It happens to more people than you would think. They forget to check their credit report, and while they have been neglecting this synopsis of their financial health, an error has crept in. Finally they realize that checking their report really only takes about 10 minutes and they do it. Fortunately, you can get mistakes removed. It takes a little bit of leg work and some time (even more if the mistake has been on there for years and years), but having a clean report is well worth the time, and it can end up saving you thousands of dollars in interest payments when you get your next loan. So if you think you might have mistakes on your report, follow these steps to have them removed.
You have to start by running the report. Head over to annualcreditreport.com and go through the simple steps. You will be asked a set of questions to verify your identity, and make sure you answer them correctly (they will be items such as “which of these streets have you previously lived on?”), a wrong answer will cause you to start the process over. In order to stay up-to-date on your credit activity, pull just one report every 4 months (you can pull one per year per reporting agency). They should be identical so instead of waiting 12 months between reviews, you only have to wait 4 months.
Simply read through the report and look for errors. As you read through you will think “I don’t have that!” or “What is this one?” Don’t worry; often cards will have a different name for different parts of their company. For instance a credit card through ABC Clothing might have a card that is through XYZ Financial Services. Most should be decipherable and you should be able to understand what they are. If not, there is a number listed, simply call the number and explain you are trying to figure out what you are reading.
If you find an error it is important that you act on it immediately. Your first step is to call the credit reporting agency. Give your information and explain why you think the error needs to be corrected. They will help walk you through the process, and instruct you where to send your supporting documents (don’t send the originals, but rather make copies). Coincidentally, this is why it is important to keep documents well after accounts are closed. Check this page on the Consumer Finance Protection Bureau website for the addresses, phone numbers, and forms you will need for each of the reporting agencies (if you are having trouble, you can always give the CFPB a call to and enlist their help, their phone number is in the top right corner of the site).
After filing the dispute with the credit reporting agency they are obligated to look into all matters, usually within 30 days, unless they find the claim to be frivolous (for instance your name is not capitalized). They will report back to you their findings, and they will supply a free credit report (one that does not count against your one per year limit) if the dispute resulted in a change. In the mean time, you should call the crediting agency that reported the erroneous information. Sometimes the error is a simple typographical one, and it can be fixed easily. You will have to explain the situation again, and you will have to send your supporting documents to them as well. But the sooner they have the right information, the sooner your report will be made whole.
Mistakes happen, and often they are just clerical errors. However, there are times when mistakes happen because someone has stolen your identity. Regardless of how or why there is an error on your credit report, it is important that you get them fixed. It may be a pain, and it may take a few weeks for the process to finally get done, but your credit report is repairable. So if you notice a dispute, get started right away gathering supporting documents. The sooner it is fixed, the sooner you can have peace of mind that your credit report sparkles.