Incorrect credit

Survey shows that 23 percent of Americans experience problems with their credit reports. Here’s how to fix it.

Nearly one quarter of Americans surveyed say they have encountered problems with their credit reports, according to a recent survey by the Thomson Reuters legal information website

FindLaw surveyed a representative sample of 1,000 Americans and found that the most common credit report problems are: “incorrect or outdated credit history information, incorrect or outdated personal information, identity theft or information mixed up with another person, credit score incorrectly reported as being too low and denied credit because of incorrect information in a credit report.” Lending organizations use credit reports, records of a person’s debt and whether he or she makes debt payments on time, to determine whether to grant credit. Credit reports from the three major credit-reporting agencies can be used to grant credit cards, auto loans, home loans and background checks, so it is important that the reports are accurate.

The good news is that 68 percent of people who reported a problem with their credit report were able to solve the problem, according to the survey.

To avoid inaccuracies, request a current credit report, says Leonard Lee, researcher with The three major credit agencies, TransUnion, Equifax and Experian, are required by law to provide one free credit report each year upon request. “About a quarter of people have never checked their credit report,” Lee says. “It’s very important that people check their credit reports periodically — preferably annually, but at least periodically — to see if there are errors in the report.”

Also, if you notice an inaccuracy, immediately send your agency a letter updating or correcting the information, Lee says. There’s usually a lag between when information changes and when it is updated because the information is drawn from many different sources.

— Rachel Graf

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