More and more people are affected by mistakes in their credit reports each day. Unfortunately, these mistakes can have major consequences in the long run. Credit reports include personal information like where you live, how you pay bills, and whether you've been sued or filed for bankruptcy.
They also contain information that determines whether you can get a loan and how much it will cost to borrow money. 11Alive's Help Desk knows how important it is to have accurate credit reports, and that's why we've listed the crucial steps towards correcting those errors.
MORE | How to dispute credit report errors
The first step in managing mistakes is to review your credit report.
The Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) requires each nationwide consumer reporting company-Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion-to provide you a free annual copy of your credit report by request every year.
For your convenience, all companies have established a central website, a toll-free number, and a mailing address to order these reports. To order online, visit: www.annualcreditreport.com or you can call: 1-877-322-8228. You can also request your report by mail to the Annual Credit Report Request Service.
Remember, don't contact these companies individually. You can order your reports from all companies at the same time, or stagger your requests throughout the year. Staggering your requests is a good way to measure accuracy and completeness on all reports.
By law, both the credit reporting company and the information provider, namely the person or company that provides information about you to a credit reporting company, are responsible for correcting wrong or incomplete information in your report.
If you notice an error on your credit report, the second step is telling the credit reporting company, in writing, what information you think is inaccurate. In your letter, you should clearly state the facts, explain why you dispute the information, and include any copies of documents that support your position.
Credit reporting companies must investigate items in question usually within 30 days-unless they consider your dispute frivolous.
If it is determined there is an error on your credit report, all three credit reporting companies must be notified so they can correct the information in your file.
When the investigation is complete, the credit companies are required to give you results in writing and a free copy of your report-which does not count as your annual free report.
If you ask, they also have to send notices of any corrections to anyone who received your report in the past six months.
If your dispute is unresolved at the end of an investigation, you can ask for a statement of the dispute to be included in your file and in future credit reports.