Study finds reports packed with errors
Greetings, and welcome to your annual reminder to see your dentist, get a physical, eat kale, and check your credit report—especially right now.
A new government study just found that some 10 million credit reports likely contain errors serious enough to impact people’s scores. And you know what that means.
A lower score—even a little lower, say from some silly mix-up with your accounts—reduces your earning power. You pay more for all types of credit: loans, mortgages, credit cards. You could even lose out on a job or a place to live.
Even if you’re pretty sure you have great credit, it’s worth getting your free annual report to check—as a slight improvement can put you in a more credit-worthy category.
The trouble is if you get your report and find an error. They’re not so easy to fix, says Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine, who was interviewed for a “60 Minutes” special on credit earlier this month.
“The problem is not that [the credit bureaus] make mistakes, it’s that they won’t fix the mistakes,” DeWine said during the broadcast.
So what’s a solution-oriented, credit-smart gal supposed to do?
Lawmakers and advocates are using the new study to push for credit reforms. Meanwhile, keep a close eye on your credit, and keep reading for tips from Ed Mierzwinski of the U.S. Public Interest Research Group (PIRG), a consumer advocacy organization.
- Contact the credit reporting company and explain, in writing, what you believe to be inaccurate. They are required by law to send you a detailed explanation, usually within 30 days.
- Don’t believe “credit repair doctors.” There’s nothing they can do that you can’t.
- The credit bureaus often outsource their customer service, so be sure to keep detailed records of all communications.
- If you’ve filed a complaint that the credit bureau has refused to resolve, you’ll probably need a lawyer to fight on your behalf. Try the National Association of Consumer Advocates, and search for a lawyer with expertise in credit reporting.
- Be proactive. Examine your report in advance to correct any errors before applying for credit. Mierzwinski recommends doing this 6-months prior, leaving ample time to right your wrongs.
- Visit FTC.gov for more information.