Millions of Americans know that keeping close tabs on all aspects of their finances is a great way to stay on top of any issues that might arise for them, but this may be especially true of one type of document they might not check all that often.
Many consumers try to stay on top of the full financial picture of their lives by staying as current as possible on all their bills and keeping their debts down, and many frequently check their credit card and bank statements to make sure they have not been affected by any errors or potential cases of identity theft. However, in some cases, there may be a disconnect between this type of vigilance and the tendency to order and closely check over copies of their credit reports.
Of course, this can be just as important to maintaining strong finances as any other aspects of financial life, if not more so, because in a number of cases, there may be unfair or inaccurate markings that appear on a person's credit reports without cause, and these can do major damage to their standings overall. Consumers who take the time to look for and dispute these entries will usually, in turn, be able to put their finances back in order as soon as possible.
Why disputing matters
The unfortunate reality is that there's a very real chance that any given person might have at least one mistaken or erroneous entry listed on their credit reports, and this can happen for a number of reasons. For instance, it may be the simple result of an error on the part of a credit issuer. In some cases, the people entering credit information may transpose digits in a Social Security number, overstate balances, or mistype another person's name, and end up leading to one person's account being listed on another's file accidentally.
However, in other cases, such an entry may be a sign of something more nefarious: Identity theft. What can happen in these instances is that a criminal obtains another person's sensitive data, such as a name, address, date of birth and Social Security number, and uses that information to apply for financing — whether it's a loan or a credit card — with no intention of paying it back, and saddling the victim with the bill for an account they otherwise might never have known about.
The reason it's important for all borrowers to make sure these issues aren't plaguing them is that inaccurate information on credit reports can have a major impact on credit standing and, in turn, all aspects of a person's finances. Because credit reports are used to determine credit scores, and scores to set pricing for lines of credit sought in the future, as well as eligibility for them, avoiding these types of entries is vital to financial standing overall. Moreover, disputing these issues can likewise help to avoid other issues down the road, particularly when these debts are sent to collections.
How can one dispute errant markings?
If, in the course of checking credit reports, these types of entries are discovered, consumers should immediately move to get them corrected, by contacting both the credit monitoring companies that issued the documents (when such a marking is found on one, borrowers should also order copies from the other two bureaus to see if they are listing it as well) as well as the lenders issuing the account in question. This will lead to investigations into whether the person disputing the issue is responsible for the debt. In most cases, the borrower may need to provide proof that he or she is not responsible, which isn't always easy to do. These disputes should be filed in writing, explaining exactly which account or balance is incorrect, and include copies of documents supporting the borrower's claims contained therein.
Once these documents are sent in, the companies in question will have about 30 days to conduct the investigation, and then alert the person disputing the entries to their decisions in writing shortly thereafter. In addition, bureaus must also provide those borrowers with additional free copies of their credit reports so that they can once again be checked over to confirm nothing is amiss.
In addition, borrowers who believe they have discovered unfair markings on their credit reports may also want to take the time to contact and work with a credit repair law firm. This may allow them to have an easier time disputing the accounts in question, as these companies tend to be extremely experienced in sorting out such issues. Consumers may be able to get these entries stricken from their records more easily than they might have been able to achieve on their own with the assistance of such a company.