Mistakes on your Credit Report? Here's what to do.

By Natasha Culzac
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Errors and unfair defaults on your credit report can harm your chances of being approved credit. Here's how to fix them.

You go to all that trouble of checking your credit report just to find out that the damn thing’s wrong. Errors and unfair defaults can seriously hamper your credit score and potentially your chances of being approved credit. You can dispute any errors and get them fixed - it’s in the interest of the credit referencing gods to have accurate information. For you, it could mean the difference between a poor score and a great one.

How do errors affect me?

Say, for example, your file says you missed a credit card payment, whereas you know you did, in fact, pay it on time thank you very much. Missed payments are bad news and depending on how many you have, they can scupper your chances of being approved credit in the future. It’s imperative that you get these fixed ASAP. Silly unfair mistakes are not worth loosing credit score points, let's not make this happen! Study these common causes and you'll soon learn how to fix them.

Why might an error be there?

It seems like a lot of the mistakes are due to administrative errors, simply the lender has accidentally failed to update the referencing agencies of your situation. Organisations regularly (often monthly) get in touch with them to let them know stuff like whether you paid your electricity bill on time, or how much of your credit card you’re blasting away. If you do make a mistake, check with the lender whether they will allow you to correct it and resubmit your application. No one likes getting rejected - heres a guide to help you avoid this.

What other errors are there?

They are generally rare, but errors can include having no activity on your credit card when you have indeed been using it or, conversely, activity on your card when you’ve not been using it, meaning you’ve potentially been a victim of fraud.

You might also be down at an address that you’re unfamiliar with (more possible fraud), have credit applications you didn’t make (bloody fraud), or see a balance on a card that shouldn’t be there.

How do I fix them?

Be aware that you may need evidence, such as a receipt or bank statement, to back up any claims you make. An application to get your report changed will be cross-referenced by the agency and the lender, and may be rejected if it doesn’t stand up to scrutiny.

Contact your lender directly and tell them what information is wrong. If they agree, they’ll update all the reference agencies they work with. This is probably the quickest way and they have a month to make those changes for you.

You can, also, raise a query with the credit reference agencies. They will investigate the matter and this may be a good route if the lender is being unhelpful. If you noticed an error on an Experian report call or email them, similarly with Callcredit. With Equifax, you’ll need to alert them online through your account. Unfortunately, it’s only with the lender’s say-so that the credit reference agency can change your report.

When you query something, a ‘notice of dispute’ will be added to that entry so that other lenders, when they credit check you, can see this.

Why might my dispute get rejected?

The error you’re disputing has to be on the lender’s side, in that they’ve stuffed it up somehow. If you’d forgotten to pay your bill because you lost your job, got married and broke a leg, that won’t wash.

If you did miss a payment because you lost your job, or there was some other extenuating circumstance, and you kind of want to explain it a bit, you can issue a ‘notice of correction’ to your credit report. This is a statement from you, no longer than 200 words, which will accompany your credit file, but it doesn’t change the information held and it won’t help your score. Lenders are required to read it when they assess you, but they aren’t obliged to let it affect their decision.

What about unfair defaults?

Lenders don’t usually jump straight into issuing defaults. If you missed a bill, firstly they should have attempted to contact you numerous times to arrange payment.

Sometimes, however, mistakes do happen. Could this correspondence have been going to the wrong address and telephone number or, perhaps, a former partner? Or does the bank have the wrong person entirely?

If the bank sends you a default notice and you think this is unfair, you can escalate this dispute through a credit reference agency or complain to the financial ombudsman.
Here are some examples of where a default notice complaint has been upheld. They include a woman who had a joint loan with an estranged husband. He missed his payments and got into debt, receiving a default on his file. Because they’re married, the bank also gave her a default despite her paying in full and on time.

Top takeaway

It’s worth checking your report for any errors, especially if they’ve been on there a long time. Wrong information, unfair defaults and ‘missed payments’ that you didn’t actually miss, can have a hugely negative effect on your score – don’t let it if none of it even applies to you.

 

By Natasha Culzac

Thanks to a journalistic career history and a childhood at Sylvia Young Theatre School, Natasha has her fingers in a few professional pies, doing her best impression of a model and actor as well as personal finance writer. Outside of work she compulsively watches BBC period dramas and constantly lies to herself that this year will be the year she learns French, once and for all.

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