Mistakes happen, even on your credit report. If you don’t review your report periodically though, you’ll never know when those mistakes occur. Worse yet, you won’t have them fixed, which can be detrimental to your financial future.

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So how do you know when there are errors and what can you do about them? Read this helpful guide to see the steps you must take to fix your credit.

GET YOUR FREE CREDIT REPORTS

First, you have to get your hands on your free credit reports. You are eligible to receive one free credit report from each credit bureau annually. You can choose to pull all of the reports at once and leave it as an annual thing. You can also spread out when you pull the reports, possibly pulling one bureau every four months, so that you cover the span of an entire year.

No matter what you choose, you need to visit www.annualcreditreport.com to get your reports. Once there, you can choose to pull one or three bureaus. Then your job is to carefully read over the report and note any mistakes that you see.

CONTACTING THE RIGHT PEOPLE

First, you have to know who to contact when you see an error on your credit report. Some people make the mistake of just calling the credit bureau. While that’s a good place to start, you also have to follow up with the creditor reporting the mistake. Both entities must correct the problem on their end.

You’ll get better results if you contact each entity in writing. In your letter, state your name, address, and the account number associated with the issue. You should then explain in detail the issue that you have with what is reported. Make sure that your letter is clear and to the point. Make sure that you state only facts – they don’t care about your opinion. They want to know strictly, why you think the information is reported in error. They will also want proof to back up your claims.

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You should write separate letters to the credit bureau and the entity reporting the inaccurate information. Tailor your letter to the needs of each entity, but don’t forget to include whatever proof you have handy, but don’t send originals.

ONLY PUT ONE ERROR IN EACH LETTER

If you find more than one error on your credit report, don’t put them all in one letter to the credit bureau. Each error is a separate inquiry or issue on your end. You want the credit bureau’s full attention to each error, which is only done if you send separate letters.

As you send the letters, keep a copy for yourself and not the date that you sent them. By law, the credit bureaus have 30 days to respond to your inquiry. They can respond that they fixed the issue, that they dispute your inquiry, or that the creditor responsible for the issue didn’t respond. No matter the case, you don’t have to give up; you can keep fighting the issue until you get the problem resolved.

KEEP CAREFUL RECORDS

Make sure you have ample record of what you sent to the credit bureaus. Remember, the more evidence you can provide, the better your chances of getting the errors fixed. If the credit bureau or creditor refuses to fix the issue, you may have the chance to sue them if you have the proper evidence. This is why it’s so important to keep careful records.

If you end up calling the credit bureau to follow up on your issue, take note of it. Write down the date, who you talked to, and the outcome of the phone call. You never know when you may have to refer back to those documents, especially if you have to take the issue to upper management or worse yet, a lawyer.

FILE A COMPLAINT

If you are sure the mistakes on your credit report aren’t fixed, then you can file a complaint with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. They will then work on your behalf, contacting the credit bureauto get to the bottom of the issue.

If none of this gets you anywhere, you can hire a lawyer well experienced in Fair Credit Report Act violations. Typically, the lawyer can get the issue fixed without taking it to court, but if it comes to that, you’ll need proper representation.

Your credit report is your key to any financial assistance in the future. It could even help/harm your chances of getting a job. You need to make sure your credit is accurate before you let anyone pull your credit report. Take the time to review your report periodically and have it fixed should you find any issues. Most importantly, don’t give up; if there are errors, you should have them fixed to reflect the true nature of your financial habits.