Checking your credit reports from the three major credit bureaus
is always a good idea. A misdirected bill that has gone to
collections or someone with the same name but bad credit habits
could torpedo your credit score. Disputing an error can be a
hassle, so if the error is minor and your credit score is stellar
(760 or above), you may want to skip the process.
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Start by ordering your TransUnion, �Equifax and
Experian reports from
. You can get a free report from each credit bureau once a year
(you can also request a credit score for $8). If you find an
account that doesn't belong to you or even a misspelling of your
name, you can file a dispute with the credit bureau.
The fastest way to start a dispute is online at the bureau's Web
site. You'll need the report number, and you typically have 30 days
from the time you ordered it to begin a dispute. The bureau sends
your dispute to the reporting party (the lender or collections
agency) to check the accuracy, and the bureau has 30 to 45 days to
get back to you. If you're lucky, the lender will own up to the
error and either modify or remove it. If not, you could take your
dispute directly to the lender, who also has 30 days to investigate
and must show on your credit file that the item is in dispute. If
it admits that the item is incorrect, it's required to report that
fact to all the bureaus to which it furnishes data.
But the lender may say the information is correct, even if you
know it's not. You can request a permanent narrative on your report
noting that you dispute the item. When you apply for a mortgage or
other major loan, submit a letter explaining the dispute.
This article first appeared in
Kiplinger's Personal Finance
magazine. For more help with your personal finances and
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