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In 2004, the U.S. PIRG (Public Interest Research Group) conducted a survey to determine how accurate the information in American's credit reports was. They asked adults in 30 states to check their credit reports for accuracy and found that 25% reported errors on their reports that were serious enough to have them denied credit and 79% of the respondents found inaccurate information on their reports. Based on these statistics, chances are your credit report contains errors as well.

Credit reporting agencies receive mountains of data each and every month on millions of Americans. This enormous volume of information must then be posted to the correct file with the correct details. With this picture in mind, it is easy to see how mistakes can be made and you could end up with someone else's information on your credit report or data that is otherwise reported incorrectly.

Lawmakers were looking out for us when they passed the Fair Credit Reporting Act. The purpose of this act was to protect the privacy of individuals and to ensure accuracy in reporting. Under this act, you have a right to know what is on their credit report and, if you believe there is inaccurate or misleading information, you have the right to dispute that information.

Banks, lending institutions, insurance companies, and potential employers all have a right to look at your credit report if you are applying for a loan, shopping for insurance or applying for a job. Anything negative on your report can give a less than favorable impression about how you handle your finances and will likely lower your credit score. This is where the questions may arise; what constitutes "inaccurate" information, how does that relate to "negative" information, and what can be disputed?

If you find something on your report that is patently inaccurate or you feel may be untimely, misleading, incomplete, ambiguous, unverifiable, biased or unclear, that also can be considered "inaccurate" and can be disputed. On the other hand, negative information that is verifiable can be on your report for seven years or longer. For example, verifiable delinquent payments will be reflected on your credit report and are considered negative, but true information. However, there may be times where negative, but true, items can be removed from your report. If you have solid payment history with the creditor that is reporting the information, they may remove the negative listing as a courtesy to you for your previous good standing.

The line between inaccurate and negative may not always be so clear and you may find you have listings on your credit reports that fall into a gray area. Ultimately, you have the right to question the inclusion of any questionable listing in your credit reports and put the responsibility of verifying that information on the credit bureaus and the creditors, collections agencies, and courts who reported it in the first place.

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