How to Dispute an Error on Your Credit Report

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Question:

Back in 2002, when I was 13, someone took out a mortgage in my name. When I bought a house in 2009, I found out about it. It’s still on my record, but the bank won’t even tell me what the address is of this other house that I supposedly own. For some reason, it hasn’t negatively affected my score. I’ve talked to lawyers (not much help). What do I do?

Answer:

Don’t worry, it’s not hopeless! It sounds like this might be an error on your credit report. Instead of dealing with banks and lawyers, you need to go directly to the source: the credit bureau reporting the error. Both the credit bureau and the creditor (in this case, the bank that provided the mortgage) are required by the Fair Credit Reporting Act to correct any erroneous reporting. Here are the steps you should take to correct this error:

Disputing An Error On Your Credit Report

Step 1: Get a copy of your credit reports

If you haven’t checked your reports this year, you can get a free copy of your credit report from each of the three credit bureaus—Equifax, Experian and TransUnion—at AnnualCreditReport.com. Check if the mortgage mistake is on all three of your credit reports.

Step 2: Draft a dispute letter to the credit bureau

Send a letter disputing the error to any of the three credit bureaus which reports the mistake on your credit report. When disputing an error, make sure you do it in writing. Send it by certified mail, marked “return receipt requested,” so that you’ll know when it’s reached its destination. The FTC gives great guidelines on how to formulate your dispute letter.

Make sure to be specific about which item you’re disputing and enclose any documents that might support your argument. In your case, consider sending a copy of proof of your date of birth to show that you were too young to be approved for a mortgage in 2002.  Also include a copy of your credit report with the error you are disputing clearly marked. Keep copies of all documents you send.

Step 3: Write the bank to tell them of the error

Send a notice to the bank or mortgage lender involved that you are disputing the mistake on your credit report. Again, make sure you send it by certified mail, marked “return receipt requested,” and file it away with the copy of your dispute letter. Include any supporting documents with this letter as well.

Step 4: Give it some time

It usually takes about 30 days for credit bureaus to dispute and resolve reporting errors on your behalf, and they must forward along the information about the error to the lender or creditor that provided the information. In this case, that means the bank that provided the original mortgage. The bank will then be required to investigate the error and report back the results to the credit bureau.

Step 5: Check up on it

If the information on your report is indeed erroneous, the bank should report that to the credit bureaus so that they can correct the information on your file. Some good news? If the error is corrected on your credit report, the credit bureau is required to provide you with another free copy of your credit report so you can verify the correction.

What if It Doesn’t Work?

If the error isn’t resolved, you can request that a statement about the dispute be added to your file and included in future credit reports. From then on, those who pull your credit report, such as a credit lender or loan provider, will see your statement.

Bottom Line

Thankfully, the error isn’t hurting your credit now. But it might in the future, so take these steps soon to ensure that your credit report correctly represents you. This situation sounds like it may have been a case of identity theft, so also take these additional steps to protect yourself and your information.

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