Many credit reports contain inaccuracies so important that they might impact credit decisions. It's hardly surprising, then, that your credit report might contain incorrect personal information, including information about debts that don't belong to you, addresses and names that aren't yours, and more.
Here are some common mistakes, why they happen, and what you can do to fix them.
The information that might be mistakenly contained in your credit report can range from the most mundane to the quite serious. Common errors include:
A number of reasons might explain why these mistakes appear on your credit report.
Sometimes a simple data-entry mistake, made by an employee typing your information into the system, causes problems later on down the road. Your last name might be spelled "Johnson," but is entered as "Johnston" instead.
Other times, something more calculated is happening. For instance, if the address being reported as yours is totally different from where you have ever lived (or is a P.O. box), this inaccuracy could be a sign that someone else has stolen your identity, especially if current credit activity is reported with that address.
You might have the same name as someone else with a different birth date or share a similar Social Security number with another person. This kind of mixup can result in erroneous cross-reporting of debts with that person.
When you filled out a credit application, you might have made a mistake writing in your Social Security number or address. Or you might have used a different variation of your full legal name, such as calling yourself "Beth" instead of "Elizabeth."
Regardless of why mistakes ended up in your credit report, you have the right to fix them. The Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) requires both credit reporting agencies and your creditors to accurately report your credit information, as well as preserve your privacy. Here are the steps you should take to remedy the problem.
Carefully review your credit reports for any potential errors. The FCRA requires each of the three major credit reporting agencies (Experian, TransUnion, and Equifax) to provide you with one free credit report every 12 months. In some situations, you're entitled to receive additional free credit reports.
You may initiate a dispute about an incomplete or inaccurate item in your credit report online, by mail, or by phone. In your dispute, identify each error, supply the correct information, and include supporting documentation. Consider including a copy of the report, highlighting the problem information. Keep copies of anything you send to each credit reporting agency.
The credit reporting agency then has roughly 30 days to investigate, after which they must send you a written response, as well as an updated, free credit report if corrections were made. They're also required to notify any person or company that supplied the erroneous information. These information suppliers are then obligated to do their own investigation, report the results to the credit reporting agency and correct any mistakes on their end.
Demand that the credit reporting agency include a statement that you dispute the information in your file and in all future credit reports that it issues.
Also, file a dispute with any other person or company that gave the wrong information to the credit reporting agency.
You can also file a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and your state's attorney general or consumer protection agency. Or, if the creditor is a large financial institution, you may file a complaint with the federal agency that oversees that type of financial institution. The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) also oversees many types of financial agencies, so you can file a complaint there too.
If you've exhausted all other options for correcting your credit report, and the agency still won't fix the error or errors, consider talking to a consumer law attorney or debt settlement lawyer who can help you enforce your rights. You have the right to sue a credit reporting that violates your rights under the FCRA, including continuing to report incorrect information.
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