Once you have your reports, look them over for mistakes. Mistakes can be as damaging as negative marks on your credit. There are so many ways that incorrect information could be on your credit report such as identity theft, incorrect names and addresses, and debts incurred by others can sometimes show up on your reports. If you never check your report, you will never notice these mistakes and suffer the consequences.
After you view your reports and notice a mistake, there are steps you can take to dispute the information…
-- Put your dispute in writing and send it via snail mail to all the credit bureaus reporting the error (make sure to send COPIES; not originals of anything you send). Keep the original letters for your personal records and issue copies to the bureaus.
Here is a sample dispute letter from the Federal Trade Commission:
Sample Dispute Letter
Your Address, City, State, Zip Code
Name of Company
City, State, Zip Code
Dear Sir or Madam:
I am writing to dispute the following information in my file. I have circled the items I dispute on the attached copy of the report I received.
This item (identify item(s) disputed by name of source, such as creditors or tax court, and identify type of item, such as credit account, judgment, etc.) is (inaccurate or incomplete) because (describe what is inaccurate or incomplete and why). I am requesting that the item be removed (or request another specific change) to correct the information.
Enclosed are copies of (use this sentence if applicable and describe any enclosed documentation, such as payment records and court documents) supporting my position. Please reinvestigate this (these) matter(s) and (delete or correct) the disputed item(s) as soon as possible.
Enclosures: (List what you are enclosing.)
-- The credit bureaus won't necessarily inform your creditor that you're disputing something it reported, like a claim that you didn't pay your bill. Send a return-receipt-requested letter to the company that reported the error to the credit bureaus.
-- You're entitled to the results of the investigation in writing and a free copy of your report if changes have been made, and it won't count toward your total of free annual reports. Know your rights: you can ask the credit bureau to send correction notices to anyone who received your report in the last six months, and the corrected copy can be sent to an employer who received a copy of your report over the past two years.
-- Make sure to request and keep a copy of a letter from the collection agencies incase record of your debt payments have been satisfied. Sometimes debts get sold and resold and without this proof, you will have problems proving you satisfied the debt.
It’s a good idea to either check all 3 bureaus once a year, or to spread them out and view one every 4 months.
When is the last time you checked your credit report?