Checking for and disputing credit report errors is important for anyone who wants to have her credit record look as good as possible. Errors and major discrepancies do exist on millions of credit reports. Studies have shown that credit report agencies--the big three of which are Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion--have a major error rate of at least 20-30%, possibly up to 70% once all errors are factored in. Although some of these errors can be as simple as reporting the wrong month that an account was delinquent, such an error can have a devastating impact on that person's corresponding FICO score (which can consequently get you rejected for a credit line that you are trying to establish). Below are the basic steps to finding and disputing errors that may be on your own credit report.
- Order a copy of your credit report from each of the three major credit agencies--Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion. These need to come directly from each company. Getting these from a third party company may have you disputing errors that do not even exist.
- Compare these reports to each other, as well as to your own records and knowledge. Make sure each account actually exists, is not past the 7-year time limit for reporting negative information on a credit report, and that all status and delinquency dates are not reporting incorrectly.
- If you do find any errors, you have two choices: a) dispute online or b) dispute through a written letter. Disputing online is quicker, but there may be limited "reason" options and you may be restricted to less than 150-100 characters (about 20-30 words) to explain yourself.
- To dispute online, you will need to visit the website of the agency in question and find the "dispute" option. They will then have you enter some identifying information and allow you to proceed with your dispute. To dispute through a written letter, you can find a mailing address for the agency near the end of your credit report. Remember to include the report number, your name and address, and the account number(s) for your dispute(s).
- If you received a free credit report from AnnualCreditReport, or anywhere else, the agency has 45 days (plus 5 business days for mailing) to send you the results of your dispute. If you paid for your report they have 30 days (plus 5 business days for mailing).
Remember, even very important information--ranging from bankruptcy to positive credit lines--may be reporting incorrectly. That is why it is important that you question all inaccuracies and not be afraid of looking "foolish" or assuming that something is correct just because it is supposed to be reported by someone of authority.