Credit report mistakes are more common than you think. According to a new Consumer Reports investigation, 34% of Americans found at least one error on their credit report. If you find a discrepancy in your report, it is important to understand that it is very common and could be solved.

Fixing errors on your credit report doesn’t have to be overwhelming. In fact, you could easily do it yourself. This is an excellent option if you’re a great detective, are skilled at documentation, and have the time available. Follow our guide and start improving the accuracy of your credit report.

Check all three credit reports for errors: 

There may be small differences among your reports because some creditors don’t report your account activity to all three bureaus. However, if negative information has popped up on one report, it’s wise to see whether it’s also on the other two. 

Take into account the credit report errors you should dispute: 

  • Wrong account status (such as payment mistakenly reported late when you paid on time). 
  • Negative information that is too old to be reported. Most derogatory marks on your credit should be removed after seven years. 
  • An ex-spouse incorrectly listed on a loan or credit card. 
  • Wrong account numbers or accounts that aren’t yours.
  • Inaccurate credit limits or loan balances. 
  • Addresses where you’ve never lived. 

Documentation:

Your goal is to make it as easy as possible and quick as possible for investigators to confirm that your complaint is valid. Depending on the error, the things you gather to support your case could include: 

  • Copies of credit card statements or loan documents 
  • Copies of bank statements 
  • Copies of birth or death certificates, or a divorce decree 
  • If you’ve reported identity theft, include a copy of your FTC complaint or police report. 

Record everything. Keep records of the letters you send, the letters you receive, every phone call, and request return receipts so you know they receive your letters. In an effort to keep all documentation, send copies of any paperwork and keep the originals for yourself. 

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Put it in writing:

All three bureaus have an online dispute process, which is often the fastest way to fix a problem or you could write a letter. You can also call, but you may not be able to complete your dispute over the phone. Visit each credit reporter’s website to find the most effective method of communication. Note: A credit bureau typically responds and resolves a dispute within 30 days. 

Be clear and concise:

Explain your situation clearly and concisely when you dispute something. Give the agencies only the key facts so that they understand the situation. Adding irrelevant information can confuse someone who is looking into your case, especially when they’re learning about your situation for the first time.

Fixing your credit is always an option at no extra cost (if you know how to do it), especially for obvious or simple errors. If the credit bureau agrees it’s an error, it will remove the item and send you a new copy of your credit report. Review the new report to make sure it’s right. If the credit bureau disagrees, the bureau may refuse to remove the error. If you feel overwhelmed, consider working with a credit repair company if you are having second thoughts about doing it yourself. 

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