Do You Need to Fix Your Credit Score?
Is your credit score lower than what it should be? Maybe it isn’t your fault. According to the Federal Trade Commission, one in 20 Americans could have a significant error on their credit report, affecting mortgage rates, car loans, personal lines of credit, and security clearances.
The three big credit bureaus TransUnion, Experian and Equifax (www.transunion.com, www.experian.com, www.equifax.com to request reports from each bureau individually) often have different scores and different reports for each person, so it is important to verify that they information they have on us is correct.
We are entitled to a free credit report (not score) every year. One way to access that report is at annualcreditreport.com. The credit bureaus are required to give you the information, but they do not make it easy to get the report for free, so persevere and be patient when navigating the bewildering sites.
Common errors include late payment reporting on your accounts, address and name variations, and debts that are not yours.
If you think you may be a victim of identity theft, call all of the bureaus and ask for a fraud alert on your file. To report it to the federal government go to www.ftc.gov/idtheft.
Correcting problems can be a painstaking effort, especially since confusion, such as a common name with a similar Social Security Number, can cause repeated problems. (There is currently someone in Pennsylvania with my name who bought property using my Social Security. It took four years for the credit bureaus to remove that debt.)
If you find an error, print out the report, highlight the problem, and attach supporting documenting showing the problem. Make it easy for the people at the credit bureaus to figure out the problem and fix it.
There is more on how to be smart with finances in Money Smart: How Not to Buy Cat Food When You Don’t Have a Cat here.