Spring is an exciting season of the year, and it's just around the corner. The kids have signed up for baseball and soccer, and parents everywhere are dusting off their golf clubs. Before we know it we'll be heading out to the yard, tools in hand, to clean up the ravages of winter.
When you're in the cleaning mode, why not do some tidying up in the financial end of your life? A good start would be a spring cleaning of your credit report.
Most of us vaguely know that we have a credit report, but for the most part, it's just a mysterious thing that doesn't really concern us. How wrong we are. It can affect us in ways we have never even thought about.
Let's imagine that you may be entertaining the thought of moving. Your present home is just a little too crammed now that you have three children. It's no problem for the boys to bunk together, but it sure would be nice for your little girl to have a room of her own.
Before you start house shopping, you wisely decide to find out, in advance, just what sort of price range you can afford. So off you go to the bank to investigate mortgage options and just what you might quality for. All is going well, until the bank officer searches for your credit report online and presents you with a copy.
To your utter surprise, an old debt that you barely remember is showing up. Or worse still, there's a debt showing that you suspect may not even be yours. What to do? The mortgage official hands you the unpleasant document and says that you must deal with the offending amounts before they will consider extending credit to you.
As traumatic as that scenario is, it certainly is a good thing that you were merely doing a preliminary inquiry and not in any big hurry. So now it's time to regroup. You've seen your mysterious credit history face to face, and now you can get serious, checking and correcting it.
It's easy to obtain your credit report, and even if you have the one the bank printed out, there are two other reporting agencies that you should review. The big three are Equifax, TransUnion, and Experian. There's also a 2004 federal law that entitles every citizen to one free credit report from each of these agencies per year.
Don't skimp and rely on the information of just one agency because they don't talk to each other. You may be surprised to see completely different information on each. Information from out of left field may leave you shaking your head. If you have a common name, you may discover a debt that isn't yours. In one case, a person discovered that they were reported as deceased, all due to incorrect reporting of information.
It's up to you to check on the accuracy of your credit report, and to start you can file a dispute online, by phone, or by certified letter. Make sure you include your complete name, date of birth, address and social security number. Then provide details of the debt you are questioning, along with company name and your account number.
Be sure to state clearly any corrections that need to be made to your personal data. Then outline the reasons for your dispute. Back up your request with as much documentation as you can find. If you make your case, the credit bureau must delete the incorrect entry, leaving your record looking much better. Even if you can't resolve the issue, you can ask to have your view of the issue recorded in your report. That way someone who views your record can see that there is another side to the offending information.
If you find yourself humiliated and embarrassed by the negligence of a creditor or a credit reporting agency, you should check the possibility of launching a lawsuit. Being denied a mortgage or a car loan due to an erroneous credit report could prove the basis for getting you the monetary satisfaction you deserve.