What to look for

Inaccuracies in reporting

How do credit report errors happen?

Credit report errors can happen when data entry errors are made by a creditor who supplies account information to a nationwide consumer credit reporting company. They can also happen when a person is a victim of identity theft or when people have common names, and similar Social Security Numbers, birth dates, or addresses.

How can I prevent errors on my credit report?

Monitoring your credit report regularly is the single best way to spot errors. You can review your credit report from Equifax, Experian and TransUnion for free once every 12 months through this website and you can dispute any inaccuracies for free.

When applying for credit, always provide as much personal identification information as possible on the credit application. If you prefer to go by a nickname, be sure to stay consistent, but be aware that the more name variations in your credit report, the more likely errors can happen.

Make sure your creditors have current and complete address information for you.

Examine your bills carefully to make sure that the charges are yours and that balances are correctly shown.

Can companies that promise to clean up my credit report really do that?

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) say that you should be wary of companies that claim they can repair your credit. These companies are commonly called credit clinics. They don't do anything for you that you can't do on your own for free.

Beware of organizations that offer to create a new identity and credit report for you. The FTC, CFPB, and state attorneys general have filed legal actions against some of these organizations. The FTC, CFPB, and others warn that the following claims or actions signal that you may be dealing with a credit clinic:

  • The company asks for money up front and charges you before they've performed their services.
  • The company guarantees to remove late payments, bankruptcies, or similar information from a credit report.
  • The company charges a lot of money to repair credit.
  • The company asks you to write to the credit reporting company to verify the same credit account information in the file, over and over, even after the information has been determined to be correct.
  • The company doesn't want to or can't provide a business address.
  • The company pushes you to decide to engage them right away.

For additional helpful information about credit clinics, please visit the CFPB's website or the FTC's website.

What is a mixed file?

A mixed file is when the credit files of two or more people are unintentionally combined in a credit reporting company's database. This can result in errors in name, phone, address and/or credit information. It may happen to people who have common names or similar Social Security Numbers, birth dates, or addresses.

What can I do if I believe that I have a mixed file?

If you believe your information has been mixed with someone else's, you should:

  • Submit a dispute with all of the credit reporting companies that have incorrect information on your credit report
  • Identify the information that doesn't belong to you. This may include addresses, other identification information, and accounts
  • Make sure your identification information is complete and includes:
    • Your full name, including middle name and suffix, such as Jr., Sr., II, III
    • Date of birth
    • Social Security Number
    • Complete address, including apartment number if applicable
  • If you think you know who the incorrect information belongs to, such as a relative, let the credit reporting companies know as that may help them resolve your dispute faster
  • Check your credit report for inaccuracies at least annually