This is Exactly What to Do If You Find a Mistake on Your Credit Report
Fun fact: In 2016, the No. 1 complaint submitted to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) pertained to credit reporting, according to LendEDU.
Well, this fact isn’t so fun if you’re a consumer with a complaint.
Breaking down the issue, nearly 74% of those credit report complaints were about incorrect information popping up. That equates to 30,903 of you.
Now, this doesn’t necessarily mean these complaints are valid. However, back in 2013, the Federal Trade Commission found that one in five consumers had an error in one of their three credit reports.
“…the credit reporting agencies merely make mistakes, which is understandable with the millions of pieces of information they process,” says Steve Weisman, a professor at Bentley University and the author of the fraud and identity theft blog Scamicide.
“Therefore it is important to check your credit reports regularly.”
How to Keep Tabs on Your Credit Report — For Free
You’ve got three major credit reports: Equifax, Experian and TransUnion.
You can use a free site, like Free Credit Report, to check yours for mistakes. However, that site only pulls your Experian report, so you’ve got two more.
The good news is that federal law requires each of the major credit reporting agencies to give you a copy of your report for free once a year.
Weisman has a suggestion on how to use this to your advantage: “…order your free credit report from one of the credit reporting agencies every four months. In this way, you are getting your credit reports for free three times a year by staggering [them out].”
For example, check your Equifax credit report in January, your Experian credit report in April and your TransUnion credit report in August.
Set a calendar reminder on your phone if you have to.
How to Dispute Credit Report Mistake
If you find an unpaid credit card that you know you paid or a bill in collections you know never existed, for example, then you’ll want to file a dispute with the appropriate credit bureau.
All of this can be done online — and for free.
Equifax Credit Report Dispute
When you head over to Equifax’s dispute page, a welcome video will pop up that’ll walk you through the process, but it all seems fairly straightforward.
You’ll click “Submit Dispute,” and fill out some information about yourself and your credit report. You should receive results of the “investigation” within 30 days.
Experian Credit Report Dispute
Experian says filing a dispute online is going to bring about the swiftest action.
To do so, you’ll need to fill out an online form with your report number (you get that from your credit report), your Social Security number and your email address. Once you file it, you can check the status of the dispute at any time.
TransUnion Credit Report Dispute
TransUnion encourages you to file a dispute as soon as you spot an inaccuracy. To do so you’ll need to create an account. Like Equifax, TransUnion says the investigations are completed within 30 days — usually.
Carson Kohler (@CarsonKohler) is a junior writer at The Penny Hoarder. She’s setting up calendar notifications for her credit reports now.