Mistakes happen. Through not fault of your own, you may discover that your credit report contains inaccurate information.
If the inaccuracy details an open debt that is closed, or was never yours in the first place, this information can be a problem. Sharon, of Greensboro, N.C., ran into just such a problem.
“The University of Phoenix sent me a bill for classes that I took for one semester and I paid the bill off,” Sharon wrote in a post at ConsumerAffairs. “They sent me a receipt saying I had paid in full, which I still have in my possession. Now I get a credit report saying that I owe the University of Phoenix again. I have called the school and they have concurred with my having paid them but still haven't taken the default off of my financial record. What else can I do to resolve this injustice?"
Fixing the problem
There are steps consumers can take to correct their credit report. Sharon's case should be relatively easy, since she possesses a paid receipt and University of Phoenix acknowledges her payment. According to personal finance experts, here's what Sharon should do:
First, she should obtain copies of her credit report from all three credit reporting bureaus – Experian, Trans Union and Equifax. To do that, she should go the completely free Annual Credit Report Request Service at www.AnnualCreditReport.com. She will not have to provide a credit card number or sign up for any kind of service. She may obtain copies of her credit report from each bureau for free once every 12 months.
Next, she should locate the erroneous information on all three reports. It's possible that the inaccurate entry shows up on only one or two of the bureaus' reports. If so, she only has to dispute it with those bureaus.
Filing a dispute
To dispute the entry, Sharon may call the credit bureau, send a certified letter, or even do it at the credit bureau's website. She'll have to provide her personal identification and a description of what is wrong, and what the correct information is. This is where her paid receipt comes in handy. She can provide a copy to bolster her case.
After she files her dispute, the bureau has 30 days to investigate the matter, and a dispute notation will show up on her credit report. The University of Phoenix will have this time to verify the information, and if it can’t prove it’s accurate, the bureau will stop reporting it.
When the credit bureau completes the process, it will Sharon a written report covering what it found, and an updated copy of her credit report if it resulted in any change.
It's a good idea to check your credit reports once a year, looking for inaccurate information that could lower your credit score. Just make sure, when you obtain your reports, you use the official, truly free site, www.AnnualCreditReport.com.