Credit Report Basics
- Your credit report is a snapshot of your credit history that shows all of your credit accounts and the timeliness of your monthly payments towards these accounts. Your credit report contains both positive and negative information; the negative information is what lowers your score and makes your life more difficult. Since credit reports contain so much data, it's easy to see why many people find errors in their credit file. Clearing up these errors requires patience and a keen eye.
Obtaining Your Credit Report
- Though you've likely seen advertisements promoting free credit scores and reports, many of these offers are predatory and require you to sign up for a free trial of a credit monitoring service. The only way to get a truly free credit report is by going to the Annual Credit Report website -- annualcreditreport.com -- and requesting your report. You can obtain one free credit report per year from each of the three major credit bureaus.
Reviewing Your Report
- Once you've received your report, begin going through it to uncover potential errors. As you review your report, circle the items that you feel are incorrect so you can easily refer to them later. Then, go through your records and find documentation that supports your position. This supporting documentation is critical in proving to the credit bureaus that their information is incorrect. When you've got your case ready, send a copy of the report and your documentation to the credit bureau in question.
After Submitting Your Inquiry
- After you've sent in your request for review, your case is in the hands of the credit bureau, which has 30 days to respond to your inquiry. The credit bureau reviews your information, compares it with that of the creditor, and comes to a determination about the information on your credit report. You will receive written notification of the result either way; if your inquiry results in a change to your credit report, you'll receive a new report free of charge. If you don't receive a response within 30 days of the receipt of your inquiry, the item in question should be removed from your credit report.