10/4/2011 11:28 AM ET|
Credit report error? 6 easy fixes
If you spot an error in one of your credit reports, you're entitled to dispute it with the credit reporting bureau. Here are the steps to take.
CardRatings.com recently conducted a poll asking readers whether they had ever found errors on their credit reports. Of 2,142 respondents, 1,568, or approximately three out of four, reported that yes, they have at one time or another found such an error, according to Amber Stubbs, the managing editor of CardRatings.com in Foster City, Calif.
With these findings, and the increasingly clever schemes of identity thieves, it shouldn't take much more to convince you to review your credit reports regularly and act promptly if you find errors in the reports.
Here are the steps you should take to dispute inaccuracies on your credit reports, which you are entitled to do under the Fair Credit Reporting Act.
1. Get your free credit reports. All consumers are allowed one free credit report every year from each of the three major credit reporting bureaus (Equifax, Experian and TransUnion), says Gail Cunningham, the vice president of public relations for the National Foundation for Credit Counseling in Washington, D.C. Go to AnnualCreditReport.com to request the free annual reports from each bureau. You can request all three reports at once or spread them out over different times of the year. (How's your credit? Get a free estimate with MSN Money's quiz.)
2. Check for errors and omissions. Review your credit reports for errors, Cunningham says. "A poor credit report impacts your ability to obtain credit, obtain insurance, rent an apartment or get a job. So it's very important to make sure the information is corrected if it's not."
It's also important that your credit reports don't shortchange your history. Don't see that gas credit card you paid off last year? Make a note to get it added. According to Rod Griffin, the director of public education for Experian, "An accurate and complete credit report is an important financial tool, and it can be treated just like a bank statement."
3. If there's an error, gather documentation. This step is critical. Take the time to assemble all the information you'll need to prove your case, such as copies of canceled checks and creditor statements.
If, for instance, a credit report shows that you still owe money on a bill that has been paid in full, include the statement that documents the zero balance, Cunningham says. "You're just stating the facts and making sure they understand your arguments," she adds.
4. Put it in writing. Contact the bureau whose report you believe to be inaccurate, giving your name, Social Security number and date of birth, Cunningham says. If you've moved recently, verify your previous address.
Write as if you were writing to a potential employer. Explain that you are disputing certain items, and give clear, factual reasons why. Include all the details of your case, such as account numbers, invoice numbers, check numbers and payment dates. Number your attachments to make it easy for the reader to find them. Make it clear what you want changed. Don't forget to sign your letter.
You can send your dispute to the credit reporting bureau by snail mail or online. If you use mail, Cunningham advises sending your letter by certified mail, with the return receipt add-on requested, so you can document that the bureau received the letter. As well, keep a copy of the confirmation of receipt.
However, it may be faster to send the dispute via the Internet. "You can dispute online. It's quick, it's secure, and it's the same process," Griffin says. "And you will receive confirmation the dispute was received."
At the same time, let the creditor know you're disputing the report, "so you're coming at this from both sides," Cunningham says. Include copies of the disputed charges and proof you've paid them, just as you did for the bureau.
5. Wait. Once the credit reporting bureau receives your dispute, its team must begin to investigate it immediately and must finish the investigation within 30 days. The bureau will notify the creditor initiating the report that it is investigating your dispute.
"That triggers another investigation on the part of the creditor reporting," Cunningham says. "The creditor has to investigate and confirm the accuracy."
If the creditor finds the information is inaccurate, it must notify all three major credit reporting bureaus so they can correct information in your files, she says.
When Experian receives a dispute, Griffin says, "we go back to the source of that information, typically a lender, and have them review records and either verify to us the information is reported correctly and should remain the same, or that they agree with the dispute and the information should be updated."
What if the lender doesn't respond? Griffin says, "If they don't respond in the mandated 30 days, the information will be deleted."
6. Get your results. In all likelihood, the dispute will be settled in much less time than 30 days. In most instances, just seven to 10 days are required, Griffin says. "The 30 days go back to the era when everything had to be mailed," he adds.
If you've built a good case in your dispute and you prevail, the credit reporting bureau must remove the inaccurate information from your report, Cunningham says.
But if the decision doesn't go your way and the investigation does not confirm your side of the dispute, you have another option. "You can ask the credit reporting agency to include a copy of the statement of dispute in your file, and that will go out with future credit reports," she says.
This action may or may not make a difference to a future lender, Cunningham adds. But at least it shows you've done all you can to state your case.
Where to start
The best place to start the dispute process is on the credit reporting bureau's website. Here is the current contact information for each of the three major credit-reporting bureaus:
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NOW, my credit is screwed up, because I was not aware of his late payments.
I have never missed a payment on anything in my life, but now my credit is BAD.
No problem, closed my accounts with the bank. Will take care of my son, who risked his life in the battle of Fallujah, and hope the next terrorist attack in on the banking industry and they all rot in hell.
Bankers, after years of wheeling and dealing, countless bonuses and CEO golden parachutes have finally brought this country to its knees.
Americans were virtually forced to fund bailouts for these "people" because need them.
Maybe so, maybe not, but, after we saved their worthless hides, they hold back credit to a point one can no longer work towards the American Dream.
Let put more of them behind bars and maybe they will start to do business as "Honest business people" for a change.
credit scores are such a scam. The banks create them and the offer credit based on them. The worse the score the higher the interest rates banks can charge...does anyone realize the catch-22 in this scam??
A bus full of lawyers and bankers found crashed at the bottom of a cliff would be a great start.
I wouldn't even think about trusting any credit agency with an accurate report.
We live in a world of educated idiots. So go figure!!
i followed the law and contacted each agency. They have a wrong SSN fo rme. When I contacted them they
said "sue us, we have no desire to change anything--proof or not. We know what the law is and we don't care."
I sought the free reports and for the past 4 yrs, they all refuse to send same to me.
THUS, this is a warning for anyone with data that needs changing; if the credit brueaus wish to ignore your
changes, either don't care or prepare to sue. IT will take a class acton suit to change this.
Remember that the Big 3's are providing a service, It is about profit. We are cash cows in their eyes and they are not going to provide the public with good service. I have a home and a car and could care less about the reporting agency's crappy idea about my circumstances. What matters is when I spend my money, all hand are stretched out. Once you establish yourself and they understand that you have the peso's, the Big 3's nonsense, is just that. Negotiate or walk away. Cash is king. Save and spend. Credit cards, interest, fee's are a waste of your money. If you can put a purchase on a credit card and pay it off later, you can pay with cash and forego the middle man. Take the power away from them. Forget the immediate gratification and work to pay for things with cash. It will be more satisfying. The same companies that we looked to as the leaders of our country have shown; that greed was the focus all along and now the economy is in the state that it is.
All of you attorneys reading this, where is the class-action suit against this monopoly, price-fixing industry? Someone has lost their creativity. I see all kinds of adds from the class-action guys on TV, but no one has the guts to go up against these guys? They are wimps hiding behind our fears of not running up our debt enough.
Go after this slime industry that has caused us to pay out the nose for credit.
It's all B.S. the idea is to give money to those that don't need it and charge the crap out of the ones they do, Just went thru the refi thing, what a f/n headache... first it's all fine then it's not... ... then they tried to blame the problem on a bad appraisal then that was then magically OK but my wife was one point under some magic fico cap and mine way above what we needed so we had to take her off the loan to get the rate drop. (she has had no lates no charge offs) And if you want an exercise in frustration try comparing the companies and rates, it's almost impossible, everyone want to run your score... that lowers your score,but to get an accurate rate quote they want to run it. I actually had to fill out a letter if explanation as to why my score was run so many times,as the company that held ny old loan ran my info twice first thru their company then thru a sister company without my knowledge twice I only found out they had done it when I received the mandatory letters of notification in the mail... remind me more of used car sales people, than "LOAN OFFICERS of AGENTS"
The Banks are all just in sales just like Wal Mart or even the car dealership only they don't have to show you everything up front until you have gone thru a month of crap and then show you the list of just small stuff they forgot to tell you about, but hey if we go to change it that's another month you'll loose your lock, or your appraisal might expire and do you really want to go thru it all again.... oh and you'll have your credit run again just in case something has changed, Easy fix? Try to contact these people, it's a joke, It takes months, people just don't care, and try to find "that documentation" from a loans you paid off 15 years ago. Our broke mismanaged government has a double or triple A rating and borrows money for nothing and some regular poor smuck is charged thru the butt if he misses his J.C. Penny payment and will get his credit dinged....so many things are out of line... welcome to the New Rome. Problem is this one might not make the 1000 years...
I finally realize that we as debtors and consumers do not have control of our credit report.
My report was merge with another persons file. I proved it wasn't my file, even though the other person had good credit and mine was 775 FICO. Then some collections agency came after me for student loans that were paid in full some 10 years before. It took me 8 months to finally prove it was paid by ordering my files from the National Archives in Atlanta Georgia. That fraudulent collections hurt my credit report as 90 days unpaid on collections.
At that point I decided to destroy my credit report by taking out 5 credit cards for 1 years paying better than agreed to get credit limit increased to a combined $30,000. on all my cards. Then I went on a spending spree traveling abroad and buying things and I just stopped paying.
If those banks, collections agencies and credit bureaur's can jack with your good name and excellent credit without my/your control. It was time to opt out of their financial bondage ponzai pyramid scheme. "F" them. We don't need them, they need us! Usury and Fiat is a criminal fascist system.
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