Other than eating, sleeping, and breathing, one of the most important things you should be doing on a regular basis is ensuring that the data in your credit report is accurate. That is such a simple statement, yet it is ignored by the vast majority of consumers, probably due to several factors, such as: |
* Consumers seem to accept the fact that errors will “self correct” in a reasonable period of time, where in reality nothing could be further from the truth.
* Consumers don’t know how to find out if there is wrong information on their credit report, which impacts their total credit score negatively.
* Consumers don’t realize that having a low credit score (lower than what they deserve, if the information maintained by the credit bureaus was accurate) can impact a huge number of factors in their everyday lives.
* Consumers don’t realize that studies have shown that the MAJORITY of credit reports on consumers and businesses have errors and inaccuracies.
Your credit score is used by anyone loaning you money such as credit card companies, home loan lenders, auto loan lenders and finance companies. You need to find out what your credit score is before you talk to any lender in case there is something on your report that they may question. Your credit score is the actual number ranging from 300 to 850 that lenders use to judge your creditworthiness and the interest rate they’ll charge you. Having a credit score lower than what you actually deserve could mean the difference between getting approved for a loan or credit card, or being denied. If you are approved, a lower credit score can mean the difference of the lender assessing a 14% interest rate or a 6% interest rate, which can cost you hundreds and even thousands of dollars more at the end of the loan period.
The “big three” credit bureaus are required to give you a free copy of your credit report annually, or any time that you have been denied credit based on information that they provided to a potential lender. It may take some time to get through to the credit bureaus to request a copy of your credit report, but this is well worth your time to do so. Be sure to get a copy of it from all three of them, since some lenders only report to one or two of them. This means that the information on your credit report from one credit bureau is almost certainly not going to be identical to the data from another credit bureau.
If you notice any errors on your report, you should complete a dispute form with the credit bureau. When they send you a copy of your credit report, they will usually include instructions on how to file a dispute for erroneous or inaccurate information. Some experts say that if you are disputing say 5 different items, you should file 5 separate dispute forms so each one can be addressed specifically. There is some merit to that discussion, since the credit bureaus may view a dispute consisting of many items as “frivolous” and not take appropriate action to correct the information.
Under the Fair Credit Reporting Act, you can dispute information in your credit files with the three credit bureaus, and the creditor is required by law to verify the disputed information. You have the right (and indeed, the obligation) to dispute the completeness and accuracy of information in your credit files. When a credit bureau receives a dispute, they must investigate and record the current status of the disputed items within a "reasonable period of time", usually defined as 30 days. If the information reported on your credit report cannot be verified by the creditor, the credit bureau is required by law to remove the information.
Check your credit report regularly, at least once per quarter. Even if the creditor misses that 30 day window, they can report the information again later, at which point when you see it appear again, you can (and should) dispute it again. Sometimes, for blatantly wrong information, you may want to contact the creditor directly and find out why they insist on putting inaccurate information on your credit report. Jon is a computer engineer who maintains web sites on a variety of topics based on his knowledge and experience. You can read more about Credit Reports and Credit Scores at his web site at Credit Reports and Credit Scores.
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