The accuracy of your credit report can significantly affect your financial future and can determine if you are approved for future credit. Proper and savvy use of credit as a financial tool is crucial.
The US Federal Trade Commission (FTC) reports that approximately 19% of all credit reports have some sort of error. About 25% of those errors were substantial enough to affect the overall credit score. Disputes can be filed, and corrections made, but an FTC study also indicates that approximately 70% of consumers do not fix all errors.
Errors can originate with any of the participants of the reporting process, either creditors, the bureaus themselves, or consumers. The most common errors involve identity and credit lines erroneously listed under an identity number. Identity errors can be a misspelling of names or an inaccurate address. Sometimes that happens due to poor handwriting or data entry. Another identity error can be caused by the inaccurate use of a maiden name after the name has been legally changed. Accounts that have been closed and still appear as open or past due or accounts that misstate credit amounts have the greatest impact on an overall score. Credit utilization, the amount of credit used compared to total amount of credit available, is a major factor in calculating a credit score.
Disputing credit report errors can become a tangled and time-consuming battle. It’s smart to be proactive. There are some simple actions that savvy consumers can take to avoid errors and save themselves a headache.
Pay on Time
It seems easy. Pay your bills on time, as specified by the due date. It is the best and simplest way to efficiently manage your credit health.
Manage Your Use of Credit
This is referred to as Credit Utilization, and this calculation is approximately 30% of a credit score, the second highest factor. Consumers should know the status of their accounts and periodically confirm credit limits on open accounts.
Review Credit Reports from all Three Credit Bureaus
This will confirm the accuracy of identifying information. This action also confirms the status of all accounts, open or closed, as well as credit limits and utilization. This listing would warn the observer if there are accounts misreported either by unintentional error or identity theft. A common error found during review is old accounts reported as still active. In the event that credit is denied, the consumer is entitled to access their credit report at no charge.
Be Proactive Against Identity Theft
Proactive actions include collecting mail promptly and discarding it effectively, which might include shredding financial items. Stop junk mail by being removed from mailing lists. Consumers can register on the National Do Not Mail List to stop unsolicited mail.
Identity theft is a growing concern and a valid concern. If a consumer believes their information has been compromised, they can file a fraud alert with the credit reporting bureaus. If a consumer has evidence of identity theft, a police report should be filed to document the incidence. Contacting the credit bureaus with that police department allows the consumer to place a credit freeze at no charge. No credit account can be opened under that social security number while that freeze is in place.