The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) released a report in February of 2015 revealing some staggering statistics. They found that one in five Americans has an error on their credit report. This came on the heels of a landmark settlement paid out by Equifax for lack of addressing errors reported by a consumer. The severity of the errors found ranged from misspelled names to reporting a person was deceased. Most inaccuracies fall into the category of “late payments,” which you will find described as 30, 60, or 90 days past due.
If you are in the process of buying a house or a car, the lender is going to pull your credit to see how credit-worthy you are and what kind of loan they are going to offer you. But lo and behold, your credit score is not as high as you thought and there are some items on your credit report which are not accurate. How in the world did this information get on your credit report in the first place and what can you do about getting it off as quickly as possible?
Credit Reporting Agency Made a Mistake
Inaccurate credit information can get on your report in a number of ways — one of which is from the credit bureaus. A service bureau or credit bureau can make a mistake that is caused by their database and query system. One type of common error is the merging of credit reports due to two people having similar social security numbers. The bureaus have been known to merge files when consumers’ names are similar and they share seven of nine digits in their social security numbers. (of course, the bureaus deny this ever happens) And, the social security administration can be partly to blame for “double issuing” social security numbers and for accidentally listing living citizens as deceased.
An independent analysis of 30,000 consumer complaints filed with the FTC found the majority of complaints were about unresolved errors on credit files held by one or more of the big three credit reporting agencies. An error rate of a staggering 30 percent, where in most cases these easy fixes dragged on for months and months.
Furnisher Provides Outdated or Wrong Information
This is the kind of information that is just outright inaccurate and plain old boo-boos. This information is supplied to the credit bureaus by the various data-gathering agencies and the bureaus just apply this information to your reports. This type of information could be a wrong current address, misspelling of your name, or maybe using your maiden name. It might also include incomplete or missing employment information or application notices that you did not fill out.
Furnisher errors are probably the easiest to fix. Just send a letter to all three bureaus pointing out the misinformation and then providing them with the correct information. Under the Fair Credit Reporting Act, they have 30 days to investigate your claim and determine if an error has been made, and then to fix that error. A great letter to use in this instance is our Request the Removal of Inaccurate Information letter.
Your Identity Was Stolen
Lastly, another way inaccurate information could have landed on your credit report is if your identity has been stolen. Identity theft happens more often than you might think. Every year, an estimated 9 million U.S. residents fall victim to identity theft. Most of us won’t even know we have been a victim of I.D. theft until we pull our credit report. That is why it is imperative you check your credit at least once a year.
Newly opened accounts under your SSN will often suggest identity theft and you might also have items on your report that are outright false. If you see these types of items on your report, it is important that you handle these items quickly and you follow the Fair Credit Reporting Act guidelines by doing the following:
- File a police report and get a copy of this report for your records.
- Contact the fraud departments at all three credit reporting agencies – TransUnion (800.680.7289), Experian (888.397.3742), and Equifax (800.525.6285).
- Place a 90-day fraud alert on your account with all three bureaus. You can do this over the Internet at each of the bureaus’ websites.
- Block any item on your report that is not yours by providing the furnisher and the bureaus a copy of the police report.
- Close any accounts that you suspect may have been tampered with or that the thief has opened.
- Be prepared to sue companies that spread false information about you. This is your right under the FCRA.
- If there is a judgment pending or entered based on a thief’s activity, contact an attorney.
- Dispute any and all unauthorized charges on existing accounts directly with the creditor.
If you have recently pulled your credit and you noticed inaccurate information listed, you have the right to dispute this inaccurate information and have it removed immediately. Taking the time to remove this incorrect information, is one way to clean up your credit and increase your credit score. On our website, we have a section dedicated to sample letters you can use to fix your credit. These are letters you can fill in and customize to your specific circumstance and these letters will get you results.