The Good, The Bad And The Ugly Of Fixing Credit Report Errors

A great way to improve your credit score is to get rid of errors on your credit report that are dragging you down, but how do you start?

Well there’s two ways, the easy way and the hard way. In the easy way, you simply go to annualcreditreport.com and check out your free credit report from all of the bureaus. Look through your credit history. If there’s anything amiss, there should be a link next to it or on the page to file a dispute. As long as the creditor doesn’t disagree, the error is gone within 3 months. And if that doesn’t work, there’s the hard way, where you have to keep detailed documentation as you go between bureaur and furnisher, pressing your case. In the worst case, you may have to go to trial to get an error removed.

For a good look at each step of how the hard way works, check out “How to complain about: credit report errors” over at The Red Tape Chronicles.

How to complain about: credit report errors [Red Tape Chronicles]

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  1. WeAre138 says:

    I have given up on trying to maintain a good score.

    A while ago, out of frustration of rising interest rates and hidden fees, I cancelled all of my credit cards. Before that, I was sitting around 730. Now I’m under 620. I have no negative marks on my credit report. Now I get denied for everything. Apparently, paying on a mortgage and 2 car loans (never late) for a long time isn’t good enough.

    People say “just get a few easy-to-get credit cards to get your score back up.” I’ve tried but even they decline my app. F’em, I’ll just keep paying cash for everything.

    • bloggerX says:

      @WeAre138: Cash and Carry seems to be the way to go nowadays for many people.

      • WeAre138 says:

        @bloggerX: I agree. Really, the only reason I know that my credit score went south recently was when I tried to get my house refinanced and was shocked when they told me score was too low.

    • Jonbo298 says:

      @WeAre138: Unfortuantely, a Secure Credit Card may be the only option for you at this point, as it was for me with my trashed credit due to medical bills (now resolved but damage is done). 6 months in so far, and I’ve yet to be late and eventually I’ll see the money back when I get “graduated” to a standard credit card after a year of on time payments.

      Not that I want to abuse credit anyways but since it’s essentially necessary to get anywhere on a loan, I have to at least have something on record.

      • WeAre138 says:

        @Jonbo298: I haven’t tried the secure credit card – I’ll look it up. Thanks.

        • bloggerX says:

          @WeAre138: I think the way it works is you secure the card with a CD or a pledge on a savings account, the interest rate may be lower as well.

        • Jonbo298 says:

          @WeAre138: Only “minor” downside to a Secure Credit Card is that you have to foot the money upfront as your credit limit but after a year most companies send it back (my bank does at least).

      • AustinTXProgrammer says:

        @Jonbo298: I have been denied a secured card, but clearly that wouldn’t happen without negatives.

        Go to a credit union, they have secured cards that won’t bleed you with fees. Give it 6 months and you can be back on top (since you still have the mortgage and cars, restoring balance will help and account age shouldn’t be a big problem).

    • labeled says:

      @WeAre138: How are those old cards reporting on your reports? That might be what’s dragging you down – under 620ish is low for a mortgage and two car loans that’re up to date. (I know, I was there too – I actually had no score for a bit when we sold our house and paid off our car loan.) It sounds like something is hanging around in there that’s causing a problem, other than the lack of revolving credit.

      You might consider joining a good credit union (either local or one of the good nationwide ones) as they’ll frequently actually – gasp – listen to you and do a manual review.

      • WeAre138 says:

        @labeled: I just followed the link for my free credit report. I tried the equifax one. The only two items showing in my negative accounts is my last mortgage, which I paid off when I sold the house and my student loan, also paid off. Never late on both these accounts, yet they are in negative?

        The credit cards I cancelled are showing up as “Closed” and “Paid as agreed” with a $0. I click on details and it shows all green for 81+ months for payments on time (no lates).

        • FDCPAGuy says:

          @WeAre138:

          Something isn’t right on the raw data of those accounts if they are hitting as a negative. There might be a remark somewhere in the tradeline causing that. Unfortunately without it in front of me I’d have no way to know for sure.

        • labeled says:

          @WeAre138: Agree 100% with FDCPAGuy, something is screwy. You might want to head over to creditboards.com/forums – the members there can help you sort out what the problem might be.

    • Rectilinear Propagation says:

      Apparently, paying on a mortgage and 2 car loans (never late) for a long time isn’t good enough.

      @WeAre138: It kills me every time someone insists that you don’t need a credit score to get a loan if you’ve paid bills on time. It comes up in almost every post about credit scores.

      Pics or it didn’t happen.

    • mac-phisto says:

      @WeAre138: i would steer clear of secured credit cards – many of them are laden with b.s. fees. instead, find a local credit union that offers credit cards & sit down with their loan officer. many times, they will manually review your report with you & may offer you a card despite your score. they might even help you determine why the accounts are showing as negatives.

      • WeAre138 says:

        @mac-phisto: I might just try this. I didn’t know there were people out there that actually your actual track record of financial responsibility instead of just taking a score as the truth.

  2. theblackdog says:

    I’ve given up on trying to fix my report. Since my dad has a similar name, I have one of his credit cards on my report and Chase came back in the dispute and said that yeah, the information was legit.

    Never mind that he got the card in ’79, and I was born in ’82.

    Good thing my dad isn’t a deadbeat about his bills.

    • WeAre138 says:

      @theblackdog: Wow – what a bunch of idiots. In debt before you were born.

    • castlecraver says:

      @theblackdog: I’ve had two of my father’s accounts on my report for as long as I can remember. Had them removed through the dispute processes twice, only to show up again later. He died back in January. Foolish of me to get my hopes up that they might finally disappear for good. Nope. Still there.

      One dates back to when I would have been about 5 years old. He too had exemplary credit, and I’ve kind of given up on getting them removed. The credit bureaus only wield power over our lives if we let them, and I for one am not going to get my blood pressure up over it. I’m well capitalized, and have excellent credit with or without the errors — if someone has a problem with my credit report, I’ll do business with someone else. I’m a person, not a piece of paper. And I can tell you more about me and my ability to repay you than some clueless credit bureau. Hopefully, in the fallout of all this willy-nilly lending, lenders will learn to do a little more of their own research and not trust some third party who only cares about getting paid for their bad information.

      • cybrbanana says:

        @castlecraver: You might want to dispute the two accounts simply because your father is deceased. You don’t want to be in a situation where you are accused of being “dead,” and/or participating in identity theft simply because a credit agency reports that as a status. (This happened to a woman who had a deceased daughter in the documentary Maxed Out.)

        • castlecraver says:

          @cybrbanana: You’re probably right, but I keep thinking that if they couldn’t handle straightening it all out based on the fact I’m not him, its likely to be even more difficult to fix now that the person I’m not is dead. Both accounts were showing up as “closed” (and had been reported that way before he died), and I haven’t had any problems with my own accounts. So hopefully eventually they’ll just time-out? 7 years after closing or something?

    • mac-phisto says:

      @theblackdog: I’M IN THE SAME FREAKIN BOAT!!!

      & the worst part? i thought i fixed this all the last time i went thru all this crap 4 years ago. he’s been dead for 11 years & i’m still showing some really stupid shit, like:
      - a credit card opened 7 years before i was born
      - a mortgage when i was 4
      - another one when i was 10
      - another one when i was 14
      - student loans when i was 7 (i was a child prodigy) ;)

      the list goes on & on. last time i tried to fix this, it took me 6 months of back & forth & i really don’t feel like fixing it again. why is it my responsibility to make sure this shit is correct? & 11 years after he passed? so much for 7 years to fall off, right?

    • bohemian says:

      @theblackdog: I gave up also. I had one specific item that was some fly by night collection agency claiming I had an unpaid Verizon bill. Verizon swears all of my accounts are in good standing. I disputed it and all they did was ask the collection agency if it was a legit charge.

      I should not have to take someone to court to get a mark off my credit report.

  3. Anonymous says:

    How does one correct SS number and address errors? On my report, I have multiple SS numbers and a couple of addresses listed I’ve never lived at (one is 2 doors down).

  4. citking says:

    I was in the army 96-99. Since I was in a “rapid deployment” unit we had our personal info tattooed all over our duffel bags: Name, SSN, unit. Someone, somewhere, went up and down the row of bags copying names and SSNs and opened an account in my name on a card that had a 27% APR and a $350 “account activation fee”. By the time I got the first collection call the person had bought a few small things. I told the CC company it was fraud but somewhere on down the line it got turned over to collections. I had the 3 credit bureaus remove it from my credit history rather easily after a 30 day investigation. The hardest part was convincing the agency that the debt was bad and they couldn’t collect anymore. I just changed my phone number and eventually moved so they lost contact with me. On my report there is no trace of the card anymore so it worked.

    • heybtbm says:

      @citking:

      Often, collection agencies don’t care if they have the wrong person or not. They just want the money. Consider yourself “lucky”.

      When fixing an credit report error, the credit agency only tries to confirm the identity of the person to the collection agency. The collecting people can simply say, “Yup, that’s the guy” and keep trying to collect. There is no reason (other than to loose potential money) for them to be honest.

      • FDCPAGuy says:

        @heybtbm:

        There is a reason for them not to lie. Use the method of verification request to the bureaus to show the collector verified identity and with what info and then sue the collector since you can show it’s not an error.

      • The_IT_Crone says:

        @heybtbm: Very true. A know that a lot of people pay the debt that they do not owe JUST TO STOP BEING HARASSED.

        Ugh.

  5. heybtbm says:

    While running our credit for a mortgage application, we uncovered a huge error on my wife’s Experian report. It had two other people (with her same maiden name) linked. Of course these other women were in default, collections and owed $50,000+ to various places.

    We routinely would check one credit report a year and Experian was the one we hadn’t checked for the past 3 years. The Experian phone number on the credit report the bank gave us was worthless. The automated “dispute” service on their website was equally worthless and kept insisting there was no problem (even though there were 3 different SSN’s on her report).

    In the end I got the “real” number for Experian that goes to a “real” human on the other end. The report was fixed later that same day. We got her corrected report via e-mail the next day. Done and done.

    The funny thing is the bank wasn’t even that concerned. Since the other two credit agencies had her correct score, they said they would just go with those numbers. It’s funny that everyone freaks out over credit scores when in the end…it often comes down to just one person at the bank saying, “yes, we will give you money” or “no, we won’t give you money”.

    • FDCPAGuy says:

      @heybtbm:
      Yes most (if not all) mortgage banks look at the middle score of a borrower and for a joint loan use the lowest of the middle between both borrowers.

      Mixed files are fun (not really). I deal with them every day.

    • scoosdad says:

      @heybtbm: Huh, now I had a very recent experience with Experian that was quite the opposite. I reviewed my Experian credit report last Thursday, noticed a mistake in them reporting the reason why an account had been recently closed, I reported it online via their web dispute service, and I had resolution to it (to my satisfaction) a day later. Checked my online report again, and it was correct.

      Sounds like once you got to a real person, your problem was dealt with at the same speed as mine. Difference was, the web interface did the trick for me.

      My only beef with their online dispute reporting service was the ridiculously small amount of text allowed in their text box to describe the reason for the dispute. Their form says it was limited to 120 characters (too small for most garden-variety disputes) but in actuality, it would only accept less than half that. I went a little bit crazy trying to abbreviate and “txt-ize” my message so it would fit. I almost gave up. Ended up looking like a disemvoweled message here bt I gss thy fgrd it t.

      • labeled says:

        @scoosdad: Just FYI, they don’t read your descriptions at all if you dispute online – everything is kicked through the e-oscar system, and verified or not via computer programming.

      • mac-phisto says:

        @scoosdad: make sure you check up on it in about 6 months. CRAs are notorious for what’s called a “soft delete”. they temporarily remove the offending error & then revert it back. this happened to me quite a few times while i was trying to get my deceased father’s info off my report (& as a noted above, it’s back AGAIN).

        • howie_in_az says:

          @mac-phisto: Isn’t that a blatant violation of the FCRA?

          • mac-phisto says:

            @howie_in_az: oh, i’m quite sure it is, but what exactly can one do about it? the deck’s stacked & unless someone is willing to go thru litigation, all you can really do is play by their rules. even litigation’s not a magic bullet. i remember reading not too long ago on a credit/money blog (i can’t remember which one – creditmatters or simpledollar or something like that) that although the writer won a lawsuit for incorrect information on her report, that info was popping up on her report again a couple years later.

            i wish i had the link to that article – i did a pretty extensive search, but i can’t seem to zero in on the right keywords.

          • scoosdad says:

            @howie_in_az: Well I did a time/date stamped screen capture and a made a pdf of my updated report. If they do a switcheroo later on, I’ve got proof that it was gone at one time.

  6. larrymac thinks testing should have occurred says:

    Maybe it’s because I’ve got my mortgage and not planning on moving, but I’m not interested in worshipping at the Credit Score altar. By all means, people should pay their bills on time and make sure the reports aren’t contaminated with mistakes, but chasing a mythical number seems fruitless. And according to this AP story, the number you get when you give money to the cute boy band isn’t very useful anyway.

    • scoosdad says:

      @larrymac: I love the quote from Experian in that linked article: “The Experian-developed PLUS Score is easier to use and understand than most credit scores on the market.”

      What’s to use or understand? It’s a freaking number.

  7. Anonymous says:

    WeAre138 is certainly a credit Misfit. You get a credit score based on your credit. If you have no credit, you will not have a good credit score. Cancelling your cards was a bad move because it shortens your credit history, reduces the amount of credit you have, and raises the percentage of credit you utilize, all of which makes your score worse. Even if you don’t like the interest rates, you should have kept the cards and just not use them. …………….. I had to dispute something on my credit report. A student loan reported that I was delinquent, but I wasn’t making payments because I was in deferrment due to being in law school. I didn’t notice the problem until the interest rates for my final law school loan doubled. I filed a dispute, and got a letter 3 days later from TransUnion saying they did an investigation and found no reason to make a change. What kind of investigation can they do in 3 days? So, I filed another dispute, and the same thing happened. Finally I had to write letters to my school, loan processor, and TransUnion, with all my supporting documents, threatening a lawsuit if the problem wasn’t fixed, and sure enough my school got on the loan processor and the loan processor got on TransUnion to make the change. Everyone needs to keep up on their credit report because crap like this happens. In the end it cost me an extra 5% on a student loan I’ll be paying for the next 30 years.

    • WeAre138 says:

      @SagarikaStructus: You’re right about keeping the cards, I should have done that. When I canceled them, I had no idea that it would have such a negative impact. I just got tired of having to call in every time they tried to tack on extra charges and waste 15-30 mins on the phone to get them removed.

      • oneandone says:

        @WeAre138: Same thing here, though I only cancelled 1 card. It was a fit of anger and I had no idea it would affect me also. Lots of people make the same mistake, because it seems like a logical thing to do.

        It sounds like you’re going to be doing things to improve your score – good luck! Don’t be too hard on yourself, since it’s their system that’s wacky.

  8. AluminumFalcon_GitEmSteveDave says:

    Consumerist featured a link to a blog many moons ago that detailed a way to help “reset” your credit score, and it was very good. [makeyournut.com]

  9. WeAre138 says:

    Your credit report has nothing to do with proving you are financially responsible. It simply tells the bank whether or not you are a PROFITABLE customer.

  10. FDCPAGuy says:

    Also I avoid pulling annualcreditreports.com reports prior to filing a dispute. It gives them a longer investigation window (45 vs the standard 30 days). I don’t want them to have more time. I want them to run out of time and remove it.

    • kexline says:

      @FDCPAGuy: I’m missing something … How do you know there’s something to dispute without pulling it? Do they have the shorter window if you pay them for a report instead? Or do you wait until after 45 days, then file a dispute based on an annualcreditreport.com report?

  11. mgy says:

    Why does it take three months to clear out an errant entry on a credit report if it’s not disputed by either party?

  12. Galactica says:

    I’ve been up and down the credit score ladder. From high 700s, down to 500. Divorce will do that. I now have about a C level credit. That’s fine. I can still get financed for some things, but no huge credit lines. That’s good for me.

  13. Paul Morgan says:

    I just had a mistake cleared from my report. TransUnion had some medical services thing knocking my score down 100+ points. Called the collection agency. Not the same name, SS# OR state of residence.

    Filed the dispute online. TransUnion sent me a link, saying I could see the results. No information about my dispute, but plenty of info about how to subscribe to their credit monitoring service.

    So I have to call. Guy is foreign and generally confused, but we get it worked out. Then he goes on a long sell for their credit monitoring service.

    So, anyone think I need a credit monitoring service from TransUnion to make sure TransUnion doesn’t screw up my credit report?

  14. howie_in_az says:

    I’m in two disputes now, one with Wachovia and the other with Nationwide. Wachovia says I was 30 days late on a loan they illegally reversed the terms of but have already sent out notices to the agencies saying I was never late… so now I have to dispute things with the agencies themselves. Interestingly, Experian and Equifax both show my “late” payment in December, but TransUnion shows me being late in May. I’m starting to think TU is the short-bus version of my credit report.

    Nationwide says 3 years ago I was in collections for $70 even though I’ve maintained my policies with them for 9 years. Nastygram fax was sent to my local rep saying it had better be corrected. No response from them as of yet, but they’ve got 20 days before I sue by the powarz of the FCRA (and switch to another insurance co).

    It’s disgusting that errors like this can appear on one’s report and the only thing consumers can do is dispute it. It’s as if the companies have all the power and we have none.

  15. dfwguy says:

    There are legally required options for getting your credit report fixed. There are also very clever people at the credit agencies who know how to meet the letter of the law but still make it very difficult, if at all possible, to repair a mistake. Then they are allowed to advance the outrageous notion that you history of paying things in arrears, (not late but after you have accrued interest) like your mortgage, somehow have an effect on something you pay in advance (car insurance).
    When do we all say enough and show up at the offices of Experian and the others with our pitchforks, clubs, and torches to introduce a bit of school of hard knocks education to them?

  16. econobiker says:

    Also watch out for notorious “collection agencies” like Palisades Collection which bought a boat load of consumer info from former AT&T cell accounts and issued fake no-pay info on these accounts or reactivated zombie debt that was charged off in bankrupty etc.

    People who never even had any balance when they ended their service would get negative reports from Palisades. Supposedly it is easy to clean up but beware if you have had a little shaky credit in the past that it may not be legit reporting at all- just lies.

  17. wellfleet says:

    This credit score thing is suck a sucker’s game. People who have to borrow get rewarded while people who have zero debt and never had a need to borrow get shafted. My college was paid for before I even got my degree, I’ve always spent less than I earned, paid all my bills on time, and just never opened any lines of credit in the US. Then, tried to get approved for a car loan, and it’s like I don’t exist. I have high income, zero dollars in debt, great employment history, and I might as well be freakin Bernie Madoff asking for a loan on a gently used Nissan. They said the only way they could approve me was with a 50% down payment and usurious interest. I told them to gently stick it, I would wait. I just could not believe that I was being penalized for never needing to borrow money while making a lot of money.