Checking your credit regularly is a smart habit to have, but what if your peek behind the credit curtain shows something doesn’t belong?
Simple human error could be the culprit, or you could be a victim of identity theft. In either case, you want to remove these errors right away. Inaccurate information may impact your credit history unfairly.
With that in mind, it’s key you act quickly if you suspect there’s an issue. Here’s what to do if there’s an error on your credit report.
Alert the Reporting Agency
If you spot something fishy on your consumer file, you need to let the reporting agency that shows the error know what’s up. The easiest and fastest way to do that is by going online.
Each of the three major credit reporting agencies — Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion — let you start a dispute online on their respective websites. All you need to do is register and lodge your complaint. Once you have an account, you’ll be able to monitor your claim’s status round the clock.
Can’t make it online? Good old-fashioned snail mail will do, too. Check out The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s sample letter to help you get the wording right.
Simply saying, “you’re wrong” isn’t enough. You’ll have to submit proof that shows the error is, in fact, an error. This may include documents, personal loan or line of credit statements, and emails.
Alert the Furnisher
When it comes to your finances, the word “furnisher” describes any company or individual that supplies (or furnishes) a reporting agency with information. A furnisher will most likely be a personal loan or line of credit financial institution, but it may also include utility companies and landlords.
Your furnisher needs to know their records are wrong and that they’re supplying faulty information to Equifax, Experian, or TransUnion.
Again, it’s a good move to include the reasons why you think they’re wrong with proof backing up your point.
If the error is causing your score to plummet, your financial future is riding on the outcome. The damage it causes may complicate finding an affordable personal loan or line of credit. It may even get in the way of a new job or apartment!
Obviously, you want it gone as quickly as possible, but disputing an error doesn’t happen overnight.
This might be the hardest step in the whole process. You may be waiting a nail-biting 45 days before the reporting agencies wrap up their investigation, and it may take even longer to see any changes to your report.
While many disputes go off without a hitch, don’t be alarmed if you have to refile your claim. A reporting agency may abandon their investigation if they spot errors in your dispute form or if you don’t turnover sufficient evidence.
If this happens, you can try again — just make sure you correct the issue that blocked your initial dispute.
Think of yourself as lawyer standing in front of a jury. You need an air-tight case to convince them your consumer file doesn’t deserve these errors. Keep this in mind when you send off your dispute.
And remember to be patient while you’re waiting for word back from the reporting agency and furnisher. Eventually, you’ll get to say goodbye to errors wrongfully pulling down your score!