Updated: Dec 6, 2019
Even the smallest errors on a credit report can make a large impact on your ability to get a loan or open a credit card with a reasonable interest rate. For small business owners, maintaining good personal credit can directly affect the business as well – when applying for a small business loan, most lenders will also check the applicant’s personal credit score, making it doubly important to ensure your credit remains in good health.
It is important to check your credit report at least once a year. Thanks to the Fair Credit Reporting Act, you have free access to your credit report each year from each of the three major credit-reporting bureaus – Experian, Transunion, and Equifax.
To gain access to your annual free credit report, go to annualcreditreport.com and choose which reporting bureau’s records you’d like to view. You will be required to enter verification information that only you would know before gaining access to your report.
Although the free report will not give you access to your credit score, it will show your contact information, known addresses, open accounts and their payment histories. Your report will also show public records information, including whether you have been arrested or sued, and any bankruptcies you’ve filed.
There are several types of common errors to check for:
Information listed on your credit report that is not yours
For people who have common names, it is possible that some of the information on their credit report will not actually belong to them. Some information may belong to family members. More alarmingly, this may indicate identity theft – someone may be using your information to get credit cards, loans or otherwise take advantage of your credit for their own gain.
This can include still having an ex-spouse listed on your report; accounts that are still listed after they should have been removed according to the law; or past credit issues that have been resolved but the resolution is not reflected.
Incorrect data can involve incorrect payment status on accounts; having more than one delinquent date listed if the lender passed the account to collections; or incorrect notations on who closed an account and why.
Once you have carefully reviewed your credit report and identified any errors, there are several ways to get the error resolved, based on its type.
If the error is related to your personal information, contact the credit bureau directly. First, gather supporting evidence about the error, and email or write a letter to the credit bureau. Include a copy of your credit report. Clearly highlight the error in question, and include copies of all your supporting documentation – it is important to save the originals for your own records. The credit bureau is required to investigate your dispute and will usually do so within 30 days. Submitting your information online instead of by mail will accelerate the review process.
Contact information for filing disputes with the credit bureaus:
Equifax Information Services, LLC
File an online dispute with Equifax
P.O. Box 740256
Atlanta, GA 30374
File an online dispute with Experian
P.O. Box 4500
Allen, TX 75013
TransUnion Consumer Solutions
File an online dispute with TransUnion
P.O. Box 2000
Chester, PA 19022-2000
If the error is related to one of the accounts in your report, or someone opened an account in your name, contact the bank or lender directly. Their contact information will be listed with the account history in your report. Keep records of any conversations you have with the company representative. The company will usually correct the error, or you will be able to use the information provided to then contact the credit bureau directly with the records you have gathered. In either case, you should receive a letter or other correspondence that tells you the results of the investigation, and whether the error you reported has been rectified.
If you filed your dispute with directly with a credit bureau, they are required to send you a free copy if the investigation resulted in a change to your report. It’s a good idea to then request credit reports from the remaining credit bureaus to ensure the error is not present and/or has been corrected by all three of the credit reporting bureaus.