When it comes to credit reports, one thing is clear: mistakes are often made. The problem is catching the errors, and then following up on correcting them so that they don’t remain as issues on your report.
Thanks to some relatively new government regulations, consumers are now entitled to free copies of their credit reports from each of the three major credit reporting bureaus once a year. Visit www.annualcreditreport.com and follow the instructions to order your free copies. Once they arrive, be sure to go over them with a fine-toothed comb to be sure that there aren’t any mistakes. Check and double-check account numbers, transactions and, especially, any notices of late payments, repossessions or accounts that aren’t yours. Make detailed notes as you go, documenting any areas that don’t match your records.
If you do find problems with your credit report, the first step is to write a letter to the three credit reporting bureau or bureaus: Equifax,
Experian and TransUnion. Be sure to detail the problem(s) and where in your credit report the discrepancy is noted. Also, include any receipts, letters, payment stubs or other proof along with your letter. That will speed up the process and help you solidify your claim.
Each credit report will provide you with detailed contact information and instructions on claiming, correcting and researching credit report errors (specific instructions vary per company). The credit reporting bureau(s) then have 60 days to investigate and correct the errors on your report.
If you suspect, or have confirmed, that there has been fraudulent activity on your credit report, you can put a fraud alert on your credit report, by calling the 800 number for one of the three major credit bureaus, listed below. Once your fraud alert has been confirmed by the credit bureau, they will contact the other two major agencies and your credit reports will be mailed out to you free of charge. It’s also a good idea to put your fraud alert in writing, as well.
To report fraud, call 1-888-397-3742, and write: P.O. Box 740241, Atlanta, GA 30374-0241. www.equifax.com.
To report fraud, call 1-800-397-3742, and write: P.O. Box 9532, Allen, TX 75013. www.experian.com.
To report fraud, call 1-800-680-7289, and write: Fraud Victim Assistance Division, P.O. Box 6790, Fullerton, CA 92834-6790. www.transunion.com
Once you receive copies of your reports, be sure to look through them carefully and note any accounts you didn’t open or late fees or charges on active accounts that you didn’t make. Also make sure that your personal identifying information (name, address, SSN, employers) is correct. Any errors you discover researching credit report mistakes should be reported in writing, as soon as possible, to the credit bureau. Then, review your credit reports periodically to make sure that no further fraudulent or incorrect activity has been reported. Orders for additional reports need to be made with each individual credit bureau.