Home > Credit Reports > Why Are There Errors on My Credit Report?

Comments 0 Comments

Like baseball, apple pie and binge-watching TV shows on Netflix, finding errors on your credit report has become a national pastime — it’s just a pastime that no one really enjoys.

According to a report from the Federal Trade Commission, one in five Americans have errors hiding on their credit reports. Seems like a large number? It is, considering how important your credit is to buying a house, applying for a credit card and even just getting a cellphone.

How Errors Occur

Credit report errors can occur for a number of reasons. The National Consumer Law Center identified four common causes in a 2009 report on the topic.

  • Mixed Files. If someone with the same name or a similar name applies for credit, a piece of their file may become mixed with yours. A consumer with a common name like “John A. Smith,” for example, could see his file mixed with a John B. Smith or a John A. Smith, Jr.
  • Identity theft. If someone has stolen your Social Security number, for example, they could open a new account in your name. This information could appear on your credit report and can be especially difficult to remove.
  • Furnisher Errors. There are three big players when it comes to credit report accuracy: credit bureaus, consumers and “data furnishers.” That last one is important — it’s the banks, lenders, debt collectors, and rental companies that supply (aka “furnish”) the data that appears on your credit reports to the credit bureaus. Often, a furnisher can report something inaccurately, like a missed payment or a collection account that actually belongs to someone else.
  • Re-Aging of Old Debts. Certain debts have a ticking clock of sorts when it comes to your credit report. A collection account, for example, is supposed to age off of your credit report after 7 years and 180 days from when it was first delinquent. (You can see our guide to the statutes of limitations on debts in each state across the U.S. here.) However, sometimes “re-aging” occurs, often when a debt is sold to a third-party collector and the start date on that clock is muddied, causing your credit to take a hit much longer than it should under the law.

What You Can Do About Credit Report Errors

The three major credit reporting agencies all have a dispute system in place to allow consumers to get incorrect information removed from their credit reports. But first, you have to know an error exists. You can get copies of your free annual credit reports at AnnualCreditReport.com. You can also get your free credit report summary every month on Credit.com to see how any errors might be impacting your scores.


One of your biggest obstacles is getting your credit report accurate with each of the credit bureaus. Why’s that? Each of your credit reports from the three major credit reporting agencies can contain different errors. That’s because different furnishers report to different credit bureaus. An incorrect item may only appear on one or two of your credit reports because the bank or lender only reports to those bureaus, and not all three. It can be difficult to sort out which bureaus have inaccurate info in the first place.

The dispute process is also separate for each credit bureau. For example, you could find the same error on all three credit reports — a collection account for a cellphone bill that isn’t yours, let’s say. You have to dispute that item with each of the major credit reporting agencies. In some cases, one bureau may remove the item, siding with you in the dispute process. But wait — the other two bureaus aren’t removing the item — a very frustrating experience for someone who’s applying for a mortgage, for example, and needs an accurate report from each bureau, not just one.

Each credit bureau has an online process for disputing errors, though some consumers opt to write dispute letters and send them via certified mail, along with any supporting documents. You also can dispute inaccurate information directly with the “data furnishers” — your credit card company, for example.

The credit bureaus generally must investigate or remove the error within 30 days, unless they believe the dispute to be frivolous.

[Offer: If you don’t want to go it alone, you can hire companies – like our partner Lexington Law – to manage the credit repair process for you. Learn more about them here or call them at (844) 346-3296 for a free consultation.]

More on Credit Reports & Credit Scores:

Image: iStock

Comments on articles and responses to those comments are not provided or commissioned by a bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by a bank advertiser. It is not a bank advertiser's responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.

Please note that our comments are moderated, so it may take a little time before you see them on the page. Thanks for your patience.

Credit.com receives compensation for the financial products and services advertised on this site if our users apply for and sign up for any of them.

Hello, Reader!

Thanks for checking out Credit.com. We hope you find the site and the journalism we produce useful. We wanted to take some time to tell you a bit about ourselves.

Our People

The Credit.com editorial team is staffed by a team of editors and reporters, each with many years of financial reporting experience. We’ve worked for places like the New York Times, American Banker, Frontline, TheStreet.com, Business Insider, ABC News, NBC News, CNBC and many others. We also employ a few freelancers and more than 50 contributors (these are typically subject matter experts from the worlds of finance, academia, politics, business and elsewhere).

Our Reporting

We take great pains to ensure that the articles, video and graphics you see on Credit.com are thoroughly reported and fact-checked. Each story is read by two separate editors, and we adhere to the highest editorial standards. We’re not perfect, however, and if you see something that you think is wrong, please email us at editorial team [at] credit [dot] com,

The Credit.com editorial team is committed to providing our readers and viewers with sound, well-reported and understandable information designed to inform and empower. We won’t tell you what to do. We will, however, do our best to explain the consequences of various actions, thereby arming you with the information you need to make decisions that are in your best interests. We also write about things relating to money and finance we think are interesting and want to share.

In addition to appearing on Credit.com, our articles are syndicated to dozens of other news sites. We have more than 100 partners, including MSN, ABC News, CBS News, Yahoo, Marketwatch, Scripps, Money Magazine and many others. This network operates similarly to the Associated Press or Reuters, except we focus almost exclusively on issues relating to personal finance. These are not advertorial or paid placements, rather we provide these articles to our partners in most cases for free. These relationships create more awareness of Credit.com in general and they result in more traffic to us as well.

Our Business Model

Credit.com’s journalism is largely supported by an e-commerce business model. Rather than rely on revenue from display ad impressions, Credit.com maintains a financial marketplace separate from its editorial pages. When someone navigates to those pages, and applies for a credit card, for example, Credit.com will get paid what is essentially a finder’s fee if that person ends up getting the card. That doesn’t mean, however, that our editorial decisions are informed by the products available in our marketplace. The editorial team chooses what to write about and how to write about it independently of the decisions and priorities of the business side of the company. In fact, we maintain a strict and important firewall between the editorial and business departments. Our mission as journalists is to serve the reader, not the advertiser. In that sense, we are no different from any other news organization that is supported by ad revenue.

Visitors to Credit.com are also able to register for a free Credit.com account, which gives them access to a tool called The Credit Report Card. This tool provides users with two free credit scores and a breakdown of the information in their Experian credit report, updated twice monthly. Again, this tool is entirely free, and we mention that frequently in our articles, because we think that it’s a good thing for users to have access to data like this. Separate from its educational value, there is also a business angle to the Credit Report Card. Registered users can be matched with products and services for which they are most likely to qualify. In other words, if you register and you find that your credit is less than stellar, Credit.com won’t recommend a high-end platinum credit card that requires an excellent credit score You’d likely get rejected, and that’s no good for you or Credit.com. You’d be no closer to getting a product you need, there’d be a wasted inquiry on your credit report, and Credit.com wouldn’t get paid. These are essentially what are commonly referred to as "targeted ads" in the world of the Internet. Despite all of this, however, even if you never apply for any product, the Credit Report Card will remain free, and none of this will impact how the editorial team reports on credit and credit scores.

Your Stories

Lastly, much of what we do is informed by our own experiences as well as the experiences of our readers. We want to tell your stories if you’re interested in sharing them. Please email us at story ideas [at] credit [dot] com with ideas or visit us on Facebook or Twitter.

Thanks for stopping by.

- The Credit.com Editorial Team