Your good credit is your key to better deals on everything from leases to mortgages. Good credit is something to cherish and nurture, which is why it’s so maddening when there is a mistake on your credit report. Federal law states that each of the big three credit agencies has to provide a free credit report to every American once a year. So there’s no reason not to be checking your report three times a year (visit annualcreditreport.com).
If you find an erroneous item on your credit report, you need to get the ball rolling on fixing it as soon as possible; it’s a long and arduous process, and your credit will be twisting in the wind in the meantime.
- Contact the vendor who submitted your name to the credit bureau. Ask to see proof that the transaction took place. Consider recording any phone conversations — in Connecticut you must inform the other person; in New York, you do not have to inform the other party.
- Document all of your efforts to take care of the problem at the lowest level before escalating it.
- If the vendor does not do the right thing, it’s time to contact the credit bureaus. There are no phone numbers to call, so you are going to have to write a letter to each one!
- Be sure to include the paper trail you have been creating (copies).
The credit bureaus operate in such an opaque matter, I am not able to tell you how long their decision will take. Anecdotally, I have seen entries taken off of reports in as little as two months…but I’ve also seen people take credit bureaus to court because they would not remove an erroneous, negative entry.
Prevention is the best strategy when it comes to safeguarding your credit score. As they say (and I still don’t know who they are), a rolling stone gathers no moss.