Your credit score is an important number than can open doors to many financial opportunities including jobs, homes, cars, and other luxuries. Your credit score is determined by several factors, and all of those things show on your credit report. So what happens if you find a mistake on your credit report? You have to dispute it. A mistake could show up with just one credit bureau or all three. Accuracy is a big problem with credit reports, and many people don’t catch them right away. Fortunately, in our digital age, most things can be disputed online through the credit bureaus’ websites. Here are steps to disputing an incorrect item on your credit report:
- Know what you’re looking for: When it comes to your credit report, there’s a lot of information available and it can get overwhelming. Check for the simple things first, including your name, address, and social security number. Chances are, you’re not the only John Smith in the world, and the government makes mistakes. 79% of credit reports have at least 1 mistake. Make sure you’re not getting a bad name from another John Smith. Keep your address current as well. If you see misspellings, unfamiliar accounts, or inaccurate reporting, identify them on the report by highlighting, circling, or just taking notes. You need to promptly report and have corrected any inaccuracies
- Gather supporting documents: If you found something that was incorrect on your credit report, don’t wait; it’s time to take action. You’re going to need more than your word to make a change. Gather documents that support your disputes. If your name has changed, get a copy of your marriage license or driver’s license. If your address changed, a copy of your driver’s license will work. If it’s incorrect account information, bank, credit card, and mortgage statements as well as any associated cancelled checks or creditor correspondence will be exactly what you need. If you think mistakes on your credit report may be related to identity theft, contact the police immediately. You may have to send in your police report to the credit bureaus. This may take some time.
- Put your dispute in writing. Write a letter to the credit bureaus, informing them of the issues on your credit report. Be as specific as possible, including the exact item that is incorrect, and the supporting documents you gathered before proving it’s true. Request that they correct or remove inaccuracies. With some bureaus, you can start this online, but others you may have to send a letter, contact them by phone, and/or fax them.
- Send the letter. You should send your dispute letter, with copies of the supporting documents, not only to the credit bureaus, but also to the company that reported the questionable information to make sure their records are up to date and that this mistake won’t happen again. Send the letters by certified mail and ask for a “request return receipt” for your records to make sure that the companies got it.
Credit scores play an increasingly critical role in our lives and you can’t afford to have a bad reputation with creditors. It’s a tedious process to dispute, but it’s definitely worth it. You owe it to yourself to make sure your credit report is accurate. If you haven’t checked yours lately, make sure to get it and go over it carefully.
Briana Myricks is a 20 something freelance writer and blogger. Striving for financial independence as a newlywed, she blogs about young married life at 20 and Engaged.