Your credit report contains important information about your life, such as where you live, what debts you owe, whether you’ve been sued, and whether you’ve filed for bankruptcy. Credit reporting agencies sell information about you to insurance companies, mortgage companies, employers, and banks so that they can evaluate your applications for loans, credit, insurance coverage, renting a home, and/or employment. The information in your credit report will help these companies decide whether to loan you money, the interest rate at which you can obtain credit, and, in some cases, whether you can rent a home or get a job. Therefore, it is essential that your credit report contain only accurate information, a right that is protected by the Fair Credit Reporting Act (“FCRA”).
The first step to ensuring that your credit report contains only accurate information involves periodically reviewing your credit reports for errors. You are entitled to get one free credit report per year from the three major credit reporting agencies – TransUnion, Experian, and Equifax – through a service called the “Annual Credit Report Request Service,” which will allow you to find any mistakes on your reports. You also are entitled to a free copy of your credit report if it was used to deny your loan or credit application, if you’re unemployed, or if you are receiving welfare benefits. Not only can reviewing your credit report information for errors potentially improve your ability to obtain credit, but you can also help guard against identity theft by catching any unauthorized accounts or charges that show up on your credit reports.
If you discover an error on your credit report, you first must notify the credit reporting agency to investigate your complaint. You must do this by submitting your complaint in writing, explaining what is wrong on your credit report, and providing any evidence in support of your position. Be sure to keep a copy of everything that you send to the credit reporting agency, and request that the credit reporting agency delete or correct the error on your credit report.
When it receives a complaint, a credit reporting agency must normally investigate your complaint within 30 days, unless it is a frivolous complaint. The credit reporting agency must notify the company that provided it with the information about you of your complaint, and that company must review the information and verify whether it is correct. If there is a genuine error, the credit reporting agency must correct the error, not only on its credit report, but also on the reports of the other two major credit reporting agencies. You are then entitled to receive the results of the investigation in writing, as well as a corrected copy of your credit report. Even if the investigation does not result in a finding of error or a change to your credit report, you can still ask the credit reporting agency to keep your complaint information on file and provide it to anyone who asks for a copy of your credit report, although this service may cost you a fee.
Your next step would be to dispute the incorrectly reported information with the creditor or company that reported the information to the credit reporting agency. You should provide that company with any documentation that you have to support your position. If the company finds that it has made an error, then it can no longer report this incorrect information about you to credit reporting agencies.