There are more errors on credit reports than most of us realize. This is often true because we are never consulted about the information that’s placed on our credit reports. The credit reporting agencies never contact us to verify that the information they have reported is actually correct.

Credit reports are like report cards on us over which we have no control. All of the information contained in our credit reports has been supplied by third parties, such as creditors, utility companies, and from public record sources.

For this reason, it’s important for us to be aware of what’s in our credit reports. That means getting a copy of your credit report at least once each year, reviewing it for errors, and then taking any action necessary in order to correct those errors.

What are the most common credit report errors?

Accounts that aren‘t yours appearing on your report

This type of error happens mostly with people who have common names. For example, if your name is John Smith you have a much higher chance that there will be accounts appearing on your credit report that are not yours. But this can also happen even if you don’t have a common name. Sometimes accounts will be placed on your credit report because of a common address or an error in a tax identification number or other identifying number.

It’s important that you have these accounts removed from your credit report, even if the accounts have no derogatory information. The debts will appear to be yours and that can hurt you when you apply for new credit.

You’ll need to contact all three credit repositories – TransUnion, Experian and Equifax – and have the accounts removed from your credit report. Once you contact the credit repositories, they will contact the creditors to see if those accounts are yours or not. If they are not, the credit reporting companies will delete the accounts from your credit report. Otherwise you will have to contact the creditor directly to give them the correct information and have the accounts deleted.

This type of error usually happens because the creditor did not report the account was paid at the time of payment. However, even though it’s a creditor error it will be up to you to have the information corrected.

Once again, contact the three credit repositories and dispute the information. They will contact the creditor who will most likely correct the entry and show it is paid. But once again, if the creditor doesn’t confirm that the account is paid, it will be up to you to contact the creditor and dispute the account. Typically, you will need to show proof of payment in the form of a canceled check or bank statement confirming payment. If this is necessary, always send a copy of the document – never the original.

If the creditor agrees that the account was paid, be sure that you get their understanding in writing. If you do, you will be able to contact the credit repositories and have the information removed without any further action by the creditor.

A late payment that wasn‘t late

This is probably the most common error on a credit report. If you discover a late payment that is in error you will have to contact the creditor directly. Use the same approach that was recommended above, being prepared to document that the payment was made on time. On rare occasions the creditor will correct the information based on your phone call, but more typically they will want you to show proof that you made the payment on time.

If you do have proof that the payment was not late and the creditor agrees, then once again you must get a confirmation of your understanding in writing. Creditors are not always good and not always fast when it comes to correcting errors. In the event that happens, you will need to be able to go back to the credit repositories – creditor letter in hand – and have them remove the information directly.

Unauthorized credit inquiries

If anyone applies for credit in your name, or runs a credit report for any reason, an entry called an “inquiry” will appear on your credit report. In and of itself a credit inquiry is not negative information, however it could be an indication of big problems.

If you did not authorize a credit check on yourself, it means someone else did. Sometimes that’s someone who you do business with, like an employer or an insurance company, who are authorized to pull your credit report periodically. Other times, it can mean that someone else is applying for credit in your name. It could be an indication that you’re about to become a victim of identity theft.

If that is the case you will have to contact the credit reporting company and have them issue of fraud alert on your credit report. Someone else out there has sufficient information on you that they are able to apply for credit in your name, and you’ll need to put a stop to that. The credit alert will inform creditors that your information may have been compromised and that they must contact you directly for authorization to proceed.

Under extreme circumstances, you may need to get the police involved. This will be especially necessary if another party has been successful in obtaining credit under your name.

Previous addresses and employers

Credit reports can contain mistaken information about where you’ve lived and who you’ve worked for. This kind of information is more annoying than it is dangerous, but it’s still worth correcting when you become aware of it.

An employer or a creditor may look at this information and decide that it doesn’t match what you’ve put on a job or credit application. That can either open up questions, or result in your being denied in your application. You can generally change this information by contacting the credit repositories.

It’s important to remember that when a credit report contains errors that you will need to correct them – they will not be corrected on their own. That makes a strong case for regular monitoring of your credit report.

Have you ever had errors show up on your credit report?