Improving your credit score starts with improving your credit report.


At it’s core, your credit report is a detailed history of your entire relationship with debt over the (somewhat) recent past. It has everything from credit cards, car loans, any missed bills or rent, any mortgages, personal loans, bankruptcies, etc. For most entries, it includes a list of all payments made and whether these payment were on time or not. It also includes any credit limit or loan amount for each item, and when the loan was closed. Most of us probably have some kind of mix between good information and some records that we’re not so proud of. Because life happens. This information is the foundation of your credit score.

Errors on Your Credit Report Are Serious Business

But what if there are dings on your credit report that aren’t true? Maybe there’s a record of a missed payment, when you did in fact make the payment. Or maybe there’s a loan listed in collections that you did indeed pay off. Worse yet, what if there’s an account listed that you never even opened in the first place? All these things can have a serious impact on your credit. If left unattended, they could even affect you for years to come. They could spell higher interest rates on future loan, or being denied loans altogether. They could even affect job applications, rent applications and car insurance premiums.

And before you dismiss errors on your credit report as something that won’t happen to you, know that they are more common than you might think. CNBC reported last year that over 20% of consumers have serious errors on their credit reports. These errors could be as simple as faulty records, either on the lender’s or the credit bureau’s side of things. They might be because a sloppy or unscrupulous collection agency never reported a debt paid off. Or identity theft may be the culprit.

Finding the Errors on Your Credit Report

Before you address the errors on your credit report, you need to be aware of their existence in the first place. Unless if you’ve enlisted the services of a comprehensive credit monitoring service, no one else is going to point out the errors in your credit report. You need to take initiative and find them yourself.

The easiest way to ensure that you catch errors in your credit report is to simply make a habit of scanning your credit report on a regular basis. Congress has required each of the three credit bureaus (Experian, Transunion and Equifax) to provide everyone a free copy of their credit report once a year. Although there may be many sites offering credit reports for free, is the only official site authorized by the credit bureaus to fulfill the law’s requirement. To be safe, stick to this site.

For the most part, all three credit reports will look almost identical, so a good practice is to request one every 4 months, spacing them out evenly throughout the year. Your report will consist of all your loans and credit accounts. Simply scan the report to ensure that you recognize all the accounts. If any of them have delinquent information, ensure that this information is indeed accurate. If everything looks accurate, you don’t need to do anything. But if you find an error, address it immediately.

How To Dispute a Credit Report

If you find a relatively straightforward error, filing a dispute is something that you can certainly do yourself. The simplest way to dispute an error on your credit report is by initiating a dispute online from the credit bureau’s website. Each of the three bureaus has a link on their website allowing you to file a dispute. The process is straightforward, and the bureau is required by law to respond to the dispute either by resolving the error or launching an investigation within 3 days. If the bureau launches an investigation, they are limited to 30 or 45 days, depending on the circumstances, to resolve the dispute.

If your dispute does not receive a prompt satisfactory response (at the bare minimum, an investigation) within 3 days, you have a number of recourse options. You may decide to re-submit your dispute, this time by certified mail. Of course, you could also contact customer service to investigate. You may also decide to enlist professional help from a consumer law attorney, in part to signal to the bureau that you are serious about the matter. Of course, this kind of help will not come free.

You may also decide to consult an attorney right away if you discover a web of errors- especially if some were partially (but not completely) caused by some negligence on your end. Once you get into trying to prove innocence or guilt over missed payments or delinquent debt, you may be entering a minefield that you don’t want to navigate alone.

Fixing Your Credit Report Is a Small Investment with Big Returns

In most cases, fixing your credit report will be a simple matter, taking just a few minutes. Yet it is hard to fully emphasize the impact that repairing your credit report will have. Repairing your credit report will make credit more available for lower interest rates, both expanding your options and saving you money. There’s simply no sense in paying for mistakes that you never made.

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