What to Do When Something Isn’t Right on Your Credit Report

Mistakes happen, and inaccuracies can show up on your credit report. They may happen for a variety of reasons, from a simple data entry error by a creditor to fraud committed by an identity thief. Checking your credit report regularly can help you spot inaccurate information and catch signs of identity theft.

Here are three steps you can take to help ensure your credit report is as accurate as possible:

Step 1: Check your credit report

The information on your credit report comes directly from the companies that provide credit to consumers. Companies are not required to report information to all three major nationwide credit bureaus, so a credit report can vary from bureau to bureau. It pays to check all three, and look for outdated personal information, inaccurate account information or credit accounts that you don’t recall opening. All three types of misinformation could be signs of fraud – or they could just be simple mistakes.

Step 2: Initiate a dispute

If you find erroneous information on your credit report, you have the right to initiate a credit dispute; the credit bureau and the creditor who provided the disputed information are required by law to investigate your claim. Notify both the credit bureau and creditor in writing (and send it snail mail). The Federal Trade Commission offers a sample dispute letter on its website.

Include copies – not originals – of any documents that support your claim. For example, if an account shows a late payment and you disagree, refer back to the cancelled check that shows the date the creditor received payment. If your credit report still shows you living at an old address, collect utility bills and a copy of your current driver’s license that show your new address. Be sure to keep a log of all the steps you take throughout the process and obtain copies of all paperwork.

Step 3: Contact each of the three credit bureaus  

In addition to filing a dispute with the bureau that has the inaccurate information, you should also contact the other two national credit reporting agencies. Because information is not necessarily reported to all three credit bureaus, it’s best to verify information with each of them.

After you start the process to dispute credit report information, the bureau will contact the company or lender that provided the disputed information. Once the bureau receives a response, you’ll be informed of the results. Generally, the credit bureau will have 30 days to investigate and respond. If the bureau can’t confirm the validity of the information, the disputed item will be removed and the credit bureau will notify you in writing of the change. You may also request the credit bureau send notice of the change in your credit report to anyone who received a copy of the report in the past six months, or the past two years if the report was obtained for employment purposes. If their investigation deems the information accurate and you still disagree, you can ask that the bureau include a statement of the dispute in your credit file and future reports.

The information contained on your credit report can affect your ability to secure the credit you want at favorable terms. It’s important to monitor your credit report to ensure it always contains the most accurate, up-to-date information on your credit activities.