March is National Credit Education Month: Check your credit report
March is National Credit Education Month, a month dedicated to educating people about their credit scores and taking action to improve them. A 2021 study by Consumer Reports found more than one-third of consumers found mistakes on their credit reports. About 11% contained unrecognized accounts, unrecognized debts reported to collection agencies and payments wrongly reported late or missing — all of which could lead to a loan application being rejected.
“Many people don’t realize that the data on their credit reports make up their credit scores,” states Shannon Doyle, financial education program manager for LSS Financial Counseling, a service of Lutheran Social Service of Minnesota. “Now is the perfect time for people to pull their free credit reports to make sure there are no errors and to dispute them if there are. Mistakes on credit reports are very common, but there are simple steps that can be taken to fix them.”
Doyle recommends the following actions:
First, pull reports from all three credit bureaus – Experian, Equifax and TransUnion – at annualcreditreport.com (the only official website to get free reports). For the past two years, the credit bureaus have allowed credit reports to be pulled weekly and they have recently extended this ability until the end of the year.
Next, review the data on the report. Credit reports are broken up into four sections: Personal Information, Negative Accounts, Accounts in Good Standing and Inquiries. Doyle says to make sure to review all sections for errors, paying special attention to how accounts are being reported as mistakes in this area are what affects scores. Types of errors to look for may include on-time payments listed as late or missed, accounts with no balance still showing one or accounts that aren’t recognized by the individual as theirs. Negative information may remain on a credit report for seven years; if older information is on a report it may also be disputed off. Positive information remains on reports indefinitely.
“Under the CARES act, federal student loan payments have been paused and they are supposed to be reporting as current. There have been instances of servicers mis-reporting these payments as late,” Doyle warned.
Finally, if a mistake is found on a credit report dispute it right away. This can be done online, by phone or through the mail with each of the credit bureaus. It may take 30 to 45 days for the errors to get removed as the credit bureaus need time to investigate the dispute.
For more resources on credit reports and scores, visit the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.
Article courtesy of: LSS Financial Counseling: lssfinancialcounseling.org.
LSS Financial Counseling offer confidential, nonjudgmental support through financial counseling and education — equipping people to reach their goals and achieve financial wellness. Services include budget and debt counseling, debt management plans, free credit report reviews, student loan counseling, homebuyer services, foreclosure prevention and more. To schedule an appointment, call 888.577.2227 or visit lssfinancialcounseling.org.