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How to Dispute Mistakes on Your Credit Report

[Saturday, September 6th, 2014]

Your credit report is one of the most important documents in your financial life. It determines whether you will get the lowest rate on your mortgage, whether you qualify for a loan, what type of credit card you can get, and even whether or not you get a job.

The problem is, most people do not see their credit reports very often. They may not know that they can pull a free report from each of the three major credit bureaus, Experian, TransUnion, and Equifax, once a year. And they also may not know that an estimated 80% of credit reports contain mistakes.

If you want to get the lowest rates on loans, the best rewards credit cards, and never be turned down for a job or an apartment on the basis of bad credit, the first thing you must do is make sure your credit report doesn’t contain any mistakes. Here are the steps to reviewing, and fixing, your credit report:

  1. Go to freeannualcreditreport.com to get your free credit reports. Be ready to answer questions about your past jobs, residences, mortgages, Social Security number, and other personal information. Then print out the reports so you can easily review them.
  2. Look over all information, including names, addresses, accounts, jobs, and loans. Flag anything you don’t recognize so you can follow up on it. Carefully go through all three reports.
  3. If you can determine where the wrong information came from, call the company that placed it on your credit report. Find out the address where you can write to ask that the information be removed. Then put your complaint in writing, simply and clearly. Call and write to every agency, company, or entity that has misinformation on your credit report.
  4. Contact the credit bureau to let them know you are disputing this information. Put it in writing and keep a copy. If you aren’t sure of the address where you should send it, call the bureau to find out. If you have disputed information on your credit report, the credit bureau must follow up to confirm the information. If they can’t, then they have to remove it.
  5. Now you are protected in two ways. The company that put the false information should take it off, but even if they don’t, the credit bureau will have to remove the information if they cannot confirm it. Be sure to keep copies of all correspondence. Write down the names of anyone you speak to on the phone, and the time of the call.
  6. Check back in 30 days to see if the information has been removed. If it hasn’t, follow up with both the company and the credit bureau. Be persistent. Sometimes it takes some effort to get these things cleaned up, but it will be worth it in the end when your credit score rebounds.

Once you have made sure your credit report is accurate, do what you can to reduce your total amount of debt. Don’t apply for too many new credit cards at one time, keep making payments on time, and most important—order a free copy of your credit report each year and repeat this process.

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