Many areas of your financial life depend on credit reporting. It basically provides a detailed history of how you’ve used your money. But what happens when the report gets something wrong—something that can negatively impact your credit? For starters, your credit report can affect whether you can get a home loan. Thus, pulling your credit report from the three major credit bureaus (Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion), checking for discrepancies, and disputing credit report errors can improve your financial health.
And if you think an error is unlikely to appear on your report, think again. According to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, there have been over 158,000 complaints against the big three agencies since 2012, 80 percent of which were about misinformation on credit reports.
So let’s take a look at the most common errors on a credit report, and how you can take action against them.
Check your credit reports for name and address errors. If your name has changed or you have moved, these basic personal facts should be updated with the credit bureaus. Your social security number also plays a crucial role in accurate credit reporting.
Start by confirming that each account appearing on your report is actually yours. Additionally, check the current balance for accuracy, as total outstanding balances affect your credit score. Credit limits can also be misreported. When limits are under-represented, your score may drop since it shows that you’re using a higher percentage of available credit. Lenders believe the closer you are to using all of your available credit, the more likely it is you will default on a loan.
Review the number of open accounts listed on your credit report. Does the same account appear more than once? Do all of the accounts belong to you? It’s not unusual for someone else’s account to appear on your record. In some cases, unfamiliar accounts can be an indication of identity theft. Recovering from identity theft can be a long and difficult process, but catching it quickly can lessen the impact. So if you’re suspicious, call your creditor immediately.
Accounts appearing as closed by lender
Not all closed accounts are alike. If you initiate the closing of a credit account, you can do so without hurting your credit score. However, an account “closed by grantor”, indicating the lender closed the account may be the result of late payments, inactivity, etc. As a result, your creditworthiness can be impacted. So be sure all closed accounts are properly labeled.
Account reporting errors
Account errors that commonly occur include closed accounts reported as open, timely account payments reported as late or delinquent, incorrect date of last payment, and authorized users wrongly reported as account owners. These credit report errors should all be disputed.
Debts older than seven years
Any bad debts older than seven years should be removed from your credit report. Discharged debts from a bankruptcy should not appear. However, the bankruptcy will be reported.
Debts from an ex-spouse
Divorce can take its toll on your credit, especially when there were joint accounts. Removing your name from these accounts and checking your credit report for accuracy can save you from having too much debt and incurring future debts unknowingly.
So, how do you dispute credit report errors?
Any errors found on your credit report can be taken up with a credit reporting agency. Usually, the agency will do the investigation, though you may need to send any corresponding documentation to prove your dispute. While this may seem time- consuming, it’s worth improving your creditworthiness and credit scores.
Want to know just how important your credit is when you’re looking to get a mortgage? Check this out: Why Credit Scores Matter When Securing a Home Loan.