Nobody's perfect, and that includes the companies responsible for issuing credit reports and keeping track of your credit history. If you notice errors on your report, those errors aren't necessarily due to someone stealing your identity. In some instances, it's a case of mistaken identity that leads to inaccurate information on your report. For example, the credit reporting agency can make a mistake if you share the same name with someone else, if you and another person have a similar Social Security number or if you've changed your name at some point in your life. If you have one or more of these or other types of mistakes on your credit reports, you can dispute the errors and have them taken off your record.
Request a copy of your credit report from each of the three reporting agencies, Experian, TransUnion and Equifax. You can request a free report from each agency once a year or within 60 days of being turned down for a loan or other credit. You want to get a copy from each agency, as the reports might have differing information. One report might have inaccurate information, while the other two are fine.
Examine each report, looking for mistakes. You don't just want to look for accounts you didn't open, which can point to identity theft. You also want to look for any misspellings in your name or addresses listed for places where you never lived. A misspelled name or an unknown address can signal a case of mistaken identity. Mark the mistakes on the report.
Write a letter to the credit reporting agency to let the company know about the mistake. Be clear and to the point with your letter. For example, if your name is Jane E. Smith and a credit card account for Jane D. Smith is showing up on your report, include that in your letter. Send a copy of your report with the letter, as well as a copy of identifying documents, such as your driver's license and Social Security card, to show the agency that you're not Jane D. Smith.
Send another letter to the creditor who is reporting the debt, such as the credit card company that handles the card in Jane D. Smith's name. Ask the creditor to stop reporting the inaccurate information to the credit report agency. Include evidence with your letter that shows you are not Jane D. Smith. Also include a copy of your credit report, with the inaccurate information circled or highlighted.
Make copies of each letter and keep copies and the originals of the documents you send as evidence. Send the letters using certified mail and request a return receipt, so that you have proof that the reporting agency and the company reporting the debt received your letters.
If you are the victim of identity theft, not just a case of mistaken identity, complete an FTC identity theft affidavit and file a police report. Send copies of the affidavit and the police report to the credit reporting agency when you mail your letter.
Once the credit reporting agency corrects the mistake, it should send you a new copy of your credit report, for free. You can also ask the agency to send a corrected report to any creditors who reviewed your report in the past six months.
- Federal Trade Commission: Disputing Errors on Credit Reports
- FOX Business: 10 Surefire Steps to Get Errors off Your Credit Reports
- CBS News: Mistaken Identity in Credit Report
- Urban Justice: Mistaken Identity and Identity Theft
- Consumer Finance Protection Bureau: How Do I Dispute an Error on My Credit Report?
- If you are the victim of identity theft, not just a case of mistaken identity, complete an FTC identity theft affidavit and file a police report. Send copies of the affidavit and the police report to the credit reporting agency when you mail your letter.
- Once the credit reporting agency corrects the mistake, it should send you a new copy of your credit report, for free. You can also ask the agency to send a corrected report to any creditors who reviewed your report in the past six months.
Based in Pennsylvania, Emily Weller has been writing professionally since 2007, when she began writing theater reviews Off-Off Broadway productions. Since then, she has written for TheNest, ModernMom and Rhode Island Home and Design magazine, among others. Weller attended CUNY/Brooklyn college and Temple University.