If you’re considering a major purchase like a new home or vehicle, you should look at your credit report first. Many people are surprised to find errors on their report and these errors can lower your credit score and in turn, lower your credit score.
Common errors to look for
FICO, the credit bureau, offers several tips for preventing these unpleasant surprises on your credit report. Here are a few suggestions for avoiding credit report errors and recognizing them:
- Look for someone else’s info on your report. If your name is Stephanie and go by Steph or your full name is Charles and people call you Chuck, be sure that you’re using one name consistently. Otherwise, you may find the info of someone with a similar name on your report.
Similarly, clerical errors or typos in your name or address can lead to inaccurate credit reporting. You should read over every credit application before you submit it, especially if it’s handwritten.
- Make sure past debts are no longer present. Credit bureaus should remove satisfied debts after seven years. If a credit bureau doesn’t clear these debts, they can show your overall debt as higher than it should be.
- Be on the lookout for identity thieves. You should immediately report suspicious activity in case identity thieves have compromised your personal info. Excessive credit inquiries and too many new lines of credit from thieves who stole your info can hurt your credit score. If identity thieves use too much of your credit line, that can also negatively impact your credit score.
How to fix any errors
The good news is that these errors are correctable. Report any inaccuracies to both the credit bureau and the company that reported the account to the bureau. Filing a complaint with the appropriate credit bureau and creditor will cause them to investigate. In your claim, include what the dispute is about, why you dispute it, and whether you want the item removed or corrected. Include copies of any relevant documents. You should hear back within one month.
You work hard to increase your buying power by protecting your credit. It’s a smart idea to periodically review your credit report for errors that can keep you from getting the approval for that big purchase you’re hoping for.