Your Legal Rights: Study shows 1 in 5 have credit report errorsOne out of five people have errors on their credit report, according to a new study released on February 11, 2013 by the Federal Trade Commission.
By: Minnesota Attorney General Lori Swanson, Alexandria Echo Press
Editor's note: The following is a "Your Legal Rights" column provided by the Office of Minnesota Attorney General Lori Swanson.
One out of five people have errors on their credit report, according to a new study released on February 11, 2013 by the Federal Trade Commission. Even worse, for five percent of people, the errors were serious enough to change their credit risk classification, making it more
expensive to borrow money.
What is a credit report? The major credit bureaus have compiled credit reports on virtually
every American adult. Credit reports include information about a person’s account and
repayment history. Information in a credit report impacts how much a person pays for loans
and other credit and sometimes whether a person can get credit. Insurance companies often use
the information in a person’s credit report to determine how much to charge for automobile and
homeowner’s insurance. Some employers and landlords also access credit reports to determine
whether to give a person a job or rent an apartment. For these reasons, it is important that the
information in a person’s credit report be accurate.
Order your free credit report from the right place.
People should periodically review their credit report to make sure it is accurate, complete, and
mistake-free and that an identity thief has not opened fraudulent accounts in their name. The
Attorney General’s Office recommends that everyone review their free credit report at least once
each year. This will help you detect errors and identify late payments or other transactions that
may lower your credit rating.
Under federal law, everyone is entitled to request a free copy of their credit report once each
year from each of the major national credit bureaus. You may order a free credit report once each
year from each of the major credit bureaus— Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion. These three
credit bureaus have set up a central website, phone number, and mailing address through which
you may order your free annual credit report.
You may order your free annual credit report in any of these three ways:
• By phone: Call 877-322-8228. You should generally receive a credit report ordered by
phone in 15 days.
• Online: Visit the website www.annualcreditreport.com. You should be able to access a
credit report ordered online immediately.
By mail: Write to Annual Credit Report Request Service, P.O. Box 105281, Atlanta, GA
30348-5281. Your report should generally be mailed to you within 15 days after your
request is received.
Avoid look-alike websites that charge you for your credit report.
The official website for ordering your free credit report is www.annualcreditreport.com. There is
no other official website for ordering your free credit report. Other “look-alike” websites claim
to offer free credit reports, when its real purpose is to sign you up for paid services. One website
run by one of the credit bureaus says it offers free credit reports, but it also enrolls people in
“free trial” offers for credit monitoring services and, if the customer doesn’t cancel within the
30-day free trial offer, they get charged a recurring monthly fee.
Fight back if you discover errors in your credit report.
Under the federal Fair Credit Reporting Act, or FCRA, you have some legal protections if you
discover inaccurate or incomplete information in your credit report. If you discover mistakes in
your credit report, you may take these steps to correct them:
1. Write to the credit bureau.
You should write to the credit bureau and point out the mistakes. Your letter should contain
a copy of your credit report with the incorrect information circled or highlighted. Your letter
should explain why you believe the information is incorrect and should include copies of
any documents that support your position. Your letter should ask the credit bureau to fix the
inaccuracy. The credit bureau must then investigate the disputed item, usually within 30 days.
The credit bureau must forward your information to the creditor or other company that supplied
the information, and that company must investigate the dispute and report back to the credit
The credit bureau must give you the written results of the investigation when it is complete. If
the investigation results in a change to your credit report, the credit bureau must supply you with
a free copy of your credit report.
2. Write to the company that supplied the information.
You should also write directly to the creditor or other company that supplied the information you
believe to be inaccurate. Your letter to that company should contain the same information set
forth in your letter to the credit bureau. Your letter should ask the company to fix the inaccuracy
in its own records, in the records of any collection agency to which it referred any alleged debt,
and with the credit bureau.
3. If the credit bureau won’t correct your report, add a statement of dispute.
If the credit bureau refuses to correct your report after conducting an investigation, you may
write to the credit bureau and ask it to include a statement of your dispute in your credit report.
The statement of your dispute must then be included in any future credit reports distributed by
the credit bureau. You may also request the credit bureau to send your statement of dispute to
each creditor that requested your credit report in the last six months.
If a credit bureau or creditor refuses to correct inaccurate, incomplete, or outdated information on
your credit report, you may contact the following offices for help or information:
Office of Minnesota Attorney General Lori Swanson
1400 Bremer Tower
445 Minnesota Street
St. Paul, MN 55101
Federal Trade Commission
Consumer Response Center
1400 Bremer Tower
600 Pennsylvania Avenue Northwest
Washington, D.C. 20580