Correcting credit report errors is crucial, but not always easy
Credit Score Report
Dear Credit Score Report,
have disputed the way my name is listed with Equifax on several occasions. But
they fail to make the correction. Background: My first and last names are the
same as my dad's, but the middle names are completely different. Therefore, I
am not a Jr., II, 2nd or anything. But about 10 to 12 years ago, my name showed
up as first name, middle initial, last name, 2. The suffix "2" just
showed up. I have guessed that a person making an entry saw my dad and my name
on the same screen and just decided to add the "2" assuming it was
the same because I have NEVER entered it like that in my entire life on any
document. Since they cannot show proof that it should be a "2," why
don't they remove it? They should have to show documentation to add the "2,"
just as they say I have to physically document it is not correct. This is a one-sided concept, since theoretically someone making entries into my credit report
could make a typo entry everyday and I would have to send physical proof to the
contrary. (Only sorry American businesses are allowed to do this.) Thank god
for China & Japan putting these businesses "out of business!" This is
unnecessarily burdensome to the consumer.
Question: How can I get this name error corrected
once and for all?
Thank you --
William (without the 2), a pissed off American
Any legitimate errors listed on a consumer's credit report,
like the one you uncovered, can be disputed -- repeatedly, if necessary --
under the law. Still, there's no guarantee it's going away.
Getting your name corrected hasn't been easy. But don't give
up: When it comes to challenging credit report inaccuracies, you've got the law
on your side -- and the right to keep on disputing. "If a consumer
believes that any item of information contained in their credit file is
incomplete or inaccurate, we recommend that they notify
us directly, and we will investigate the item free of charge," says
Equifax spokeswoman Jennifer Costello. "Based on the results of the
investigation, the disputed information may be updated or deleted from the
consumer's credit file."
Equifax, and fellow credit bureaus Experian and TransUnion,
are required to make those changes under the Fair Credit Reporting Act. Once
the bureaus are notified about disputed information on a consumer's credit
report, the bureaus must re-investigate whether the information is accurate. If
it's wrong, the bureau needs to correct the information within 30 days from
learning of the dispute.
The FCRA, however, doesn't require the credit bureau to
explain why the error appeared on your credit report. It could be hard for
Equifax to track down the source of the error, since the bureaus collect,
organize and manage various types of credit, financial and public record
information on consumers. "This information comes from a
variety of sources, such as financial institutions, credit grantors, governmental
entities and consumers," Costello says in an e-mail. "In situations where fathers and sons
share a joint account, have the same name and do not use, for example, a
Jr./Sr. to distinguish themselves from each other, it is possible that account
information (i.e. identifying information) can be reported to both credit
files, particularly when both are living at the same address," she adds. If
a joint or other account may be to blame, you should also contact the lender.
Regardless of how that error showed up, you still want it
removed. "You always want the information in your credit report to be as
up-to-date and accurate as possible," says Steven Katz, spokesman for
TransUnion. With that goal in mind, the
process of challenging an error is important. To get the mistake fixed, experts
say you need go about it the right way:
Put it in
writing. Although you can use the phone or Internet to file a credit report dispute, experts recommend put it in writing. For Equifax written disputes,
mail a letter to:
Equifax Information Services LLC
P.O. Box 740256
Atlanta, GA 30374
- Include documents
that support your argument. Since you want to dispute the way your name is
listed in your Equifax credit report, be sure to include supporting documents
that list your name accurately. These documents could take the form of bank
statements, credit card bills or even your other credit reports. Submit copies,
and retain the originals for your records.
your report again. After re-submitting your dispute (and waiting for about
a month), request another copy of your Equifax credit report and see if the
problem is fixed. Check your other two reports, as well, to see that they don't
include any errors. You may need to pay for the files if
you've already gotten your free annual reports from those bureaus.
written statement. If the error remains, under the terms of the FCRA,
you can submit a written statement of 100 words or fewer explaining your
dispute. "You also can ask the consumer reporting company to provide your
statement to anyone who received a copy of your report in the recent past. You
can expect to pay a fee for this service," the Federal Trade
Commission's website says. "If you tell the information provider that
you dispute an item, a notice of your dispute must be included any time the
information provider reports the item to a consumer reporting company."
By following these steps, you'll be taking full advantage of
the FCRA. "The statutes set out the steps consumers should follow when
disputing information with credit reporting agencies," says Katherine
Armstrong, an attorney with the FTC's Division of Privacy and Identity
It's a dispute worth making -- and sticking with until it
gets resolved. "There's a problem if his name is confused with somebody
else's in providing credit or correcting errors," Armstrong says. That confusion could mean added steps when
applying for a loan. You could, for example, be asked to sign documents when
taking out a mortgage stating that you aren't another "William 2" who
may have had legal or financial problems. Still, banks may have processes in
place to ensure that you won't get turned down for a credit card simply based
on a naming mix-up. "We pull credit reports based on Social Security
numbers and, therefore, a name variation should not impact whether or not we
give credit," says Lisa Westermann, assistant vice president of public
relations with card issuer Wells Fargo.
Since this may not be the last error that appears on your
credit report, continue to review those files regularly. "It's a good idea
for consumers to get their free file disclosures from annualcreditreport.com
each year so they can check for errors and get them corrected," says
See related: How to dispute credit report errors, Free credit reports: How to get the actual free one, How to add a written statement to your credit report, Decade-old credit mistakes shouldn't appear on your report
Jeremy M. Simon is a former CreditCards.com reporter who wrote about credit scoring, economic data, credit card crime and other issues. He is based in Austin, Texas. He is a graduate of Vassar College and has previously worked for Thomson Financial in New York City, where he wrote about the stock markets, and Texas Monthly, as well as several publications in Austin.
Published: October 26, 2010
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