You’ve just received credit report, and the worst has happened: you see something that isn’t right. Regardless of how the error got on there, you need to make sure your report accurately reflects your credit and activity. Keeping this information up to date and correct is necessary if you want apply for a loan, buy insurance or get a job, and it also aids in your protection against identity theft. So what do you do when you notice an error on your credit report?
- Contact the right people
First, don’t panic. There are clear steps to disputing whatever mistakes you find on your report. The next thing you’ll need to do is contact both the credit reporting company and the company that provided you the information. Under the federal Fair Credit Reporting Act, both these companies are responsible for amending any information on your report that is inaccurate or incomplete. However, there are some disputes that creditors are not obligated to investigate. These include errors in identifying information for you or your employer’s, requests for a credit report, information from public records, details related to fraud or active duty alerts, or information given to the credit reporting company by another creditor or furnishing institution.
- Explain the mistake
Once you contact the creditors, you’ll need to explain the mistake to the companies, including evidence that supports your claim. For this step, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau warns not to send original copies of these documents. If you’re completing this step by mail, be sure to include your full name, address, telephone number, report confirmation number (if you have it) and the account number. You can also include a copy of the report in this letter, circling or highlighting the portion containing the error. To ensure delivery, send all this information via certified mail and ask for a return receipt. You don’t have to do this by mail, though. All three credit reporting companies can also be reached online and by phone.
- Know what happens if you’re right or wrong
After you make your disputing claim, it will be investigated and determined if you are correct. In the event that you are right, the information provider is then obligated to update all the credit companies so they can correct or delete the item. There are some instances, though, where you may notice something that looks like a mistake to you but actually isn’t. The Federal Trade Commission explains that your report may not reflect all your accounts, as some creditors don’t supply information to reporting companies, like local retailers, credit unions and certain card companies.
Obtaining your free credit report is an essential piece of your personal protection against identity theft, which is why it’s so important to know what to do in the event you recognize an error. If you’re worried about relying solely on your free annual credit report to identify fraud, you can invest in an identity theft protection service that can monitor not only your credit file but also your Social Security Number and public records to alert you to certain activity that could indicate fraud.