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How to Correct Errors on your Credit Report

October 19, 2009

Did you know that 70% of all credit reports include errors that could cause someone to be denied credit cards, auto loans and mortgages? And that even small mistakes can cause people to pay significantly higher interest rates. Fortunately, federal law requires credit-reporting agencies to clean up those errors. But, for this to happen, you have to take three steps.

  1. Get copies of your credit reports. They’re free from annualcreditreport.com, the only web site authorized by the U.S. government to provide free credit reports from the three major credit bureaus (Equifax, Experian and TransUnion). If you find an error in one bureau’s report, it may or may not show up in reports by the other two. That’s because each bureau generates its own report – and not all creditors send information to all three bureaus. So, you may need to verify – and correct – the records each bureau keeps on you.
  2. Scrutinize your reports and look for negative information that can be removed, including:
    • Data that is just plain wrong such as purchases made by someone who is not an authorized user of your account, discrepancies between an item’s purchase price and the price listed on your bill, mathematical errors, and charges for a product or service that was not delivered per your agreement.
    • Duplications. The same account can appear several times within the same report. That, in itself, may cause a lender reviewing your report to conclude that you have more debt than you do. So, request such accounts to be listed only once.
    • Old bad news. After seven years, bureaus must remove records of lawsuits, foreclosures, liens, late payments, charged-off accounts and Chapter 13 bankruptcy (from date of filing). Chapter 7 bankruptcies, however, remain for 10 years from filing date.
  3. Dispute inaccuracies. You can register your dispute on the bureau’s web site, by letter or over the phone. Be prepared to provide personal identification and a detailed account of what is wrong. Often, you’ll need to send documents to support your case (such as a copy of a cashed check that proves you paid an account). The bureau, then, has 30 days to investigate your challenge. During that time, the bureau must post a dispute notation on your credit report. If after 30 days the creditor can’t verify the information, the bureau must remove the disputed items from your report.

Want personal help to guide you through the credit dispute process? As a member of Alliant, you’re eligible to take advantage of BALANCE™ Financial Fitness, one of the industry’s most respected financial fitness programs – for free. Speak to a BALANCE counselor toll free at 888-456-2227:

  • Mon-Thu, 7am-10pm CT
  • Fri, 7am-7pm CT
  • Sat, 10am-7pm CT

Sources: BALANCE, bankrate.com and ftc.gov


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