In order to make sure your credit score accurately reflects your credit health, it’s important to keep careful track of your credit report—at least on an annual basis. Thanks to the Fair Credit Reporting Act, every consumer is entitled to a free copy of their report every 12 months. To access your free annual credit report, visit annualcreditreport.com or call (877)322-8228.
If you find that your score has suffered a sudden, unexpected setback, there’s a chance it’s been caused by an error in your report or fraudulent activity in your name. These types of impediments have a number of potential consequences, including higher interest rates, rejected loan applications and denied job offers. But discovering an error on your report is the first step towards rectifying it. Once you’ve identified the problem, you can take action by following these steps:
File a Written Report
All three credit reporting companies–Equifax, Experian and TransUnion–have a protocol in place for reporting errors. In order to file a dispute, it’s best to manually fill out the form available on the credit agency’s website and physically mail it into their offices. Be sure to include any copies of supporting evidence, such as documentation of payments you’ve made or a police report showing that identity theft has occurred. It’s usually a good idea to also send a dispute to the lender so that they can directly address any mistakes they’ve made, especially since it can take them up to 45 days to respond to the credit agency’s inquiry.
If the error has gone unaddressed by both the lender and the credit agency after 45 days, you have two possible options: you can try again and re-dispute the error, or you can go to small claims court and sue both the credit issuer and the bureau. Usually, this second option should only be resorted to after two failed attempts at disputing an error. And though filing a lawsuit sounds like a tall order, it’s not nearly as hard as it sounds: you don’t need a lawyer in small claims court, and your suit will be lodged against a registered statewide agent of the bureau or issuer, who is much more likely to promptly respond to your lodged complaint. The court clerk should be happy to guide you through this process. If neither course of action works, you’ll want to contact the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau to seek assistance.
Once a dispute is resolved with one credit bureau, it’s important to make sure that the other two bureaus have adjusted their reports to also reflect the change. Common wisdom dictates that you should check in with the other bureaus about 45 days after your dispute is resolved. If the error is still showing up on their reports, you should contact the lender directly and request that they provide documentation of the change.
Errors in your credit reports are tedious drawbacks, but they’re far from impossible to fix. In case you’ve already identified an error, start by following one of these links and filling out a dispute form with the credit bureau in question: TransUnion, Experian and Equifax.