It may have been pandemic-related, but consumers who checked their credit reports last year apparently found a lot of things that seemed untrue. According to a report of the american public interest research group, an advocacy organization.
Credit report errors may have crept in if card issuers or lenders made temporary pandemic-related changes to your repayment terms. These mistakes can hurt your credit score, which affects your ability to qualify for credit cards and loans and your interest rates.
The Fair Credit Reporting Act, a federal law passed in 1970, gives you the right to dispute incorrect or inaccurate information you may find on your credit report. Learn more about how to dispute a credit report error.
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What is the credit dispute process?
According to the Federal Trade Commission, disputing a credit report error with a credit bureau is a six-step process:
— Identify. You review your credit report and find an error.
— Contestation. You initiate a dispute with the credit bureau and provide supporting documentation.
— Investigate. The credit bureau will investigate your dispute within 30 days.
— Decide. The credit bureau decides if your report contains an error based on your documentation and information from the data provider, such as a creditor or lender.
— To warn. You will be notified of the outcome within five days of the decision.
— New report. If your credit report is corrected, you can ask the credit bureau to send updated reports to employers within the past two years and to others within the past six months who have viewed inaccurate reports.
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1. Review your credit reports to identify errors
Finding problems with your credit reports is the first step to resolving them. You can receive free weekly online access to your reports until April 2022 on AnnualCreditReport.com and should check them at least once a year, but more frequently in certain situations.
When to check your credit reports more often: if you plan to apply for a loan soon or if you are at high risk of identity theft. The latter can include being the victim of a fraud or a data breach.
“Be sure to review the reports from all three credit bureaus; each may contain slightly different information,” says Freddie Huynh, vice president of data optimization at Freedom Financial Network, a financial solutions company. debt.
What’s worth fixing on your credit report? When reviewing your credit reports, look for these common credit report errors:
— Incorrect identifying information, such as your name, address, date of birth, phone number, or social security number.
— Accounts that do not belong to you, including fraudulent accounts, collection accounts, or accounts belonging to someone with the same or similar name.
— Open accounts marked as closed, and vice versa.
— Accounts that list you as the owner instead of Authorized user.
— Accounts that are mistakenly shown as overdue or overdue but are in progress under COVID-19 relief programs.
— Duplicate accounts.
— Incorrect delinquency date, account opening date or last payment date.
— Incorrect balances or credit limits.
— Public documents that do not belong to you, such as a bankruptcy.
Sometimes the question of whether to dispute an error will be a matter of judgment. You might not want to correct a one-letter wrong address, but a seriously wrong address could indicate fraud and should be corrected, says Gerri Detweiler, director of education for Nav, which connects small businesses with solutions. of financing.
Likewise, a misspelled name may not be worth correcting, but could open you up to bigger problems with your credit report. Accounts that don’t belong to you could end up being added to your credit file, according to the FTC.
However, an unauthorized credit inquiry might not be worth chasing after, says Detweiler.
“Inquiries only make up about 10% of your score, and even then they don’t have as much of an impact as most people think,” she says. “It’s not a major factor really worth worrying about.”
Focus on correcting mistakes that can make a big difference in your credit score, says Detweiler. “If it shows you were late and you weren’t, it’s absolutely worth challenging,” she says.
Identity theft occurs when someone steals your personal information to commit fraud, such as requesting credit or making unauthorized purchases.
Report identity theft to the FTC online at IdentityTheft.gov or by phone at 877-438-4338. You’ll explain what happened and get a recovery plan that can be updated as needed.
If you call, however, you won’t receive an identity theft report, which can help you prove to companies that someone stole your identity and help resolve any issues caused by the incident.
2. Prepare to dispute the error
You will need to dispute the error with the credit bureau that created the report and the company that provided the information, called a data provider.
If an error appears on two of the three reports – say, Equifax and Experian but not TransUnion – you must dispute the errors with Equifax and Experian.
Be prepared to back up your claim that the report is wrong with copies of these documents:
— Identification documents with your correct name and address, such as a driver’s license, birth certificate, or utility bill.
— Current bank statements with information such as balance, credit limit, payment status, and account status (open or closed).
— Canceled checks.
— Student Loan Disability Letters.
— Court documents, such as bankruptcy schedules.
— Emergency program agreements.
— Letters from a lender indicating an account have been corrected.
— Evidence that an account was the result of identity theft.
— Correction letters from a lender.
3. Dispute the error with the credit bureaus
The fastest and easiest way to file a credit dispute with the bureaus is online, Huynh says, but you can also do it by mail or phone.
Whichever way you file, use the CFPB templates for dispute letters at credit Company. You can also include a copy of your credit report with the inaccurate or incomplete item marked or circled, and your letter will explain why it is wrong.
Filing a dispute is free, but be sure to follow the process for each credit reporting agency.
Filing a dispute with Equifax
In line: You can file a dispute on the Equifax website if you have a myEquifax account or once you have created one. Check the status of your dispute through the account.
To post: Send your information to Equifax Information Services LLC, PO Box 740256, Atlanta, GA 30374-0256.
Call: Call 866-349-5191 between 8 a.m. and midnight EST, Monday through Sunday.
Filing a dispute with Experian
In line:Create an Experian account to submit a dispute online and track the status of your dispute.
To post: Download, print, complete and send this dispute form at Experian, PO Box 4500, Allen, TX 75013.
Call: Call the number listed on your Experian credit report to initiate a dispute over the phone.
Filing a dispute with TransUnion
In line: Start a Trans Union Account or log in to file or check the status of a credit dispute.
To post: You will need to provide as many details as possible to TransUnion to resolve your dispute by mail. Submit your name, address, social security number, date of birth, name of data provider, reason for your dispute, and any corrections to personal information, such as address or phone number.
If possible, include the partial account number of the disputed item from your credit file and your TransUnion file number. Send your documents to TransUnion Consumer Solutions, PO Box 2000, Chester, PA 19016-2000.
Call: Call 833-395-6941 between 8 a.m. and 11 p.m. Eastern Time, Monday through Friday.
4. Contact the data provider
You can correct an error with the credit bureau, but until you correct it with the data provider, the error will still appear on your credit file. This is because the data provider is the source and the credit bureau only reports that information.
If you correct your name with the credit bureau, but not with the data provider, for example, your credit report will continue to show the wrong name.
Contact the data provider to correct the information. The CFPB offers additional guidance and a example of a letter of dispute.
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5. Wait and Review Responses
Typically, credit bureaus and data providers will respond to your dispute within 30 days, according to the CFPB. Note that if you provide additional information related to your dispute during the investigation, you could wait up to 45 days for a response.
When a credit bureau completes an investigation, they must notify you of the results within five business days. The credit bureau could decide to:
— Do not make any changes to your credit report.
— Update your credit report.
— Delete information from your credit file.
You will receive a free copy of your updated report to verify the correction. This process will be repeated as errors must be disputed separately with each credit bureau.
If you are not satisfied with the result
— Dispute the error again: If you have additional information, submit it to the credit bureau or data provider along with a letter explaining the attachment. Ask the agency to send you the documents they used for the decision and to escalate the dispute if necessary.
— Compose a statement of dispute: “If the dispute has been resolved but the consumer still does not agree, the consumer may leave a statement on the credit report stating that they disagree with the information in the report,” said said Huynh. Your statement should tell your side of the story in 100 words, but creditors aren’t guaranteed to take notice.
6. Review your new report
You will receive an updated copy of your credit report from the credit bureau once your dispute has been resolved. Verify that the error does not appear on the report.
Continue to monitor your credit reports for errors and make sure old errors don’t reappear.