Common Mistakes on Your Credit Report
How to Correct or Dispute Errors on Your Credit Report
When someone finds errors in their report, they should act immediately. The dispute process is pretty simple. You can use a 609 dispute letter to correct credit report errors. Contact the credit bureau that generated the report containing the mistake and note the disputed item, inaccuracies, or other incorrect information.
First, gather your documents
If you’re opening a dispute, you may be asked for the following information:
- A copy of your driver’s license or other official ID
- Social Security number
- Date of birth
- Bank statements
- A current address and addresses for the past two years
You also could be asked to provide the following documentation:
- Police report if you think an account has been added due to identity theft
- Billing statements
- Canceled check or other proof a bill has been paid
What Is a 609 Dispute Letter, and Does It Work?
A 609 dispute letter is a request from a borrower to a creditor to remove negative information (even if it’s accurate) from a credit report provided. The name refers to section 609 of the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA), even though, oddly, nothing on this topic is included in that particular section. It’s thanks to section 611 that everyone has the right to dispute information believed to be incorrect or unverifiable.
The letter is supposed to task creditors with producing information that’s hard to find. They must remove the disputed claim from the file if they fail to provide the evidence. But if the creditor has evidence, the disputed information remains on file.
Use this sample letter, which should include:
- A mention of the issue(s) of dispute on the credit report and why they’re inaccurate
- Identification information such as a Social Security number, date of birth, and other personal information that might help in verification
- A copy of your credit report, highlighting problem areas
- Other supporting documents and their short description
What Should You Do If Your Credit Report Dispute Is Not Resolved?
If you’re having trouble making progress with the appropriate agency or can’t get a resolution for the dispute investigation, reach out to the authority that regulates the credit agencies — the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. You can submit a claim with the CFPB about the issue you’ve encountered.
Then, if that’s taking too long or doesn’t get results, consider hiring a consumer protection attorney. You can find an attorney via the National Association of Consumer Advocates website.
If the credit report issue is related to fraud or identity theft, seek free help from the Identity Theft Resource Center. If you suspect identity theft or fraud, immediately freeze your credit reports with all three agencies. This will prevent anyone from applying for new credit on your behalf.
Pro tip: A credit freeze restricts access to your credit report, which means you (or others) won’t be able to open any new credit accounts while the freeze is in place. You can temporarily lift the freeze if you must apply for new credit. Otherwise, a freeze doesn’t expire and will remain in effect until you remove it. Request a freeze (or removal of a freeze) by mail, online or by phone. Keep in mind that you significantly lessen your chance of becoming a victim by acting quickly to get these freezes in place. Be aware that the credit freeze is not immediate. It can take as little as an hour or up to one business day to take effect.
Experian, TransUnion, Equifax: How Do You Contact Them to Fix Errors?
Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion are the three credit reporting agencies that track and monitor your credit. Depending on the lender or creditor, they will likely only use a credit report from one of these agencies. Keep in mind that these agencies do not communicate with each other, so information that’s correct on one report might not be correct on the other two.
To correct errors, you can file an online dispute with each of the three major credit bureaus by visiting their websites. Plan to include supporting documentation. Or you can call or write them, though, for mail, it’s best to arrange for a return receipt to ensure your request was received.
Here is the contact information:
- Equifax: 1-866-349-5191, P.O. Box 740256, Atlanta, Ga. 30374-0256; equifax.com
- Experian: 1-888-397-3742, P.O. Box 4500, Allen, Texas 75013; experian.com
- TransUnion: 1-800-916-8800, P.O. Box 2000, Chester, Pa. 19016; transunion.com
Watch Out For These Common Credit Report Errors
According to the survey, incorrect personal information ranked the highest among consumers at about 29%. Mistakes included a wrong account number, an incorrect or misspelled name or a wrong address, which took the lead at 56%.
Other errors include:
- Accounts belonging to someone else or someone with the same or a similar name.
- Signs of possible identity theft — when a fraudster uses another person’s details to apply for a credit card or runs expenses on someone else’s credit card.
- Closed accounts reported as open can expose you to identity theft and negatively impact your credit utilization ratio.
- Duplicate accounts, or accounts that appear multiple times with different creditors listed. This can happen when a creditor sells a borrower’s debt to a debt collection agency and both institutions list the debt in the credit report.
- Payments that have been incorrectly reported as late or delinquent.
Why Are Errors on Your Credit Reports Worth Fixing?
Free Ways to Monitor Your Credit Report for Errors
Free Reports for Fraud Victims
- Someone else has taken adverse action against them because of a credit report detail
- They have suffered identity theft and placed a credit alert on their credit report
- There’s inaccurate information in their file as a result of fraud
Other Free Reports
How to Remove Late Payments from Your Credit Report
A late payment can drop your score by up to 100 points and remain on your report for up to seven years.
What is a Good Credit Score, Anyway?
|FICO score range||VantageScore range|
|Excellent credit||800 and up||781 and up|
|Very good credit||740 to 799||661 to 780|
|Good credit||670 to 739||601 to 660|
|Fair credit||580 to 669||500 to 600|
|Poor credit||300 to 579||300 to 499|
READ MORE: What credit score do you start with?
3 Things Everyone Should Know About Their Credit
Your Credit Report, Credit Score and What It Means
READ MORE: Which credit score, report or bureau is most accurate?
How Your Credit Score is Calculated
- Payment history makes up 35% of your FICO score — such as on-time or missed payments.
- Credit usage (also known as credit utilization) makes up 30% — this is how much you owe relative to your credit limits.
- Your credit history accounts for 15% of your score — this is the average age of all your credit accounts (the older, the better).
- The mix of credit you have makes up 10% of your score — for example, revolving vs. installment. In general, a mix of the two is best.
- Recent activity makes up 10% and looks at the amount of new credit you’ve opened or inquiries (applications for new credit) you have. Too many new accounts or inquiries can hurt your score.
READ MORE: Why did my credit score drop?
How to Boost Your Credit Score
READ MORE: Do subscriptions like Netflix and Hulu build credit?
You could also try credit builder loans, secured credit cards designed for building credit or leverage subscriptions you’re already paying for.
Why Monitor Your Credit Reports?
Credit monitoring ensures that all the information in a credit file is always accurate. It helps you:
- Spot identify theft
- Identify inaccurate items on a credit report
- Determine whether you qualify for better rates on debt and have the chance to refinance existing loans
The Bottom Line
Your credit information is important. Be sure to regularly monitor your credit score, and review copies of your credit reports each year to confirm that errors aren’t dragging down your score.
A data furnisher reports consumer information to consumer reporting agencies, including credit bureaus, tenant screening companies, check verification services, medical information services, etc.
Errors will drive down your credit score. This is potentially harmful when you need to borrow money. Credit scores affect the interest rates you’ll pay for most loans, including auto loans and home loans. A single negative mark will stay on your credit report for up to seven years, so it’s important to address any problem as soon as you spot it.
If you notice fraudulent activity or charges on your account, call the credit card company immediately and let them know. They will close the account and issue you a new credit card with a different number. Often, you won’t be charged.