Credit Repair Credit Repair

Removing Negative Records

Finding Omissions and Errors on Your Credit Report

Research shows that approximately 80% of all credit reports include errors. Based on my experience in the industry, I feel that estimate is actually on the low side. Given all of the information that a single entry should accurately report, there are many opportunities for a creditor to make an error (see the section What is Included in Your Credit Report for a complete list). All you need to find is a single error on an entry to initiate a dispute that could help repair your credit. In actuality, you can initiate a credit report dispute even if you don't find a reporting error or omission at all! More on that later.

Here's what to look for when reviewing your credit report for errors and omissions:

  1. Ensure your name is spelled correctly and that only one name appears on your report. If you're a Jr. or II it's easy for the credit bureaus to receive information that actually belongs on Sr.'s or III's report and not yours. Names are also frequently misspelled (like 'Smith' instead of 'Smyth'). Too many misspelled names on your account can cause creditors to be concerned that you may be using aliases to escape a bad credit history, or worse.

    To remove erroneous names or variations of your name that may appear in your credit file, simply send a letter requesting the update, along with copies of your valid driver's license and signed social security card, to the credit bureau asking them to update their records with your current legal name.

    If you have legally changed your name for professional or personal reasons (marriage, for example) and there is bad credit associated with your previous name, you might consider having the old name removed from your credit file using the method described above. This strategy can make it more difficult for the credit bureaus to verify negative accounts associated with your former name. Before you remove a previous name, however, try to make sure that all of your positive accounts are reflected on your reports. Not all creditors report to all three credit bureaus, but if you notice any omissions of positive entries, contact the creditor and ask them to update your report before removing an old name.

  2. Check that your Social Security number and birth date are correct. The last thing you want is someone else's credit history associated with your credit file.

  3. Make sure your address(es) are correct. Incorrect addresses can lead to incorrect information in your credit file.

  4. See if there are any accounts listed that are not yours. If you have never done business with a bank or store listed on your report, either someone else's credit erroneously ended up in your file because of a misspelled name or incorrect Social Security number, or worse, your identity may have been stolen and someone is using your information and credit.

  5. Identify the accounts that list negative activity and review those accounts in detail for any missing or inaccurate information you can dispute.

  6. Look for any account balance histories that are not up to date. Check to see whether a lender has updated the status of a negative account to reflect recent positive activity.

  7. Search for any duplicate accounts (especially collection accounts). Accounts may be duplicated when a lender issues different types of credit accounts, like revolving and installment accounts, or when you change addresses and the creditor incorrectly creates a second account number associated with your new address even though you really only have one account.

  8. Often you will find duplicate listings for collection accounts. When a lender writes off a non-collectable debt, they sell the account to a debt collector. Both the charge-off account and the collection account will be listed on your credit report. However, if the collection agency that purchased your debt then sells the account to another collection agency, only the latest collection agency account should appear in the file; the older one should be removed.

    One exception, however, is a student loan. Student loans are often reported more than once on your credit file because each loan is reported as a separate loan for each enrollment period, such as each semester or year you were in college.

  9. Determine if any discharged debts are reported as charge-offs. In a bankruptcy, when debts are discharged the debt balance becomes zero. The credit report entry should indicate the debt was discharged under the bankruptcy chapter. If a discharged debt is recorded as a charge-off it should be removed and/or updated.

  10. Look for any closed overdraft protection accounts. Lines of credit established as overdraft protection accounts are sometimes reported to the credit bureaus. If the account for which the line of credit was established to protect has been closed, this data should be completely removed from your credit file. Obviously, this kind of account can remain if it is a positive account.

  11. Search for any debt that is the responsibility of an ex-spouse. If you incur debt from a joint account held during a marriage, the data will appear on both spouses' credit reports. After a divorce, the original debt will still appear on both parties' credit files. However, any debt that is acquired individually by owever, any debt that is acquired individually by an ex-spouse during divorce proceedings should only appear on that person's credit report.

  12. Review all the positive accounts and determine if any are missing. Make a list of any missing accounts you would like to have added to your credit report to help boost your credit score.

  13. Compare each of your three credit reports. Make note of accounts that do not have matching information on all reports. Also note any accounts listed on one of your credit files that are missing from one or more of the other credit reports. You can choose to dispute these non-matching and/or missing accounts.

> The Dispute Process