Fixing Credit Report Errors

Last Updated Sep 22, 2010 11:03 AM EDT

The majority of credit reports contain at least one error, most of which are in the form of incorrect or missing account information. Even if these errors aren't your fault, they can come back to bite you. One possible impact can be a lower credit score.

But you won't know if your credit report contains errors until you look at it. The first step in finding out is to get a copy of your credit report from the three credit bureaus; Experian, TransUnion and Equifax. Here's where you can get a free copy of your credit report.


If you find an error on your credit report, you can file a credit report dispute online. That wouldn't be my first choice. I recommend sending a letter notifying the credit bureaus of the error and requesting a correction using old fashioned mail. It may take longer but you'll have what you need to assert your rights under the laws pertaining to information on your credit reports.

According to the Federal Trade Commission, here are the steps to take to correct mistakes on your credit report:
  • Write a letter that details the information you think is incorrect, identify each item, explain why you think it is incorrect, and request the error be removed. You can use their sample letter as a guide for writing your own.
  • Include copies of documents to back up your claims.
  • Also send a copy of your credit report itself, with each error itself circled and numbered.
  • Send your letter and copies of documents certified mail, "return receipt requested" so you will have proof of delivery and receipt.
To take advantage of the full protection under the law, you should send your requests to both the credit bureaus and the source of the incorrect information (such as the credit card company, cell phone provider, etc.)

Then you wait. The credit reporting companies are required to conduct an investigation of the issues you raised in your letter, which could take about 30 days. They must give you a written summary of the results of their investigation and actions they will take. If as a result of their investigation changes are made to your credit report, they must send an updated copy free of charge. This copy does not count towards the annual limit of one free report from each bureau per year.

If the credit bureau investigation does not resolve your dispute, you can request that a statement explaining your position in respect to the disputed information be included in your credit report files.

My advice to folks: get a copy of your credit report and review it NOW. If you notice an error when you are applying for a loan or a job, then it is too late. You won't get the error fixed before they see your report and that error could end up costing you big time.
  • Ray Martin

    View all articles by Ray Martin on CBS MoneyWatch»
    Ray Martin has been a practicing financial advisor since 1986, providing financial guidance and advice to individuals. He has appeared regularly as a contributor on the CBS Early Show, CBS NewsPath, as a columnist on CBS Moneywatch.com and on NBC-TV's morning newscast TODAY. He has also appeared on the Oprah Winfrey Show and is the author of two books.

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