Credit report mistakes are extremely common. Motley Fool writer Dayana Yochim says the majority of errors involve dates, but other mistakes can happen, too. For example, your name could be misspelled, your middle initial might be wrong or your married name could be incorrect. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) website advises that bureaus must investigate and fix mistakes once you notify them through the dispute process described in the Fair Credit Reporting Act.
Photocopy evidence of your correct name, such as a driver's license or marriage certificate. The credit bureaus can fix your reports more quickly if you provide proof of their error.
Write a letter to each bureau that is reporting your name incorrectly, the FTC advises. TransUnion, Experian and Equifax are independent companies, so the mistake may only show up on one or two reports. Personalize each letter with the appropriate bureau address, which you can find on their websites, and ask that your name be corrected. Explain that you are enclosing documentation to show the correct name.
Attach your photocopies to the letters and mail them to the appropriate bureaus through certified mail. The FTC recommends using certified mail for any disputes. Request a return receipt from the post office so you know the arrival date of each letter. The Fair Credit Reporting Act gives the bureaus 30 days from receipt of your complaint to investigate and fix it.
Check your credit reports after you get responses from the bureaus to confirm that your name has been fixed. The FTC explains that you get report copies after filing a dispute so you can review any changes. Contact the bureaus again if they claim that your dispute was successful but did not alter your reports correctly.
Send a consumer statement to the credit bureaus if they refuse to correct your name. You are legally entitled to send them a short statement that contains the proper information, and they must give a copy to every company that gets your credit reports. The Experian credit bureau website explains that your statement must be no more than 100 words.
Unfamiliar names on your credit report may be a warning of identity theft, the FTC website warns. Look for credit cards, loans and other accounts you did not open if you see an odd variation of your name on your report. Immediately report accounts you did not authorize to the relevant banks or companies and ask the credit bureaus to add a fraud alert to your reports. You only need to ask one bureau for an alert, as it passes the information to the other two for you.
- The Motley Fool: How to Fix Credit Boo-Boos
- Federal Trade Commission: How to Dispute Credit Report Errors
- Fighting Back Against Identity Theft: What are the Signs of Identity Theft?
- Experian: Credit Advice
- FICO. "Know Your Rights." Accessed Jan. 30, 2020.
- Experian. "How Long Does It Take to Complete the Dispute Process?" Accessed Jan. 30, 2020.
- Unfamiliar names on your credit report may be a warning of identity theft, the FTC website warns. Look for credit cards, loans and other accounts you did not open if you see an odd variation of your name on your report. Immediately report accounts you did not authorize to the relevant banks or companies and ask the credit bureaus to add a fraud alert to your reports. You only need to ask one bureau for an alert, as it passes the information to the other two for you.
Based in Kissimmee, Fla., Barb Nefer is a freelance writer with over 20 years of experience. She is a mental health counselor, finance coach and travel agency owner. Her work has appeared in such magazines as "The Writer" and "Grit" and she authored the book, "So You Want to Be a Counselor."