Fixing Your Credit Report
Your credit reports contain the history of how you've managed credit over the years--information that credit bureaus use to calculate your credit score.
There's not much you can do to erase mistakes you've made, such as skipping bill payments or maxing out credit cards, other than to improve your money management over time.
But you can fix mistakes that you didn't make, and there's a good chance that at least one of your reports will contain an error. A study by U.S. Public Interest Research Groups found 79 percent of credit reports contain some type of error, and a quarter of credit reports contain a mistake significant enough to limit access to credit.
Credit Reports: How Mistakes Happen
Mistakes occur for a variety of reasons, such as clerical errors, payments applied to a wrong account, or identity theft. Wrong credit card accounts could show up on your credit report, for instance, if someone posing as you filled out credit card applications in your name.
How to Fix Credit Report Errors
• First, get your credit reports through AnnualCreditReport.com. You're entitled to a free credit report once a year from each of the three major U.S. credit reporting companies.
• If you find an error, contact the credit bureau by certified letter with a request for receipt. Include your name and address, identify the disputed items, and state why they are wrong. Include a copy of the report with the disputed items circled and documents that can back up your claim, such as canceled checks or bill statements. See the Federal Trade Commission's Web site for a sample letter. The credit reporting company must by law investigate within 30 days and provide a free updated report to you if there was a mistake.
Credit Report Correction Request: Put It in Writing
• Write to the organization reporting the error and include the same information you gave the credit bureau.
• When the mistake is fixed, ask the credit bureau to send notices of corrections to anyone who has inquired about your report in the last six months.
• If the dispute was not resolved, ask that a statement of the dispute be included in your report.
Missing Information in Credit Reports
• If accounts are missing from your credit report and you've been turned down for credit because of insufficient history, ask your creditors to provide your account information to credit bureaus. Most banks and major retailers report to credit bureaus, but some companies, such as local stores and gas cards, don't report, and they are not required to by law.
Published 02/02/11 (Modified 01/25/13)