Your credit report is there to give an accurate view of your financial history. If, when checking it, you find false or missing information, at best it can be an inconvenience. At worst, it can damage your credit score and hinder your chances of getting credit in the future.
Finding an error on your credit report is a more common occurrence than you’d think, and often not the fault of the credit holder.
Happily, most of the time there are some easy steps you can take to resolve it and get your credit report back to looking the way it should.
1: Identify the credit report error
Here are some of the most common errors that can occur on a credit report:
Errors such as an incorrect or misspelt name, an outdated phone number or address.
Old or outdated account information
Bear in mind that account statuses or balances aren’t updated with the credit reference agencies in real-time, but if, for instance, you settled an account four months ago and it’s still showing open, it may be an error.
Incorrect credit limits
However, as above, if you’ve asked for your credit limit to be changed recently, it can take six to eight weeks to show up on your report.
New searches or accounts
If there’s something on your credit report that you don’t recognise, it could be a sign of identity theft, so should be looked into as soon as possible.
Mixed account or personal information
This could occur when you and another consumer have a similar name or details (usually this only happens with family-shared homes).
Where the account information shows twice on your report, which could be an administration error.
Routinely checking your credit report will allow you to spot incorrect information before any real damage is done.
If you notice something’s wrong, here’s what to do next.
2: Speak directly to the company
The quickest way to rectify any issues on your report is to go straight to the financial institution from which the information has come.
If, for instance, your account’s status has not been updated, you can check with your bank or lender to see if this information has been reported to the credit agency.
Each lender will have its own method of reporting, so it could be simply a case of waiting another week or two for it to be updated.
If you’re showing as registered at a past address, you’ll need to contact your local council to get your electoral roll information updated.
When disputing any information, make sure you have any documentation on hand as evidence in case it’s needed.
If the company agrees it was an error, they’ll update their records (usually they have one month to do this) and this update will then go out to the credit reference agencies.
3: Raise a dispute
If you’re concerned there’s misleading information on your report, all credit agencies have a dispute process for putting mistakes right. The process for these can be found on the individual credit agency’s website.
Some mistakes are simple to rectify – such as a spelling mistake in your address. For other issues – including account inaccuracies, you may need to raise a dispute.
As the credit agencies don’t own the information they report on, they have to liaise with those who supplied it.
If you submit a dispute with a credit agency, they’ll manage it with the information supplier on your behalf.
Once a dispute has been raised, the company has 21 days to respond, and the credit agency will add a note to your credit report letting any organisation that’s looking know the information is under dispute.
Filing a dispute will have no impact on your score. If the information you are disputing is changed on your report following a dispute, your credit score could change, though.
Whether it goes up, down or stays the same is dependent on the outcome of the dispute. For instance, if you dispute a late payment and it is removed from the report, your score will likely improve.
4: Consider how much time has passed
Usually, financial information stays on your credit report for seven to ten years. Information such as late payments, County Court Judgements (CCJs), defaults or Debt Relief Orders usually stay on file for six years.
However, the more time has passed, the less important it becomes to lenders. If your credit score is good and you’ve kept your finances in order since, it may not be the best use of your time to dispute a late payment from five years ago.
5: What to do if your dispute fails?
If, for any reason, you disagree with the outcome of your dispute, you have a couple of options available.
You could return directly to the credit company in question and ask to raise a complaint or a dispute with them.
Or your other option is to ask the credit reference agency for a note to be added to your credit report. Often called a Notice of Correction, this is usually a short statement that explains the financial discrepancy and explains why it’s there (i.e., if there was a late payment due to unexpected illness).
Remember, a Notice of Correction is only a one-off. If you have a history of missing payments or defaulting over a number of years, this may not be your best solution.
Anyone who’s looking at your credit report with a view to lending you money has a legal obligation to read the Notice of Correction. However, you’ll still have to meet their criteria when they’re deciding whether to accept your application.
6: How long after your dispute can you apply for car finance?
If you’re concerned that information on your credit report could give lenders a misleading impression, it’s a good idea to make sure everything’s in order before you apply for car finance.
This includes getting any accounts brought up to date, registering on the electoral roll and making sure all your repayments are made on time.
Of course, a car can often be a necessity rather than a want. So, if you need to apply for car finance, it’s best to go through a soft credit check.
This is one of two types of credit checks that can be performed. While a hard credit check can be seen by other lenders, a soft check is private and won’t show up on your credit report or damage your score.
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7: Following your dispute
Errors on consumer credit reports can all too often be a common occurrence. It’s important to keep checking your credit report regularly, as even one small administrative mistake can negatively impact your score.
With your credit report used in many different ways, from verifying your identity to evaluating your creditworthiness, regularly reading your report can ensure that if something doesn’t belong there, you can follow these steps to ensure it’s quickly sorted with no harm to your score.