How to fix errors on your credit report
Did you know that 1 in every 4 credit reports contains errors and surprises? ID theft may be responsible, but more often what shows up on your report might just be an error that can be fairly easily corrected.
Some of the most common errors found are:
- A parent or child’s mortgage or other credit obligation is reported on your report as yours (even if your names are not exactly the same).
- A paid off debt is reported as still owing.
- A collection has been filed against you for a debt that was never yours.
- One of the most common forms of ID theft is using a fake ID to get cell phone service.
- If you have a fairly common name, someone else’s debt can be reported against you.
- TV cable or satellite service is often left on after someone moves out of a house or apartment. Until the service is actually shut off, the service provider will report the delinquency under the most current resident’s name.
- Blatant ID theft with multiple creditors is actually easier to solve, but if the amounts are small, you may not know about them until your credit is pulled.
- A debt discharged through a bankruptcy could still show as unpaid.
- Collection agencies are often irresponsible about reporting paid collections, and court systems are equally negligent about reporting paid in full judgments.
All too often errors will sit on your credit report for years without your knowledge. You can still get most credit with an error on your report, but when you apply for a home loan, these little dings on your report and score will raise their ugly heads in a huge way.
Did you know that most collections are auto-filed by creditors and can be for less than a dollar? Many people would think “who cares?” But that little collection can cost you up to 100 points or more on your credit score. That can make a huge difference in the home loan you qualify for and the rate you will pay, if in fact you qualify for a mortgage at all!
How to fight errors on your credit report
1. Contact the creditor
This sounds like it shouldn’t be too difficult, but in fact, most creditors, like cell phone providers or cable companies are pretty non-responsive to your efforts. Be sure to try to contact the creditor in writing so you have proof of your effort.
2. If you receive no response from direct efforts, file a dispute with one or more credit bureaus directly:
This is important because not all three bureaus will have identical information. They do share, but aside from mortgage lenders, most creditors report to just one of the three bureaus. The easiest way to file the dispute is online. You can even upload copies of your proof of error and/or attempts to resolve the error.
The credit bureaus will contact the creditor on your behalf. The creditors then have very limited to respond to the inquiry or within 30 days the disputed item will be removed from your report.
Usually you will receive a response within days of submitting a dispute acknowledging that your case is being investigated. If you do not hear from the credit bureau within 30 days, follow up. After your report has been corrected, you should receive, along with a letter from the credit bureau, an updated copy of your corrected credit report with your new score within 30 days of the date you file your dispute.