Many of you are aware you can obtain a free credit report annually from each of the three nationwide credit-reporting agencies – Equifax, Experian and TransUnion. You can get these free reports at www.annualcreditreport.com. One of the reasons that it’s very important to get your credit report from these companies annually is that there are often errors that show up on the reports.
These errors can range from something inconsequential, such as having an incorrect address on a house you used to live in, to something that can significantly affect your credit score, such as an inaccurate indication that you missed a payment on one of your bills.
What should you do when you find a mistake on your credit report?
The first thing you should do is to notify the credit-reporting agency, in writing, what information you think is incorrect. You should include copies (not originals) of any documents that might support your position.
You should also contact the creditor that provided the incorrect information to the credit-reporting company (for example, if the credit report indicates that the phone company says you didn’t pay your bill, you should contact the phone company).
This contact should also be in writing, and should contain copies of the same documentation you provided to the credit-reporting agency.
Once you submit this information to the credit-reporting agencies, they must investigate the items in question, usually within 30 days, unless they consider the dispute to be frivolous. They must also forward all relevant information that you provide about the inaccuracy to the organization that provided the information (in the example above, that would be the phone company).
If this information provider finds that they have indeed provided incorrect information, they must notify all three credit-reporting agencies.
When the investigation has been completed, the credit-reporting agencies must give you the results in writing. If an item on your report has been changed or deleted, then the agency must give you a free copy of your revised credit report (this does not count as your annual free report).
Upon your request, the agencies are also required to send a notice of any corrections made to any party that received your credit report in the past six months (or during the past two years if for employment purposes).
If an investigation doesn’t resolve your dispute, you can ask that a statement of the dispute be included in your file and in future reports. You can also ask that this statement be provided to any party that received your report in the past six months.
By staying on top of your credit reports, you can greatly reduce the chance that your credit scores will be based on incorrect information.