Having a mistake on your credit report is a fairly common occurrence, and if you’re a credit card churner, there’s more activity on your credit reports which increases the likelihood of a mistake. Typically mistakes aren’t that big of an issue, but they can take time and substantial effort to get the issue rectified. It’s important to check your credit report from both bureaus on a regular basis to monitor for any mistakes. Today’s Sunday Reader Question is: If there’s a mistake on my credit report, what do I do to fix it?
After identifying the issue, and making sure it’s legitimately a mistake, contact the creditor that issued the mistake. You see, credit bureaus like Equifax and Transunion collect data from creditors and simply report it on your file. They are not responsible for the content. The only party that can fix the issue is the creditor who made the mistake. Contact them and make a complaint. Check your bank’s official complaint process, which usually requires sending a letter.
If the response from the creditor is not positive, the next step is to file a dispute with the credit bureau. Once the dispute is filed, the credit bureau will contact the creditor and start an investigation into the accuracy of the data.
You should complete the dispute form for both creditors, assuming the mistake is on both credit reports. Fixing the error on one credit bureau will not fix it on the other. You can access Transunion’s and Equifax’s dispute form online.
If the creditor agrees that there was a mistake after the investigation, the credit bureau has 30 days (exception for Alberta, where the time limit is 90 days) to correct your credit report.
If the credit disputes don’t work, you will have exhausted the mechanisms to rectify the mistake. However, you can place a “consumer statement” on your credit report, which is basically a small note on your report that explains what you believe about the mistake. Send a snail-mail letter to the affected credit bureaus with your statement. You are allowed a maximum number of characters on your statement, which depends on your province of residence.
I doubt this statement will do much good though. Most credit applications are automatically processed, so the computer isn’t reading/considering your consumer statement. The only time the consumer statement will be considered is if your application requires manual processing.
If the mistake is significantly hurting you, you might want to speak with a lawyer to see about other legal remedies.