How to find and fix errors on your credit report
Picture this: you've found a new credit card that’s right for you and your needs, and you apply for it. Except the lender says you don't qualify. Or maybe you're offered a less-than-stellar interest rate.
That doesn't make sense, though. You've always paid your accounts on-time and kept your balances low. What's the issue?
Credit report errors can cause major headaches when you apply for loans or credit cards. You might be surprised how errors on a credit report can affect other things, too, like renting an apartment or getting a job offer.
Find out more about common credit reporting errors and what you can do about them.
How credit report errors happen
You trust your creditors and lenders to keep things accurate. But humans make errors, and it's possible for those mistakes to make their way onto your credit report.
Sometimes, it's an issue of the lender or creditor reporting your information incorrectly. It could be a case of payments being applied to the wrong account.
You could also find out the hard way that you've been the victim of identity theft. If you see mystery accounts on your report, it could be the work of a thief who opened an account using your stolen information.
However the mistakes end up on your credit report, the important thing is finding them and correcting them quickly. Having credit report errors removed can help to restore your good credit score.
Why should you care about errors on a credit report?
What does it matter if a few numbers are off or an account shows up twice on your credit report? Minor errors might not make much of a difference.
But a major error could tank your credit score. And that could affect your ability to get approved for things like credit cards, loans, and apartment rentals, as well as possibly cost you more money.
Mistakes that lower your credit score could cause the following issues:
Being denied for loans or credit cards based on your credit score or inaccurate debt utilization ratios
Paying a higher interest rate on debt
Having a lower limit on loans or credit cards
Receiving a rejection on a rental application if the landlord checks credit reports
Paying more for car and home insurance because many companies look at your credit to establish rates
Missing out on a job offer if the employer checks your credit
Being required to pay deposits to start utilities
Paying upfront for cell phone services or cell phones, which can mean a hit to your savings
When you see how many ways a bad credit score can affect your life, suddenly those mistakes seem like a bigger deal. Make sure you get credit for your good credit by sniffing out and correcting errors on your credit report.
Your step-by-step guide to finding credit reporting errors
So, how do you find out if you have credit report errors? Here's a guide on what to do:
Get a copy of your credit report from all three major credit reporting bureaus. They are Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion. You can also get a free report for each of the three major credit bureaus once a year through
Pull up your credit card and loan accounts to compare that information with what's showing on your credit report.
Review your personal details first to make sure it's accurate.
Look at all the accounts to make sure they're valid.
Compare the balances and other information on the report to the actual numbers. Keep in mind there can be a slight delay in reporting payments so they might be slightly different. Look for major differences.
Make a list of anything that's not accurate.
Report the mistakes to the individual bureaus where you see the errors.
Follow up to make sure the bureau corrects the error on the credit report.
Where can credit reports go wrong?
Any information on your credit report can be inaccurate, but many people find similar mistakes. Look for these common issues when you're reviewing your report.
1. Your personal details
What's in a name? In the case of an error on a credit report, the wrong name or other identifying information could mean a lot.
Start by verifying that your name, address, phone number, birth date, and Social Security number are correct on all three credit reports. Look for incorrect spellings or numbers. If you've moved recently, make sure your current address is listed.
Another possible issue that could relate to your personal information is someone with similar information. Maybe someone has a similar name or Social Security number, so their account gets put on your credit report.
You could also see accounts related to identity theft. If someone snags your personal info, they can apply for an account using your info. It'll show up on your credit report even though you didn't open it.
Check all the personal details closely. If you find an account that's not familiar, consider that it could be something with similar information or a case of identity theft.
2. Incorrect accounts
Finding money you didn't know you had is always a good surprise. Finding financial accounts on your credit report that aren't yours or are no longer open can be a whole different type of surprise.
Comb through every account listed on all three credit reports. Does anything look unfamiliar?
Sometimes debt changes hands. That could be the explanation if a creditor's name doesn't seem familiar but the rest of the information does.
In other cases, it's an account that's not yours. Either it was reported to your credit report by mistake or you were the victim of identity theft.
3. Account status issues
The status of all your accounts goes into calculating your credit score. So if something's showing up incorrectly, it could lower your score.
Your account status includes whether the account is currently open or closed. This can affect how much available credit you appear to have. For example, if an account shows as closed but it's still open, it will appear that you have less available credit.
This error category also covers whether your payments are current or late and the reporting of your payments. Make sure none of your accounts show as late or delinquent if you've been paying them on time. Verify that your most recent payments are showing up, keeping in mind that it can take 30 days or more after the payment for it to appear.
If you have authorized users on an account, make sure they show up correctly. Likewise, if you removed a user, verify that their name no longer appears.
It's also a good idea to check the account opening date that's listed. The length of your credit history can impact your credit score. If an incorrect date shortens your history with that account, you could have a lower score.
4. Incorrect balances
Debt balances change all the time. Your loans should steadily decline as you make on-time payments. Credit cards and lines of credit can fluctuate up and down as you use the credit and pay it off.
The exact amount that shows up on the credit report could be slightly different from your current balance. This is due to how long it takes to report payments and new charges, though it should be relatively close to what you see in your actual account.
If you're seeing a balance that's a lot higher than what it should be, there could be a reporting error. This situation makes it appear that you have less available credit. It can skew your debt-to-income ratio if you're applying for a loan.
Another possible error related to balances is the credit limit on your credit cards. Maybe it's appearing higher than what it actually is. This makes it appear that you have more available credit than you actually do.
It could also show up lower than it actually is. In this situation, it looks like you don't have as much available credit. This could throw off your debt utilization ratio.
Any of these balance and limit errors should be reported. Correcting them makes your debt utilization more accurate.
5. Mistakes with data management
Listen, everyone's human, including the people working for lenders and creditors. That means they can make clerical errors that filter down to your credit report.
One example of this is a duplication error. That means you're seeing a valid account that's yours, but it's showing up twice. This makes it appear like you have more debt than you do.
This sometimes happens if your debt ends up moving to a different company. You could see the account listed under the old company and the new one.
Found an error? This is what to do
What should you do if you spot errors on a credit report? What you shouldn't do is panic.
It can be concerning, especially if you think you've been a victim of identity theft, but you can get credit reporting errors fixed.
First, make sure it's truly a mistake. Pull up your online account and gather other evidence that shows which piece of information is incorrect. You'll likely need to show proof of the mistake when you dispute it.
Reporting to the credit bureaus
Now, you're ready to file your dispute. It's easier than ever with the three major credit reporting bureaus. All three offer online submission forms.
To submit the dispute, you'll enter your personal information. The bureau will then respond within 30 days of you submitting the information. Then, they'll make the changes.
If the credit bureau agrees with your dispute, it might take them a bit to reflect the changes. Keep checking back to see if the new information shows.
Reporting to the information provider
You can also report the issue to the lender or creditor. This can be effective if they're the source of the error.
Be ready to provide the evidence that proves you're right and they're wrong. Just don't gloat too much when you point out the error. Customer service reps are almost always more willing to work with you when you're kind.
Keep in mind that the corrections will take a bit to show on your credit report. The creditor only reports at certain times of the month. Follow up in a few months to see if your report shows the accurate info.
Options if you don't like the outcome
What happens if your dispute doesn't come back in your favor? You still have other options to deal with the situation.
First, you can file the dispute again. If you go this route, you should have new, solid evidence that shows why you're right. If you just submit the same info, you'll probably get the same results.
If you feel like the credit reporting agency dropped the ball, you can file a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission.
Finally, you can file a statement of dispute with the credit reporting bureau. This is a statement of up to 100 words that explains your side of things. When a creditor runs your report, they'll see this statement.
Cleaning up credit report errors
Ready to tackle your credit report errors? It's really not as difficult as it might seem.
Finding the errors can be a little time-consuming, but the three major bureaus make it simple to report errors with their online dispute options.
Simply report the errors and sit back while the bureau handles the mistakes. Don't forget to check back in a month to learn the outcome and make sure the changes show up on your report.
If you're trying to build your credit, consider applying for a Varo Believe Credit Card.¹ Between fixing credit report errors and improving your credit history, you can take the necessary steps to watch your score steadily climb.
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