Have you checked your credit report lately? If not, you should. Did you know that more than 40 million Americans have mistakes on their credit report? Many people don’t even know it because they don’t check their credit regularly.
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First, we’ll discuss how to check your credit report and then help you learn how to fix any mistakes you find.
How to Check Your Credit
Did you know that you have access to a free copy of your credit report annually? In fact, you have access to three credit reports per year – one from each credit bureau. Trans Union, Equifax, and Experian each have their own credit report for you. If you visit www.annualcreditreport.com, you can get access to your free report every year.
We suggest that you pull one report every few months throughout the year. This way you spread out how often you check your credit report. This gives you a better chance of catching errors early on and fixing your credit score before it gets too damaged.
Now that you have your credit reports, go over them with a fine-toothed comb. Look at every line. Do the trade lines belong to you? Are the balances right? Is the payment history correct? Do you notice anything that is incorrect?
Don’t forget to look at all the data. This includes personal information, public records, and all financial information. Anything that is incorrect should be fixed.
You’ll need to file a dispute with the credit bureau. Make sure you contact the bureau that has the incorrect information. Sometimes it’s just one bureau and other times it’s all three. If the mistake was on the part of the credit bureau, chances are that only one will have the mistake. If the creditor made the reporting mistake, though, it’s worth checking all three credit reports for the inaccurate information.
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You can file the dispute online, via phone, or regular mail. Each bureau has its own requirements, but in general, you must:
- Provide the information about the dispute. Tell the credit bureau in detail why you think the information is incorrect. Are numbers transposed? Does the trade line not belong to you? Is the payment history incorrect? Give as much detail as possible so that the credit bureau is able to change it effectively.
- Provide information about the dispute to the creditor. You should also let the creditor know about the incorrect information. Provide the creditor with the same information you gave the credit bureau including the reason why you think the information is incorrect.
- Provide as much proof as possible. The credit bureau and creditors may or may not take your request seriously if you don’t have proof. Gather as much paperwork as you can to prove your point and supply copies to the credit bureau and creditor.
- Ask for a specific action. Think about what you want out of your dispute. Do you want the information deleted? Do you just need the data corrected? Be specific with your request so the outcome is the one you desire.
Credit bureaus typically have 30 days to investigate your request. The issue may not get resolved in 30 days, but the credit bureau must start the investigation within that time. The exact time that it takes depends on the willingness of the creditor. If they drag their feet, it may take longer. That’s why it’s important to stay in contact with the creditor too.
How to Handle a Dispute That Doesn’t go Your Way
Your dispute may or may not go your way, there’s no surefire way to tell. If the creditor denies your dispute, you can request that the credit bureau put a copy of the dispute on file. They can also add a statement to the trade line stating that you dispute the tradeline and the reason.
Future creditors will see the dispute and decide how to handle it. Some may ask you questions about it. Others may just look over the tradeline, especially if it has negative information reporting. The exact circumstances of the situation will determine the outcome.
The most important thing you can do is stay on top of your credit information. You’ll need a good credit report to get new loans, get insurance, rent a home, buy a home, and even sometimes get a job. Be vigilant in checking your credit report and requesting changes if there are any errors. It’s worth the time and effort it takes to fix the errors on your report.