Act Quickly to Correct Credit Report Errors

An error on your credit report can be costly.

The costs may come in the form of higher interest rates on loans or credit cards; higher costs for services such as insurance or cell phones; and even lost employment opportunities.

Finding errors
Credit report errors can be as simple as a misspelled name or an outdated address. Or they may be more serious, such as placing another person's debt on your credit report.

Some errors may be the result of identity theft, which occurs when someone deliberately steals your personal information to gain approval for credit or loans.

To check your credit report for errors, you can get a free copy from each of the three credit reporting agencies once every 12 months by calling 877-322-8228 or going online to annualcreditreport.com. You can check all three companies at the same time, or order a report from a different company every four months to monitor your report throughout the year.

Filing a ‘dispute'
You should "dispute" inaccurate information on your report by contacting the appropriate credit reporting agency.

There are three major credit reporting agencies:


      * Equifax, 800-685-1111, or equifax.com;
      * Experian, 888-397-3742, or experian.com; and
      * TransUnion, 800-916-8800, or transunion.com.


Since errors often appear on more than one report, you may need to contact all three agencies to make corrections.

You also should contact the Federal Trade Commission at 877-382-4357 or online at ftc.gov to get a copy of the publication, "How to Dispute Credit Report Errors."

Document everything
Always document every step you take to fix credit report errors:


      * When making telephone calls, record the time, the date, the name of the representative who handled the call, and any action that resulted.

      * When sending a letter, make copies of all letters and all materials that document your claim. Never send originals. Send materials by certified mail with "return receipt requested."

Be persistent
Credit-reporting agencies are required to investigate disputes and give you a written report of the results. This process typically takes 30 days to 45 days.

In some cases, you may need to work with creditors directly to address inaccurate information.

Throughout the process, it pays to be persistent. By identifying and correcting credit report errors, you can protect both your financial reputation and your pocketbook.

If you have questions about credit report errors, the representatives at Harvard University Credit Union also are available to help.