Why should you care about checking your credit report for errors? Or know about how to dispute credit report errors when you find them?
Because having good credit makes it easy to rent an apartment, buy a new home, or get a new car loan. But when an error is made on your credit report and you don’t know about it, it can be a big let down and stressful situation. I recently wrote an article about the benefits of having good credit, check it out.
Did you know that approximately 1 in 3 American adults don’t check their credit report regularly for errors? It’s a staggering thought right?
On top of that, the Federal Trade Commission (aka, FTC) even admits in a report that one in five consumers admitted to getting an error fixed. Check out the article here: FTC Study Credit Report Accuracy
Imagine all of the credit report errors that go unreported, ouch. Below, I’ll briefly discuss what you can do to stay on top of keeping your credit report clean from errors.
Step 1: Get A Free Copy Of Your Credit Report
Not many people know how to get a free copy of their actual credit report. There’s no tricks and no gimmicks either. Some time ago, the FTC passed a law that allows any consumer to get one free copy of their credit report every year.
The free credit report can be accessed by using a website called Annual Credit Report. It will ask you to verify one of your credit account numbers and some other personal information to properly identify you.
Asking for this information is normal and not a scam.
BUT… You will not get a credit score rating. We’ll discuss how you get that for free in the next section.
Step 2: Your Credit Score & How To Check It For Free
The credit scoring model that banks and lenders use to calculate your credit score is called FICO, it stands for Fair Isaac Corporation, and you can view the company here: Fico.com
Equifax and Transunion are still using FICO, but Experian recently branched out to their own solution that uses a similar model as FICO called the FICO® Score 8 model. I’m not sure why they did that, no wonder why everyone gets confused about what a Credit Score actually is!
Credit score ranges vary, here’s a broad overview of how the credit score scale works:
- 500 – 600 This number range is for poor credit.
- 600 – 720 This number range is for good / very good credit.
- 720 – 850 This number range is for excellent or perfect credit.
The underwriters will have a more accurate credit score range and model for approving loans!
Free Credit Scores
You can get a free credit score from sites like Credit Karma and CreditSesame, but it will not be an actual FICO score, it will utilize a score based on a model from Vantage instead. It should be a very close estimate to your actual FICO score though. If you want an actual credit report with your Fico scores it will cost you money. Usually around 40 bucks for all three.
Step 3: How To Verify Errors On Your Credit Report
In step 1 you got a free copy of all three credit reports from annualcreditreport.com. As you review them, look for any wrong information that sticks out.
This credit report is all about you, make sure it’s accurate.
Pay close attention to the credit accounts that are opened or closed. And any recent inquiries or public records.
The most common errors to look for are:
- Late Payments that are over seven years old.
- Credit accounts that don’t belong to you.
- Account’s you’re not a co-signer on.
- An account that is closed directly by you, but it shows the provider closed it.
- You decided to pay off a debt belonging to a collections company, and they still show it as unpaid.
- A tax lien that is over 7 years old is still showing up.
- Charged off accounts which were included in a bankruptcy.
- Your personal information is incorrect; Such as your home address, employment records, income, etc.
The list goes on and on so don’t be afraid to question or research anything that looks wrong or suspicious.
If you don’t see any errors, then congrats! There’s nothing else to do.
If you did see errors, go to the next step.
Step 4: Dispute Credit Report Errors
(If you were lucky and did not see any errors on your report, you can skip this step!)
The entire dispute can take 30-60 days typically. You can dispute with the credit bureaus directly. You’ll send a seperate letter to each one.
Here’s a list of links for filing disputes directly with each credit bureau.
When filing a dispute, you’ll typically provide the following information:
- Your Name, Address, and Phone number.
- The credit bureau’s Name and Address.
- You will clearly identify the mistake and an account number. You’ll also include a confirmation number if one is available.
- Statement of why you’re disputing the information reported.
- Provide a copy or show documentation such as your credit report or other documents showing the highlighted item that you are disputing.
EXAMPLE OF A DISPUTE LETTER
[Your Name and Address]
[Your Date Of Birth]
[Credit Bureau’s Name & Mailing Address]
To whom it may concern:
I am writing to inform you about an error I noticed on my [insert the credit bureau’s name here] credit report, the account number is: [account number].
- Date of the item being disputed: [put the exact date of the item here]
- Description of dispute: [add a brief description describing what is showing up and why’s it’s not correct or not accurate.]
- Enclosure: (list any supporting evidence you have such as a bill or statement showing the posted item as being correct.)
I am requesting that you remove this information from my credit report.
Thank you for your help.
[sign your name here]
It’s highly recommended that you let a professional service do this for you if you can afford it. The more mistakes or inaccurate information you provide upfront, the harder it is for you or a professional to make a case for it later.