It’s not unusual for credit reports to contain errors. In fact, it’s quite common. You should carefully review your credit reports at least once a year. As you do so, it’s helpful to keep in mind some of the most common errors found in credit reports.
(To learn what information can be reported in your credit report and how to get your credit report, see Credit Reports & Credit Scores.)
You have the right to dispute both inaccurate and incomplete information in your credit report. So if, for example, your report correctly states that you were sued for nonpayment of an account, but doesn’t state that you later paid the account in full, you have the right to dispute the incompleteness of this item in your report.
Here are some common errors found in credit reports:
Information that is not yours because of confused names, addresses, etc. Credit reporting agencies may confuse names, addresses, Social Security numbers, or employers. If you have a common name—say, John Brown—your file may contain credit or personal information on other John Browns, John Brownes, or Jon Browns and may lack some of your own credit information. Your file may erroneously contain information on family members with similar names.
Problems because of identity theft. If you have been the victim of identity theft, mixed account information may appear in your credit report. (Learn more about identity theft.)
Information from an ex-spouse. If you have been divorced, your prior spouse’s information may be mixed with yours.
Outdate information. Accounts may still be listed after the legal deadline for removing them from your reports.
Incorrect payment status. The payment status of accounts may be incorrect.
More than one delinquent date on an account. If an account has been transferred to a debt collector, your report may contain more than one date for when the account became delinquent (which triggers how long it may remain in your report).
Wrong notations for closed accounts. Accounts you closed may look as if the creditor closed the account.
Remedied delinquencies not reported as such. Credit reporting agencies often fail to note accounts in which delinquencies have been remedied.
If you find an error in your report, take steps to correct it. This is something you can do yourself – there’s no need to use a credit repair agency. To learn how to correct errors on your report, see How to Clean Up Your Credit Report.
Part of this article was excerpted from Credit Repair, by Margaret Reiter and Robin Leonard (Nolo).