Table of Contents
You can view your credit report by requesting a copy from AnnualCreditReport.com. Then, review each section carefully for inaccurate information, and file a dispute if you find errors.
- Errors are common on credit reports, so it’s important to review yours at least once per year to check for inaccurate information.
- After requesting a copy of your report, review each section to check for errors.
- If you find an error, submit a dispute with the relevant credit reporting agency.
Step 1: Request A Copy Of Your Credit Report
If you request your report online, you’ll be able to access it immediately. If you call or request it via mail, it will take around 15 days to arrive.
If you find your report difficult to interpret, follow the steps below with a sample credit report to get more familiar with the process.
Step 2: Review Personal Information Section
Your credit report will contain all of your personal information, such as:
- Full name
- Date of birth
- Phone numbers
- Any co-applicant names
Review this information carefully for accuracy. Common errors include:
- Misspelled name
- Wrong address
- Incorrect employers
- Incorrect Social Security number
If you find any errors, make note of them so you can file a dispute.
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Step 3: Look Through Inquiries
Depending on where you obtain your report from, the order of information may vary. Proceed through Steps 3 through 5 in the order that aligns with your report.
Each report will contain a list of inquiries, both hard and soft. Hard inquiries are initiated by credit or service applications you completed. If you notice a hard inquiry you did not initiate, this may indicate identity theft.
A soft inquiry doesn’t impact your credit score. It occurs when you check your credit or when a lender conducts a preapproval screening.
Step 4: Review Public Records
If you’ve ever filed bankruptcy, it will appear in this section. Depending on the type of bankruptcy, it will remain on your report for seven to 10 years. If you notice a bankruptcy on your report that you did not file, make note and file a dispute.
Step 5: Examine Accounts Section
The final section of your report contains a list of accounts you’ve opened, including ones that have since closed. Look closely for any accounts you didn’t open, any incorrectly reported late payments, or any other errors in account details.
Closed accounts will remain on your report for 10 years. If you notice an account that was closed more than 10 years ago, check for an incorrect closing date.
Any accounts in collections may appear in this section. If not, look for a separate section titled “collections.” Each debt in the hands of collections may appear as a separate account.
Step 6: File Disputes For Inaccuracies
Once you’ve checked each section for errors, make note of each error and file a dispute. You can do this by contacting the credit bureau(s) directly online, via phone, or via mail. You can reach each of the three credit bureaus in the following ways:
Mail: Equifax Information Services LLC, P.O. Box 740256, Atlanta, GA 30374-0256
Equifax Credit Dispute Page
Mail: Experian Dispute, P.O. Box 4500, Allen, TX 75013
Experian Credit Dispute Page
Mail: TransUnion LLC, Consumer Dispute Center, P.O. Box 2000, Chester, PA 19016
Transunion Credit Dispute Page
When you file the dispute, provide as much documentation as possible to support each error. For example, if you notice a misspelling of your name, you might include a copy of your birth certificate to verify your real name. If you notice an incorrect late payment on an account, you might include a copy of your on-time payment history for that account.
Once submitted, the credit reporting agency will review the dispute and investigate the error. They may contact you or the creditor or lender the mistake is with to verify information. Once the issue is cleared, you’ll receive a new copy of your credit report.
It’s important to review this new report the same way you reviewed your initial one.
Continue To Monitor For Identity Theft Or Errors
Whether there is an error on your report or not, it’s important to continuously monitor your credit report for errors and potential identity theft. It’s wise to obtain a copy of your report at least once a year, or one per quarter if you’d prefer to monitor more closely.
You may also find a free credit monitoring service useful. Platforms like Credit Sesame and Credit Karma track changes to your credit file and alert you when one appears. This allows you to be more proactive about changes that may be inaccurate.
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How Credit Report Mistakes Happen
Unfortunately, credit report mistakes are somewhat common. According to a Consumer Reports study, around 34% of Americans found errors on their credit report. If you find a mistake, don’t panic — it happens more than you might think, and fixing the error is often quick and easy.
Mistakes can happen for several reasons, but they’re most commonly caused by:
- Employee Error: A simple mistake, like a misspelling, when entering data manually into a database.
- Personal Error: You may have mistyped while filling out an application, entering one wrong number in your Social Security number or address. These small errors, while common, can change the information on your report drastically.
- A Mixup in Records: If you have similar data to another individual, like a similar Social Security number, data can get mixed up in the system.
Common Credit Report Mistakes
According to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, the most common credit report errors include:
- Wrong name, phone number, or address
- Accounts listed that belong to another individual with a similar name, or the same name, as you
- Incorrect accounts listen as a result of identity theft
Incorrect Account Status
- Closed accounts reported as open
- Being reported as the owner of an account when you’re only an authorized user
- Accounts incorrectly reported as delinquent
- Incorrect date for the last payment, date opened, or date of first delinquency
- Same debt listed more than once (sometimes listed with different names)
Data Management Errors
- Reinsertion of incorrect information after it was corrected
- Accounts that appear multiple times with different creditors listed
- Accounts listed with an incorrect current balance
- Accounts listed with an incorrect credit limit
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
How Do You Get Your Credit Reports?
Request a free copy of your report at AnnualCreditReport.com. If you’d prefer to request by phone or mail, you can do that as well.
When Should You Review Your Credit Report?
The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau recommends you check your credit report at least once a year. That said, reviewing your report once per quarter allows you to address potential issues sooner, rather than later.
Is It True That After Seven Years Your Credit Is Clear?
Most negative information drops off your credit report after seven years. However, some forms of bankruptcy remain on your report for 10 years. Review your report and the negative marks to better understand your unique timeline.
Where Is The Best Place To Review Your Credit Score?
Credit-scoring services like Credit Sesame and Credit Karma are reliable places to view your credit score. You can also review your score with credit bureaus like Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion. Keep in mind that each service and bureau will show a different score — some using the FICO scoring model and others using the VantageScore model.
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