Credit Report Errors

by Gary Foreman


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Gary,
I am correcting an item in my credit report. I requested the report from Equifax. Should I also request (and correct) reports from Experian and Trans Union? I can see a situation where I've corrected it with Equifax, but a lender uses a different agency. Do these companies share information?
Curt G.

Curt is right. It is important for him to have accurate information in his credit report. Negative comments could make a big difference in the interest rate he pays for mortgages, car loans and even his credit card balances. And errors are fairly common. Recent studies show that 70% of all credit reports contain at least one error.

As a general rule, it's wise to check your credit report before you apply for credit for a major purchase or yearly. Checking one credit reporting agency should be enough unless you've had some problems. But Curt's case is a little more complicated. To answer his question we need to know a little about credit reports and credit rating agencies (CRAs).

As Curt pointed out there are three major credit rating agencies: Equifax, Experian and Trans Union. CRAs are a two-way street for your information. They collect information from member companies about you and put it in your file. For instance, your credit card company and the people who hold your home mortgage will send in a status report on your bill-paying record. Expect that your major accounts will be reported to all three agencies.

The credit reporting agencies also provide information about you to member companies who request it. So if you apply for an auto loan, the prospective lender will contact a CRA to check you out. The lender can choose to use any of the three CRAs to get your history.

So let's look at Curt's case. For illustration, we'll suppose the problem is with the bank that issued his Visa card. He can expect that problem to show up in all three credit reports since the bank will work with all three agencies.

So will correcting one report take care of the others? It all depends on what changes are made to his report. The first thing for Curt is to deal with the creditor. In this case Visa. Curt will need to see if they are willing to change the information that they're reporting to all three agencies.

Perhaps the dispute is over a late payment and Curt can prove that his check was on time. If Visa agrees that the original information was wrong they're required by law to send a correction to any agency that got the original information. And CRAs are required to share any corrections with each other. So, one correction would solve the problem.

But suppose that Curt and Visa disagree over whether his payment was late. Visa doesn't believe a correction is necessary. They believe the report is accurate as it stands. Curt is allowed to insert remarks into his credit report presenting his side of the dispute. But, since what's being entered isn't a correction, Curt can't count on the Equifax passing it on to the other agencies. If it's an important dispute, he should send his remarks to all three agencies.

He'll want to contact each CRA to find out the proper format for his remarks. He can reach them at:

  • Equifax, PO Box 740241, Atlanta GA 30374-0241; 800-685-1111
  • Experian, PO Box 2002, Allen TX 75013; 888-experian
  • Trans Union, PO Box 1000, Chester PA 19022; 800-916-8800

If Curt feels either the lender or CRA isn't responding he can report them to the Federal Trade Commission. To register a complaint with the FTC call 1-877-FTC-HELP. Curt shouldn't expect a personal reply. The FTC is only looking for a pattern of abuse. They will not get in the middle of Curt's dispute.

So the key for Curt is whether a correction or remarks about a dispute is entered in his report. A correction should be reflected in all three credit reporting agencies. Remarks would need to be handled separately.

In any case, if Curt is about to borrow money he probably should check all three reports. It doesn't take much time or money. And that's really the only way to make sure that incorrect information isn't costing him extra interest.


Gary Foreman

Gary Foreman is a former financial planner and purchasing manager who founded The Dollar Stretcher.com website and newsletters in 1996. He's been featured in MSN Money, Yahoo Finance, Fox Business, The Nightly Business Report, US News Money and he's a regular contributor to CreditCards.com. You can follow Gary on Twitter or visit Gary Foreman on Google+. Gary is also available for audio, video or print interviews. For more info see his media page.

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