Correcting inaccuracies in credit reports
By John Forshee
River Valley Extension District Director
I have previously discussed the importance of obtaining a free credit report once per year. One of the tasks that I encourage folks to do once they get the report is to look it over for accuracy. This column is for those that find inaccurate, incomplete, or out-dated information on the report.
The Fair Credit Reporting Act contains provisions in Section 605 and Section 611 that give consumers rights to have mistakes on their credit reports corrected in a process called a dispute. Consumers should dispute information when it adversely affects their report.
The FCRA requires that any inaccurate information be corrected within 30 days from a consumer's request. These items should be disputed if inaccurate: personal information such as name, address, phone number, social security number, and date of birth; employment information such as employer name and address, position, and phone number; information or accounts that simply do not belong to you; payment history; account balances that have not been updated; debts incurred by a spouse before marriage; public record showing as active but that has actually been paid, dismissed or discharged; bankruptcy that does not contain the chapter information; account showing closed by creditor when it was closed by you; duplicate records; and finally, inquiries not authorized by you.
One may have items on the credit report that are actually outdated. The law says that adverse information cannot stay on the credit report for more than seven years. As always, every rule has an exception and this is no different. Credit inquiries cannot stay on more than two years. Bankruptcy may stay on for up to 10 years. Unpaid tax liens can be kept on the credit report indefinitely. Outdated items that should be disputed are accounts that were charged off, accounts placed in collections, bankruptcy, paid tax liens, paid judgments, and past-due child support that has been paid.
Finally, one should dispute items that do not belong to you. Before you initiate a dispute carefully look at this. Sometimes that store credit card may actually be serviced by a larger credit card supplier and so the name may not look familiar at first. There are a variety of reasons that information that does not belong to you may show up on your report. This could range from something as accidental as a clerical error to something as fraudulent as identity theft. Regardless of the cause it should be corrected.
The Credit Reporting Agency may have a dispute form they want used or one can simply write a dispute letter. The letter should contain your complete information including name, address, date of birth, and social security number in order that the CRA can pull up the correct file. Next list exactly what is wrong on the credit report, including account numbers if relevant. Finally list the action that should be taken by the CRA and that you look forward to receiving a corrected report within 30 days. For additional assistance consumers may call the customer service numbers of the big three consumer reporting agencies. For Equifax call 800-685-1111. For Experian call 888-397-3742. For TransUnion call 800-916-8800.
One final thought on this topic. Identity theft issues and correction of errors will take time, patience, and persistence.