Traditional credit reports aren't perfect, by any means. Besides the fact that they don't include as much information as alternative credit reports, many contain mistakes that can mislead businesses into denying you a loan or some other form of credit.
But are credit report errors common? In 2012, the Federal Trade Commission found 20 percent of consumers discovered inaccurate data on their traditional credit reports. In a follow up study of individuals who had at least one unresolved dispute on their credit reports, 70 percent maintained the information on their reports was still incorrect in some fashion.
"Before referencing a mistake in your credit report, make sure you acquire one that's up to date."
What does the dispute process look like? What sort of errors might you find in your credit report?
How to dispute credit report errors
No matter what kind of mistake you find, you have the right to dispute it. The big three credit bureaus, Experian, TransUnion and Equifax all have slightly different but similar processes as to how you can go about submitting a dispute.
Before referencing a mistake in your credit report, make sure you acquire one that's up to date. If you notice a mistake in a credit report that's six months old, it's possible the credit bureau corrected the inaccuracy.
Traditionally, consumers had to submit disputes through formal letters to the credit bureaus. ABC News consulted experts at Desert Schools Federal Credit Union in Arizona, who noted disputes contain:
- Proof of your identity (Social Security Numbers, checks and other documentation)
- Evidence supporting your claim that a detail in your report is wrong.
As mentioned, nowadays, the credit bureaus allow you to submit disputes online. For example, if your credit report is from Experian, you can click on the parts of your report you think are inaccurate and specify why the information is incorrect.
Experian logs all these disputes in a "Dispute Cart" where you can review your disputes before sending them to the credit bureau. Within 30 days, Experian will notify you if the disputed data was correct and take whatever actions are necessary.
What are some common credit inaccuracies?
Credit report errors typically arise when the information the credit bureau collects is incomplete or contains data that applies to a different person. For example, if a clerk working at TransUnion accidentally misspelled your name, your credit report may contain information from another person.
The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau listed several errors you might see on your credit report:
- An account that you closed may be listed as open.
- You're listed as the owner of an account, when in fact you may just be an authorized user.
- The date when you made your last payment is wrong.
- Debt that is more than seven years old is listed on your account.
- There are credit accounts in your report that you've never opened, owned or were an authorized user for.
These are just five of many different errors you may find in your report. Remember that these mistakes can have a profound impact on your credit score, negatively affecting your ability to acquire a loan or obtain credit. Make sure your review your report thoroughly, and don't hesitate to make a dispute if your find it's necessary.