Many studies over the years have shown that a large number of credit reports include at least one error. Some believe this number to be as high as 80 percent. So, with that in mind, the million dollar question is: when was the last time you reviewed your credit report for inaccuracies? If you do come across an error, it is very important that you take the proper steps in getting it fixed. Not only can you do this yourself, but it should not cost you any money other than postage.
Here are the steps to follow if you need to fix an error on your credit report:
0. Pull Your Credit Report. Pulling your credit report is step 0, because if you’re searching for this information, you’ve probably already done this and realized there was an error on your credit report. I just wanted to clarify that FreeCreditReport.com is NOT the website offered by the federal government that gives you a free credit report each year. AnnualCreditReport.com is the correct website that allows you to pull your credit report from all three credit reporting agencies for FREE, once per calendar year.
1. Begin to track all of the steps that you take. Proper record keeping is important to ensure that you get your report fixed as soon as possible. This includes records of all phone conversations you have, as well as copies of letters, emails, and any other communication. By communicating primarily via certified mail, you will be in much better position to accurately track the steps you are taking. Along with this, you know for sure that the other party received the correspondence.
Any information that supports your claim of an error needs to be copied. In other words, do not send any original documentation. Proof can be anything from a canceled payment to a billing statement. By sending copies, you always have what you need as a backup if something goes wrong.
2. Inform the proper credit reporting agency of the error that you have found. The Federal Consumer Information Center strongly suggests that you include a copy of your credit report, showing which item(s) you are disputing. By law, the credit agency is required to investigate your claim within 30 days. It is their job to forward all the data from you to the lender, creditor, or other business that may have reported the inaccurate information. This will save you a lot of time.
Need help crafting a letter? Check out this sample credit report dispute letter.
3. Get in touch with the business that made the mistake. Although the credit agency will forward some information, you want to do your part at the same time. Let them know that you have opened a dispute with the credit agency. It is important that you are clear in what you are asking for. Do you want an item deleted entirely from your report? Or does it just need to be updated with the proper information?
4. Wait for an answer. If you are successful, the credit agency will send you a written letter complete with a free copy of your report, showing the change. In most cases, this is the end of the line. You got what you wanted, and should be happy that your credit report is now 100 percent accurate. Keep the documentation just in case it ever becomes an issue in the future.
5. No progress? You have the right to take legal action if you still believe you are right and are not getting any satisfaction from the credit agency and/or business that is responsible for the error. Sometimes all it takes is a simple demand letter from an attorney stating that they are violating federal law to get the business to wake up and acknowledge that they’re reporting a false debt on your credit report. If you need help finding an attorney who can represent you, get in touch with your state’s attorney general’s office. At this point, you will begin to spend money. Only you can decide if hiring an attorney is worth the time, money and hassle. As an alternative, you can also choose to write a letter threatening legal action before actually hiring an attorney.
While time consuming, you can fix any error on your credit report for free by following the steps above. Have any of you successfully done this in the past?
(photo credit: TrinityCreditServices)