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It's tough being a first-time buyer in today's housing market. Don't make it even harder (or more expensive) for yourself by making these common mistakes.
How do I remove errors or address negative, but accurate, information on my credit report?
1. Check the identifying information.
The first step you take is to review the information on your report, beginning with the identifying information. Make sure that your complete name, social security number, driver’s license number and current (and former) addresses are listed. Consumers, especially those with common names, often find their identity has been crossed with another consumer with a similar name. Or, one digit in a social security number could be incorrect. If you find any errors in this section, contact the credit bureau immediately. The best way to contact the bureaus and/or creditors is by letter. In fact, the bureaus often provide a form for you to report incorrect data. Create a paper trail by keeping a copy for your records. You should also keep a copy of the response you receive from the bureau or creditor. Note that you may have to provide proof, such as a copy of your birth certificate or social security card, before any corrections will be made.
However, if you choose to make contact by phone, make sure you get the name of the person you speak to and the date of the phone call. Make a note summarizing the conversation. You can also initiate contact online using the website addresses provided above. Be sure to print your requests and their responses for your records.
2. Check the account information.
Now that you have reviewed your identifying information, it’s time to look at each of the account entries. Although, credit reports can be very difficult to understand, the report usually includes instructions on how to read it. Often, the consumer agency will provide a number for you to call if you have difficulty understanding the report. Do not hesitate on using any services they provide because the data on credit reports can be very confusing.
Examine the report closely using the codes the credit bureau provides. Each entry should contain the following data:
Comments - (e.g. account closed per consumer, account closed or sold, etc.)
Use the codes the credit bureau provides to analyze each account. For example, late payments are designated as 30-2, 60-1, 90-1, etc. These codes mean payments on the account were over 30 days late twice, more than 60 days late one time and 90 days late on another occasion. The credit bureau may also assign letters to note the status of the account ranging from A (excellent) to I (poor). These codes may differ from one credit bureau to another so make sure you read the explanations for each bureau.
The accounts with accurately reported information should be noted. If they are in good standing, resolve to continue to manage them effectively. If the account shows any accurate, but negative, information, write out a plan on how you plan to address the negative information.
For instance, if an account lists that during the past 12 months, you had two payments which were more than 30 days late and one payment which was more than 90 days late, you need to contact that creditor to see if they are willing to update the report to reflect more recent and positive payment history by you.
If you run across an account that has incorrect information, circle the errors. The mistakes could include discrepancies such as misreported or unreported payments, accounts that have been paid off but still reflect an outstanding balance or accounts that do not belong to you at all.
Contact the credit bureau immediately so they can remove the erroneous information or provide updated information to reflect an accurate and current account status. Provide detailed information about the incorrect data on your report.
Under the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA), the consumer reporting agency must respond to your request within 30 days after receiving your complaint. If, after its investigation, the agency finds it is unable to verify the information or that the data is inaccurate or incomplete, the agency must either delete or modify the information. If the agency fails to adhere to the guidelines, they may be subject to fines and/or damages. The FCRA is also very helpful to give you a better understanding of your rights as a consumer and the responsibilities of creditors and reporting agencies. View the FCRA in its entirety at www.ftc.gov/os/statutes/031224fcra.