If you pay your bills on time and are responsible with your credit, you’ll usually be rewarded with a good credit score. But recent findings suggest that even if you follow these basic rules, you may still want to take a close look at your report.
A new study by the Federal Trade Commission examined 1,001 consumer credit reports and found that about a quarter of them contained at least one potentially significant error — and about 5 percent of the total reports had an error that could cause the consumer to pay higher interest rates on loans.
While 5 percent may not sound like a lot, The New York Times’ Bucks blog notes that this averages out to about 10 million people who may be paying higher interest rates than necessary on loans.
So what can you do to ensure that your credit report is accurate?
Your first line of defense is to always take advantage of your annual free credit report, which you are entitled to by law. John Ulzheimer, president of consumer education for SmartCredit.com, tells Kiplinger that 96 percent of free credit reports go unclaimed each year. This is because many people only check their credit report when applying for a loan, which can lead to years passing before they notice an error. So make checking your report an annual occurrence, if it’s not already. To get yours, visit AnnualCreditReport.com.
If you do find an error on your credit report, you’ll want to take care of it right away. The Federal Trade Commission advises you to write to the credit reporting agency, flagging the questionable data, and explain what information you believe to be inaccurate. They go on to note that copies of any supporting documentation you can provide — like letters or statements related to the account in question — should also be sent. They also advise notifying the creditor in question that you’re disputing the error.
There can be instances when disputing credit errors doesn’t go as smoothly as you’d hoped. The Washington Post notes that if you have trouble fixing an error through the aforementioned channels, you can call the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau for assistance. Starting in 2012, the federal agency now steps in to assist consumers when they’re unable to resolve errors on their own.
How often do you check your credit report? Have you ever come across an error?