you’ll be doing your part to ensure that your credit report is steeped in reality, giving you peace of mind and a brighter financial future.