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Ask Jean: Credit Corrections

Credit Check 1I have pulled my credit reports and have noticed quite a lot of incorrect information or inconsistencies across the reports. I would like to get this corrected as soon as possible. What is the most efficient way to do this? – Julie

When it comes to errors in your credit report, you’re definitely not alone. According to research published by the United States Public Interest Research Group, 79% of the credit reports surveyed contained either serious errors or other mistakes of some kind – and 25% of those errors were serious enough to result in the denial of credit. Errors can range from things like incorrect demographic information to loans being listed twice – and each varies in how it will affect your credit score. Whatever the error, it’s important to get it fixed as quickly as possible.

So how do you go about making these changes? First, you should go directly to the credit-reporting agency, and file a report for any information that’s incorrect. “When you file a report, the agency is required to confirm the error with a lender within 30-45 days,” says John Ulzheimer of Credit.com.  The window varies depending on where you get your credit report. When using annualcreditreport.com, where you can get a free copy of your credit report once a year, the government allows up to 45 days for changes to be made, whereas other sources need to do so within a month.

Another approach, however, is to contact the lender directly, and not just file a report with a reporting agency. “That way, you burn the candle at both ends,” says Ulzheimer. Asking the lender to look into the error can save some time in this process, simply because they’ll get working on the answer sooner – which can save a lot of back and forth between the agency and the lender when they’re checking the error.

Regardless of the approach, it’s important to be very specific when filing an error report. “Many people will write a general letter to the credit reporting agency,” says Ulzheimer, “that says ‘the information about an account in my credit report is wrong.’” Without initially specifying which account, and what the specific issue is — whether the balance reported is incorrect, or the late payments are wrong, or that the account never existed — adds another step to the process. Filing a specific report in the first place and checking your credit report for errors regularly is the most efficient way to ensure it’s accurate.

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