Contributed by: Josh Bitel
If you’re like most people, you probably don’t think or worry about your credit score unless you’re getting ready to use it. Your credit report provides detailed information about your credit history and may even make or break your applications for loans, mortgages, or credit cards. Errors or false applications bogging down your score could also prevent you from receiving a better interest rate, for example.
Tips for checking your credit report
Visit annualcreditreport.com to request your free credit report from your choice of three agencies: Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion. Use all three. You are entitled to a free report from each every 12 months.
Set an annual reminder to pull your report with each agency. Stagger these reminders, so you can check your full report once every four months and keep a closer eye on it.
Review all information, including the basics – addresses, phone numbers, employers, etc. – to spot any errors or discrepancies.
Make sure you recognize all accounts, loans, credit cards, etc. listed on your report.
Fixing or disputing errors
When you notice a problem, first directly contact the credit reporting companies and let them know what information you believe is not correct. You may be asked to provide supporting documentation to dispute a claim as fraud. In some instances, that may be hard, if not impossible, to do. It can be difficult to produce proof that you never opened a credit card, for example. Still, putting forth your best effort is well worth your time.
Second, contact the fraud/security department at the company that reported the fraudulent information. They will send dispute paperwork for you to submit with supporting documentation. Inform them, in writing, that the account was opened or charged without your knowledge, explain why you dispute the information and are asking that it be removed or corrected. Keep a paper trail for yourself.
Also, verify whether the debt has been sold to a collections agency. If it has, make sure they will notify the collections agency that the debt is in dispute. And brace yourself! It could take 90 days (or more!) before you see a resolution. Set a reminder to follow up if you have not heard anything within the time promised. Once you have received confirmation that the fraudulent claim has been discharged, make sure they have also closed the account in your name.
Haggling with credit reporting agencies can be a pain, but the work is a necessary evil. Misreported information could lead to your credit score suffering by as much as 100 points, and unless you review and monitor your reports on a consistent basis, you’ll never know.
Josh Bitel is a Client Service Associate at Center for Financial Planning, Inc.®
Repurposed from July 23, 2015 - Previous blog