Everyone should review their credit reports annually and, if necessary, take steps to clean them up—that is, get rid of inaccurate and old information. To clean up your credit reports, you'll need to order copies of your reports from the three major credit reporting agencies (CRAs), review the reports for inaccuracies or old information, and then ask the credit bureaus to correct the information.
Cleaning up your credit reports means getting rid of inaccurate information, outdated information, or fixing anything that isn't correct. It doesn't mean getting rid of delinquent accounts that are, in fact, delinquent. Or getting rid of anything else that has a legitimate right to be on your report. If a company claims that it can "repair your credit" or "clean up your credit report" and thereby miraculously boost your credit score, run the other way. In fact, when it comes to getting rid of inaccurate and old information on your report, you should be able to do it yourself.
Yes. Most credit reports have some type of error, whether it be the wrong notation on how an account was closed, out-dated information that should no longer appear on your report, or accounts that simply aren't yours.
Most people will only be concerned with credit reports from the three main CRAs: Equifax, TransUnion, and Experian. You're entitled to one free copy from each agency every 12 months. Go to AnnualCreditReport.com to get your reports. Also, as of 2020, you can get six free credit reports each year, for seven years, from Equifax. The free reports are in addition to the one free Equifax report—and the free Experian and TransUnion reports—that you can get each year at AnnualCreditReport.com. And, in some situations, you can get free copies more often. And you can always pay a small fee for your report, although this usually isn't necessary given all the ways you can get free reports.
You should order your report from all three, as they often contain different information. Some people like to stagger the timing, for example, ordering one from Equifax one month, and then ordering one from TransUnion four months later. (To learn more about getting copies of your reports from the three nationwide CRAs, see What's in Your Credit Report?)
In addition to the three nationwide CRAs, there are also specialty consumer reporting agencies. Some of these track information about tenants and are used by landlords, some contain more personal information and are used by employers and insurers, and some track other types of information. You're entitled to one free annual report from these agencies as well. Although figuring out which ones have a file on you can be tricky. If you think your potential landlord might check a specialty consumer agency, however, you can ask which one he or she uses.
Next, do a careful review of each of your reports—look for anything that is inaccurate or incomplete. To find out what may be reported on your credit report, and what cannot, see Credit Report Basics. Nolo's Checklist: What to Look for in Your Credit Report, guides you through each section of your credit report and provides tips for what to look out for.
Make a detailed list of everything that is wrong, inaccurate, outdated, or even information that is missing. Then, gather supporting documents. For example, if you closed an account that is still reported as open, see if you can obtain a letter or other document showing you closed the account.
The three nationwide CRAs allow you to dispute information in your credit reports online, which is the easiest way to file disputes. However, if you prefer, you may send a detailed letter to the CRA, detailing what is wrong and why, and including supporting documentation. You'll have to send the letter directly to the CRA. Use the particular address the CRA sets forth for these dispute letters. You can find those addresses on the agencies' websites.