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Correcting errors on credit reports

There are standard procedures to get rid of mistakes on your credit report.

But, remember that erasing report errors can take time. As the wheels of correction grind slowly, there may be weeks -- or even months -- of phone calls and exchanging of real mail or e-mail.

If you believe an error was made by a company you've done business with:

  • Contact the company directly, asking that a written statement of the error be sent to all three credit bureaus.

  • Make sure you follow up with all three credit bureaus to guarantee that the changes have been made by the merchant.
  • Make photocopies of any documentation that supports your claim.
  • Write a letter to each credit bureau that lists the mistake, stating what is wrong, including your full name, your middle name, address, date of birth and Social Security number. Always remember to note whether you are a junior or senior (Jr./Sr.).

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If your name is mixed up with someone else's, include a copy of your birth certificate. If there is an inscrutable error, such as confusion with another person of the same name, the process can be quite lengthy. Mistaken identities take a long time to clear up on a credit report; however, you are entitled to submit a 100-word or less statement to each credit bureau explaining the situation. It's a good idea to send it by certified mail, with a return receipt. Your statement will be included with the credit report when anyone makes an inquiry into your file, and it may help ease things while the problem is being worked out.

If you disagree with a credit bureau's findings, you also may insert a statement in your credit report without a charge. The statement must be included every time the report is sent out. Send the letter by certified mail and keep the receipt and a copy of your letter.

Remember, you do have rights:

  • Under the Fair Credit Reporting Act, the credit bureau is required to solve the problem in a reasonable amount of time, generally 30 days.
  • If you feel that a credit bureau has not responded promptly and fairly to your situation, contact the attorney general of your state or the Federal Trade Commission in Washington at 202-FTC-HELP.

Any correct negative information may remain on the report for no more than seven years from the date of the last activity. Bankruptcies may be reported for 10 years.

If you have mistakes on your report or even if you have real problems, there still are ways to get the loans you want.

-- Updated: Feb. 13, 2004

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