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It's out of sight and out of mind, but your credit report can affect your life in many ways you never expected. A bad credit report can make it hard for you to get a loan or a credit card. It can get you rejected for a rental apartment. It can even hurt your job search efforts.
Mistakes on credit reports happen all to often. You expect to have great credit, but suddenly you're rejected for a home loan. There may be an error on your credit report, hurting your score.
Here is how you can check for errors and correct your report:
1. Request a Copy of Your Report
There are three credit-reporting companies: Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion. The Fair Credit Reporting Act requires that they provide you with one free credit report each every twelve months. You may also request a free report if you're unemployed, on welfare, or are a victim of identity theft.
You can request your credit report by going to AnnualCreditReport.com. The site will ask you for your name, date of birth, social security number, and current addresses. Your social security number is required to ensure that you are who you claim to be. Don't worry. It's not an identity theft scam.
You can request a copy of your credit report from only one company, or from all three companies. Errors could be present on all three or only on one of the reports. We suggest requesting all three and checking each one.
2. Check for Errors
Your credit report will have information regarding your bank accounts, credit cards, loans, foreclosures or collections, and any company who has accessed your credit report.
Read over your report and check for any errors. Common errors include incorrect or outdated credit information and personal information. You may have paid on time, but the payments were reported as late. Your credit limit may be higher than the amount listed, or your loan balance lower than in the report. You may also find loans and credit cards listed that you never applied for.
3. Contact Your Creditor
If you do find any errors, contact the company that provided the faulty information to the credit reporting company.
If the error is an old credit card debt still listed after you paid it off, call or write a letter to your credit card company asking them to remove the debt. Include any documents that support your position, but only send copies, not originals. If you are correct about the error, then the credit card company must tell the credit reporting company to update or delete the incorrect information.
4. Contact the Credit Report Companies
If the error on your report remains unfixed, you will need to contact the credit reporting company. If the error is on your Experian report, then you must contact Experian. If the error is on all three reports, then you must contact each credit reporting company individually.
Again, you can write to the credit reporting company to dispute the charges. In your letter, you should identify the error, the company that reported the error, and what the correction should be. You should also enclose a copy of the credit report, with the error circled or highlighted, and any other documents that could support your claim. Save all copies of all correspondence.
The credit reporting company should start investigating your claim within 30 days. If you want a faster resolution you can also dispute your credit report online at Equifax, Experian, or TransUnion's website.
If, after repeated attempts, the credit reporting companies neglect to correct the errors on your credit report, you may have to consider legal action. An experienced credit repair lawyer may be able to help.