It’s Your Money – Checking the Information on Your Credit Report

Question:

My daughter’s application for a credit card was recently turned down even though she says her credit is good. How can she check the information in her credit report?

Answer:

The U.S. Public Interest Research Group recently released a study http://uspirg.org/ where they found that credit reports often have incorrect information. "Sloppy credit bureau practices" translated into mistakes on credit reports, and the number of errors has increased since studies in the early 1990s began documenting the problem.

Adults in 30 states were surveyed after they ordered their credit reports. By summarizing their responses, USPIRG found that:

Twenty-five percent of the credit reports contained serious errors, such as false delinquencies, that could result in being denied credit.

Fifty-four percent of the credit reports contained personal information that was misspelled, outdated, belonged to a stranger or incorrect for other reasons.

Thirty percent listed credit accounts that had been closed but were listed as open.

Altogether, 79 percent of the credit reports had mistakes of some kind, some very serious.

In Colorado, we have the right to receive a credit report free of charge each year from each of the three credit reporting bureaus. Get copies of your credit report by calling:

TransUnion:     1-800-888-4213

Equifax:     1-800-685-1111

Experian:     1-866-200-6020

If you are anxious to get copies of your credit reports, you can get a free report online from Experian www.experian.com. When you get to the home page, follow basic instructions that will guide you through the steps. Experian warns you that you can only access the report once and suggests that you print or save it to a file. The Experian report summarizes your information into potentially negative items, accounts in good standing, requests for your credit history, and personal information.

For reports from the other two credit agencies, you can get them online but have your credit card ready. You can get all three credit reports at Equifax (www.equifax.com) and TransUnion (www.transunion.com) for $29.95.

The accuracy of information in your credit report is ultimately your responsibility. Taking care of mistakes is not difficult in most situations. When you receive your credit file, you’ll receive a form that will tell you what to do to correct inaccurate information. Send the information by mail and keep a copy.

Ultimately, the only way to protect yourself is to be informed so that you can remedy any potential problems. The Federal Trade Commission recommends you look at your credit report at least once a year.

Judy McKenna, Ph.D., CFP, Family Economics Specialist, Colorado State University Cooperative Extension, mckenna@cahs.colostate.edu, 491-5772