Correcting Your Credit Report

Nothing in this world will ever run without a hitch – at least, not so long as humans are pulling the strings. If you value your credit, then it is important to keep tabs on your report regularly and dispute errors. Although credit reporting agencies (also called credit bureaus) should only report accurate and current information, the final say and ultimate responsibility lies in your hands to make sure of it. You also have the burden of proof if you ever have to appear in court, so make sure you leave a clear and unmistakable paper trail. In other words, send everything via certified mail, make copies of every document mailed, and keep detailed records of every action you take.

Video: Dealing with credit report inaccuracies

1. Get Your Credit Reports

If you aren't already keeping a close eye on your credit report, you may not become aware of a problem until you are denied credit. Whether you are preventing that situation or trying to fix it, the first thing is to get your credit reports from TransUnion, Equifax, and Experian – the major credit bureaus. You can get your report from each company once each year at no charge through Annual Credit Report Service, or pay a fee to receive it directly from the bureaus. Just keep in mind the information on each report since your creditors may not report to every bureau.

2. Understand What Can Be Removed

Fixing errors on your credit report(s)Just because something is negative doesn't mean it should not be on your report. Your credit report must contain all credit and debt data so long as it is accurate and up-to-date. You may dispute wrong information, duplicate information, and old negative information. “Wrong” information includes accounts you never opened, lawsuits you were never a part of, and data relating to someone else's name. Duplicate information sometimes happens out of error – you may wish to have it removed so creditors don't count it twice. Last, most information on your credit report should not be older than seven years. Some data, such as bankruptcy, student loans, and child support arrears stay longer. Check your state's statute of limitations on those items, as they can vary from state to state.

3. Take Action to Remove Inaccuracies

You will need to file your dispute with the bureau via website, phone, or mail. They will need some kind of identification (typically your social security number), a description of the inaccuracy, and what the information should reflect. If you have any documentation on your side (like court papers or copies of cashed checks) you should include those too – and don't forget to make copies and send it via certified mail. After 30 days a dispute notation should have shown on your credit report and the creditor given a chance to prove their case. If the creditor fails to verify the information, the bureau will have to stop reporting it – but that does not mean it has been deleted. If you receive a letter stating the item has been deleted along with an updated copy of your credit report, then the item has been permanently purged from your report. Otherwise, do not assume the change has been made.

Video: The impact of inaccuracies on your credit reports

Important Last Steps

Most of the time the above steps are enough to remove inaccuracies. However, if your case is different, write a letter to the creditor explaining why the information they are reporting should be changed along with any documents which support your case. If you still haven't been able to get the change you would like, you can write a letter of explanation which will be attached to your report. This is 100 clearly written words explaining your side with supporting facts and sent to the three major credit bureaus. You never know, those 100 words could make or break your credit application.

Annual Credit Report Request Service