Checking your credit report for mistakes is important because your credit report and score can affect things like whether you get:
- A loan (and how much you will have to pay to borrow money),
- A job, or
- An apartment.
Any negative information that isn't correct could be unfairly harming you. One common mistake is the inclusion of debts that aren't yours on your credit report. This might be a debt of someone with the same name as yours, or a medical debt that your insurance company should've paid but didn't. Fortunately, there are two recent changes to credit reporting that should help to prevent some of these mistakes.
As of July 1, 2017, the "Big 3" credit bureaus - Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion - do not report tax lien and civil judgment information, unless it has your Social Security Number or birth date. Most judgments don't have this information. So these things may or may not appear on your credit report after that date, even if they previously did.
As of September 1, 2017, medical debt is not reported until 6 months has passed from the payment due date. This change gives you time to work with your insurance company to resolve any disputes before they can affect your credit record. If the insurance company pays the debt later, it won't appear on your credit report either. These changes should help decrease errors that affect your credit report.
Checking your credit report for mistakes also helps you check for identity theft. Identity thieves may use your personal information to open new accounts in your name and not pay the bills and commit other crimes. This fraud could affect your ability to get credit, insurance, or a job, and have other potential consequences. For more information, see Identity theft.
If you are denied a loan, a job, or housing, you should then check your report for inaccuracies to make sure the denial wasn't based on incorrect information.
Fixing the mistake
If you think that your credit report has a mistake on it, you should act quickly. Ask the credit reporting agency that produced the report to fix the mistake. The credit reporting agencies and those that provide information to the agencies are responsible for correcting inaccurate information on your credit report.
Here are some examples of mistakes you might find on your credit report and should be sure to have corrected:
- Debt that you have already paid in full but the credit reporting agency still lists on your credit report as being owed;
- An outstanding balance that is more than you owe ;
- Information that is past the applicable reporting period (for example, many delinquencies must drop off the report after seven years);
- Debt on your credit report that doesn't belong to you, but instead belongs to someone else who has the same name as you or a similar name; or
- Debt that is on your credit report because somebody forged your name to cash a check, to get a loan, or to buy something.
This isn't a complete list of every type of error you might find. If anything on your report doesn't look right, look into it.
If the error isn't fixed to your satisfaction, you have the right to include a statement in your credit report with the information you're disputing. In that statement, you can provide an explanation or other additional information about why you think the information isn't accurate.
1. Get a copy of your credit report
You can get one free credit report every year by visiting Annual Credit Report, or by calling (877) 322-8228. Follow the steps, and you will be able to get a copy of your report from each of the three agencies: Experian, TransUnion, and Equifax.
2. Fill out and mail a Letter to Dispute a Credit Report or submit a dispute online
To notify the credit reporting agencies that there is a mistake on your credit report, you can send a letter to dispute a credit report.
Send one copy of the letter by certified mail to the appropriate credit reporting agency. Remember to include copies of anything that helps prove your dispute. This may include receipts that prove a debt was paid or that have the actual price paid for an item.
Also, keep copies of the letters you send to the credit reporting agencies for your records.
P.O. Box 740256
Atlanta, GA 30374
P.O. Box 9595
Allen, TX 75013
P.O. Box 1000
Chester, PA 19022
If you would rather dispute a credit report mistake online, you can do so on the credit reporting agencies' websites:
The law has rules that the credit reporting agency must follow if you dispute an item on your credit report. Some rules are:
- The credit reporting agency has 30 days to investigate any items that you have disputed;
- The credit reporting agency must ask whoever provided the disputed item to investigate your claim and report back to the credit reporting agency;
- If the item is found to be a mistake, whoever made the error must notify all three credit reporting agencies about the mistake;
- The credit reporting agency must give you the results in writing and give you a free copy of your credit report if it has changed;
- The credit reporting agency must send you the name, address, and telephone number of the information provider of the item you are disputing; and
- At your request, the credit reporting agency is required to send correction notices to anyone who received your credit report in the past six months (2 years if the report was for employment purposes).
If you still do not feel that your dispute is resolved after the investigation, you can ask the credit reporting agencies to include a statement of your dispute in your file and future credit reports. You can also ask them to give your statement of dispute to any organizations that were given your credit report in the recent past. There may be a fee for that, however.
Updated: July 2017