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Your credit report contains all the detailed information pertaining to your credit history. Creditors and lenders use the material on this report to determine how risky it would be to lend you money or extend you credit; your credit score. What if your report contains an error that is affecting your score and, ultimately, your ability to obtain financing?

As many as 42 Million Americans Have Credit Report Errors! Do you?

Your credit report lists more than just whether or not you've paid your bills on time and to whom. There is a wide array of information on your credit report including, but not limited to where you live, if you've been arrested, if you've been sued, and if you've filed for bankruptcy. There is so much and so many types of information on your report that it's very easy for mistakes to happen somewhere along the way. These errors can directly affect your ability to apply for new credit or loans, and how much you will have to pay to borrow money. You should be spot-checking your credit report annually when you are able to obtain your free credit report, but it's most important to review your report before making large purchases like a new car or home. Erroneous information could also be a strong warning sign for identity theft so it is imperative that you are diligent with reviewing your report.

Get Your Credit Report

The very first step in finding inaccurate information on your credit reports is to view all three of them. Creditors often do not subscribe to all three credit bureaus, so it is important to obtain all of the information that is reported by each agency. Your free annual credit report should provide you with all of the information that you need. Each of the three bureaus participates in and supports the information available from freecreditreport.com. Reports from all three bureaus will be on that report. It should not be necessary to request your credit report from the individual bureaus, but their contact information is listed below for your convenience.

AnnualCreditReport.com for your FREE Annual Credit Report
Obtain this report for FREE once per year. This will NOT affect your credit score.
Phone: (877) 322-8228
Website: www.AnnualCreditReport.com

Equifax
Equifax Credit Information Services
PO Box 740241
Atlanta, GA 30374-0241
Phone: (800) 685-1111
Website: www.Equifax.com

Experian
Experian
PO Box 2002
Allen, TX 75013
Phone: (888) 397-3742
Website: www.Experian.com

TransUnion
TransUnion
PO Box 2000
Chester, PA 19022
Phone: (800) 888-4213
Website: www.TransUnion.com

After you have received your report, review it very carefully. It is important to understand that credit bureaus generate your report on information they receive from your creditors; they don't verify what is provided to them. It is your responsibility to ensure that what is being reported about you is correct. Listed below are some of the more common errors that appear on reports:

  • Clerical errors such as misspellings
  • Outdated information such as old addresses
  • Inconsistent information such as being 'current' and 'in default' for the same accounts
  • Inaccurate account balances or accounts you did not sign up for which could indicate identity theft

Remember, not all information is reported so some of it may be absent from your credit report. What you're looking for are mistakes in information that is already on your report.

If you find that there is incorrect information on your report, you have the right to dispute it. You should exercise that right as soon as possible. File the dispute with the credit reporting agency, not the creditor in question. Write them a dispute letter detailing the incorrect information and what changes should be made. You may find it helpful to send the reporting bureau a photocopy of your credit report with the mistakes circled. Include copies of supporting documents and not the originals, as you may need them later. Keep accurate records of all the correspondence that follows, including making a copy of the dispute letter that you sent and when you sent it.

The agency will investigate the items in question within 30-45 days to determine whether or not the dispute is valid, although most results are achieved within 14 days. The source must review the dispute and report its findings back to the agency. If the dispute is then found valid, the source must also inform the other credit reporting agencies to which it has provided data. The agency must provide you with a written report of the investigation and a new, free copy of your credit report if the investigation results in any change. If an item is deleted or a dispute statement is filed, then you may request that anyone who has received your credit report in the past six months to be notified of the change. If the investigation does not resolve the dispute, you have the right to add a 100-word statement to your file which would be viewable to anyone accessing your credit report. The credit reporting agencies must include the summary of the statement in future reports. For a fee, you can also have this statement sent out by the reporting company to anyone who recently received your credit report.

Regardless of the outcome, you should then contact the information provider directly with another dispute letter, similar to the one you sent out to the credit reporting company earlier. It's true that the credit reporting agency would have contacted the information provider already, but contacting them will help to solidify the process and gain you guaranteed results. Again, send them your report and clearly illustrate and explain which bits are incorrect. Always make photocopies of all correspondence.

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