How to fix errors on your credit report
The information in your credit report reflects your credit history, which impacts your ability to get a loan for a home, car or education, or to qualify for a low interest credit card. But what if the information in your credit report is wrong? It could make those approvals harder to get. Here are some steps to help you find, dispute and correct mistakes on your credit report.
Start by reviewing your credit report
“It’s always a good idea to check your credit report at least once a year as well as before applying for a loan,” says Bill Gandolfo, senior consumer lending product manager at Commerce Bank. Regular checks can uncover errors you’re unaware of that could hurt your buying power and even prevent you from getting approved for a loan.
There are three credit bureaus that create credit reports: Equifax, Experian and TransUnion. Each one may receive information from different lenders, so it’s a good idea to review your credit report from each bureau. Requesting a copy of your credit report is easy and free. Each credit bureau offers one free report annually, and consumers can also get a free online report weekly through April 2022 at annualcreditreport.com.
In addition to getting free credit reports from the three bureaus, many credit card issuers, including Commerce Bank, also provide free credit score access.
Common credit report errors and how to spot them
Watch for common personal information mistakes, like a misspelled name or a wrong address. Most credit report errors are related to personal information or financial history. “As you review your credit report, make sure that your personal information is complete and correct, and that your credit history is accurate,” says Gandolfo. (Quick tip: Try to consistently use the same first name and middle initial to avoid confusing your information with someone else with a similar name.)
Also watch for common financial errors, like payments inaccurately marked as late, accounts you don’t recognize, accounts in your name that you didn’t open or debts incorrectly reported to collections. Keep in mind that some retail credit card accounts may appear under a different business name than the one where you opened it, such as the financial institution that issued the card.
How to dispute and fix credit report errors
Both the credit bureau and the business that supplied the information to the credit bureau must correct information that’s wrong or incomplete — and they have to do it for free.1 If you find a mistake, missing information or information that you don’t recognize, follow the steps below to correct the error.
- Follow the recommended instructions from each credit bureau. Each of the three bureaus has their own process for disputing or correcting information. This may include filing a dispute online, by mail or over the phone. You can find dispute guidelines from each of the credit bureaus here:
Contact the business or lender that reported the information to the credit bureau and explain the error. Here is a sample letter for disputing errors on credit reports to the business that supplied the information.
- Include copies of documentation that support your claim. You may also want to include a copy of your credit report with the item in dispute highlighted or circled. Explain why you’re disputing the information and request either a correction or a deletion.
Be sure to keep copies of all correspondence regarding inaccuracies in your credit reports. Credit bureaus are required to review errors you tell them about and usually respond within 45 days of receiving your notification.
Caution: Errors could signal identity theft
Errors in your credit report could indicate you’re a victim of identity theft. If you suspect that’s the case, then — in addition to contacting the credit bureaus to fix the errors — follow the instructions on the Federal Trade Commission’s identity theft website for help reporting and recovering from the crime.
Where to find additional help
The three credit bureau websites offer additional helpful information and resources related to understanding the information in your credit report, reviewing your report for accuracy and filing a dispute. The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and Federal Trade Commission websites also provide useful information, articles and FAQs.
Tips for building a strong credit history
In addition to regularly keeping tabs on your credit reports, Gandolfo recommends taking steps to build and maintain a strong credit history, which makes it easier to get approved for loans and enjoy more favorable terms, including lower interest rates. “These steps include paying your bills on time and monitoring your revolving utilization, which is how much available credit you have compared with the amount of credit you’re using,” he adds.
A strong credit history and accurate credit reports can increase your borrowing power and help keep more of your money in your pocket. If you have questions about your credit and how it may impact your borrowing eligibility, contact us.
1. “Disputing Errors on Your Credit Reports,” Federal Trade Commission Consumer Information, updated May 2021, https://www.consumer.ftc.gov/articles/disputing-errors-your-credit-reports#accurate