Fernando writes: I recently got my updated credit report. Among the errors, I found different versions of my name and accounts that I know nothing about in states I do not live in. I have tried writing to these people to get their information correct, even giving them my correct information. The mistakes are still there. How do I go about correcting the information?
Your first instinct to contact the individual companies or creditors to try to correct the errors was a good one. In the case of erroneous names attached to your accounts, the cause is often human error. With the help of an understanding customer service rep, the issue could easily get resolved. (The issue may also be fraudulent, so keep reading.)
The next step you should take is to reach out to the major credit reporting bureaus (Equifax, TransUnion and Experian) that are displaying the errors on your report. You might discover the mistakes are on more than one report. The best way to find out is to get your credit report from each of the major agencies through AnnualCreditReport.com. You can do this once a year for free. “If all three major bureaus are showing the error, you will need to open an incident with each of them. Yes, this is a very painful process, but it’s worth it!” says Rod Ebrahimi, CEO of ReadyforZero.com, a website that provides online tools to help people get out of debt faster.
Here are the links where you can file a dispute online with each: Experian, Equifax, TransUnion.
To write an effective letter, check out the example provided by the Federal Trade Commission. If you choose to send the letter and proof of error via mail, instead of online, make sure to save the originals for yourself and send copies by certified mail, “return receipt requested,” for your records. Credit reporting bureaus usually have up to 30 days to investigate and write back with results along with a free copy of your credit report if updates were made. In many cases they’ll also report their findings to the other credit reporting bureaus.
If the credit bureaus drag their feet and don’t get back to you on time, you can file a complaint with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. “After the complaint is filed, you can log in and view the status at any time,” says Shannon McNay, Community and Customer Support Manager for ReadyForZero.com. “This is a great way to make sure the issue is resolved.”
The Fair Credit Reporting Act also allows you to add a summary explanation to your credit report if you’re not happy with the way your dispute got settled.
A final note: If you suspect that someone may be intentionally using your personal information, put a freeze on your reports, says Ebrahimi. “Once it’s in place, you can be comforted to know that if someone is trying to be malicious they won’t be able to do much more damage,” he says.
To submit a request for a freeze at the individual credit agencies, follow these links: Experian, Equifax, TransUnion.
Send Farnoosh your financial questions on Twitter @Farnoosh or email her FarnooshFinFit@yahoo.com.