A recent study conducted by the Federal Trade Commission shows that “as many as 42 million Americans have errors on their credit reports.” As this is roughly 14% of the population, I’d say this is a big deal.
The credit bureaus defend these stats by saying that only 10 million of the reports have errors big enough to limit one’s ability to get credit. Only 10 million? Percentage-wise, this may be low, especially considering the volume of reports the bureaus have to process. But, when it comes down to it, 10 million people are still people. These folks are either paying more for higher rates or getting loans denied altogether.
Although the study is about personal credit, these errors can actually affect a business owner’s ability to get financing. With 23 million small businesses in America (1), chances are that a few business owners have these sort of errors in their personal credit. It makes me wonder how this problem might be stifling business growth in the US.
If you’ve ever tried to dispute a credit score error, it can be a disaster. It can take months, and the nature of the errors can be ridiculous. Lendio’s co-founder Levi King was once denied financing because his brother-in-law’s 750k in outstanding debt erroneously showed up on the credit report. Even worse, one man made news when he was denied a loan because his credit report indicated that he was dead!
Here are four steps to keep your credit score accurate (read more at the Motley Fool):
- Keep a record of everything. This includes account statements, emails, letters, and even phone conversations.
- Inform the credit bureau of any inaccuracy. And be prepared to defend it.
- Inform the creditor that sent the error. They’ll either dispute it or correct it.
- Get the good stuff put into your file. Sometimes creditors don’t report your positive activity. You can ask them to add it to your report, though most charge a fee.
Unfortunately, this process can be exhausting, so it’s important to have a strong will. If you can’t get the error removed, then make sure you fight to the end. If the error is bad enough, you can take legal action. If you don’t want to go through that sort of trouble, you can at least write a letter of explanation that stays with your file.