Your credit score can be a tricky beast to wrangle. Even if you follow your financial obligations and practices with care, errors can creep into your credit report. Fortunately, there are ways to repair these errors and help improve your standing. The key is having a plan of attack in the event of an error. You won’t be able to fix anything if you’re unprepared for when it happens. But by keeping in check the details of your various accounts, you can more readily identify any places where mistakes might take root. To help avoid this situation or expedite its resolution should it arise, here are some tips on how to dispute errors on your credit report with effective methods and principles for bettering your credit score going forward.
Understand the different types of errors
There are several different types of errors that can appear on your credit report. Here are some of the most common:
Wrong information: This is the most common type of error and refers to the presence of an inaccurate item on your report. This may include the name of a creditor or incorrect amount owed, or even the wrong account number.
Inaccurate account history: Your credit report should show a clear and accurate history of your payment activity. You should be able to see all your payment details, including payments that have been made outside of the normal terms.
Incomplete information: There may be some information that is missing from your report. This could include information about a loan or payment history that is necessary for your credit score.
Incorrect identification: Your credit report should contain accurate information about your address, Social Security number, and other identifying information.
Check for accuracy
If you notice any inaccuracies, the best place to start is on the credit report itself. There, you can review the same report that creditors use to decide whether or not to offer you credit. If you find anything amiss, make sure to document it. Write down the details of the error and include the name of the credit bureau. You can also add a note that you’re disputing the error.
Your next step is to request a correction. You don’t have to prove the error; you just have to state that it’s there. Keep in mind that if the error was in the history itself, you may not be able to get it corrected. Credit histories are based on fact, and creditors are under no obligation to correct mistakes. If you don’t see a correction after a few weeks, you can file a dispute on your credit report.
Request an investigation
If you can’t get the error corrected, your next step is to request an investigation. If you simply want to know if the error was legitimate, you can request a “fraud alert”. This will require creditors to take extra precautions before granting credit in your name. A full investigation is a more thorough approach that can get to the bottom of why the error was there in the first place. If you request an investigation, you need to be prepared to wait. Your credit report will be on hold until the investigation is complete. If there was indeed a mistake, it will be corrected.
File a dispute
If the above methods don’t seem to be resolving the issue, you can take things a step further by filing a formal dispute. This can be particularly helpful when it comes to reporting issues with a creditor. In many cases, it’s up to you to initiate the dispute process.
While there are formal steps involved, you don’t have to hire a lawyer or pay a credit repair service to file a credit report dispute. Instead, you can follow the instructions listed on credit bureau websites, including those for Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion.
Credit scoring is an imperfect method of evaluating risk, but it is the current standard. By understanding how your credit report works and how to dispute errors, you can improve your credit score and be better equipped to take out loans and make large purchases. Whether you’re buying a car, a mortgage, or applying for a credit card, a good credit score can help you get a better interest rate and terms.