Your credit report is something that lists financial details about you. It can show your loans, income, work history, credit cards, and most importantly, your payment history. However, sometimes there can be mistakes. Other times, you might have made the mistake. Any mistakes you didn’t make are relatively easy to remove, but sometimes mistakes you made can even be removed with a little legwork. Here are 5 things you do to fix your credit report:
1. Make sure your information is correct, accurate, and up to date. Your name should be spelled correctly, and your address and employment information should be up to date. Also, make sure your National Insurance number is accurate. These are common areas for mistakes, and should always be checked – especially as concerns your address and employment, which can often be wrongly listed.
2. Remove duplicate accounts. Sometimes an account can show up more than once. While this might sound good if you’ve regularly paid on the account, it can actually cause you to look financially overextended. Because of this, it’s usually a good idea to remove such accounts from your report.
3. Get rid of any old bad debts. If you have some old debts, late payments, or anything else that doesn’t look good on your credit report, have them removed. Normal credit items stick around for two years in most cases, but bad debts are only there for 6 years. After that, if they haven’t been removed, you can have them removed. Sometimes you can also write in to dispute a bad debt or late payment that you legitimately had. If the company who made that report doesn’t follow up or can’t confirm the details, the credit reference agencies will remove it. Because of this, it’s always a good idea to try and dispute such things. The worst thing they’ll do is leave the item on your report.
4. Check that closed accounts are reported properly. This is something most people don’t understand well, but it works like this. Any account listed as closed by the lender or grantor means it was not closed in good standing. Anything showing as closed by you is a good thing. So if you paid off that car loan or old credit card you no longer have, but it shows as having been closed by the lender, you’ll want to have this updated so that it reflects positively on your report.
5. If you’re divorced, have a credit divorce too. Don’t leave your ex-spouse on any of your credit related accounts. Future debts should no longer be joint affairs, so if any show up, have them removed or corrected as soon as possible. By informing the credit reference agencies of your divorce, you’re letting them know in advance that no new jointly shared credit obligations should be appearing. That doesn’t mean they won’t appear, but since you’re documenting all of this, you’ll be prepared in advance to dispute anything that might show up.
Now, to actually get these changes made, you’ll need to write to each of the three credit reference agencies, and keep a record of your correspondence. They do offer online services, and while that’s a great way to monitor things, when you’re correcting or updating anything, you want to have written records. That way, if something isn’t removed or updated that should be, you can later dispute again it with them and get results.
First, get a copy of your credit reference file. You can check your credit report online for no cost. You can contact any of the credit reference agencies in the UK and request a copy of your file. To do that, you’ll write a letter with the following:
- Your full name and date of birth.
- Any other names you’ve used, including your maiden name.
- Your address and postcode, along with any other addresses you’ve had in the past 6 years.
- A postal order or check for £2, made payable to the credit reference agency.
- It’s also a good idea to include a little extra documentation, such as a utility bill, and a bank statement, to prove that you‘re who you claim to be.
- Make sure you keep a copy of your letter and payment, in the event you have any problems and need to contact the ICO.
When you’re ready to dispute errors, write one letter per error. No matter which reporting agency or lending company you are contacting, you’ll want to limit your requests to one per incident. Don’t send in several requests at once, because they may not be handled properly. If you later need to escalate your dispute, it’s much easier when you can point out exactly where the problem is. By only submitting one letter and one item at a time, you’ll be able to document request on a per item basis.
In some cases, you may need to contact the lender or organization that reported the error. In this case, you’ll need to obtain documentation from them detailing your account, payment history, and proof or lack thereof on any errors. If they are no longer able to document an error, then it will be removed. In most cases, it’s a good idea to contact them early on, so that you’re prepared if the credit reporting agencies request more information.
If you feel that you’re not being treated fairly by a credit-reporting agency, contact the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO), and once you’re dealing with a person, explain your problems. Be prepared to send in any and all of the dated correspondence and documentation you’ve sent to the credit companies.
Here are the names and addresses of all three credit reporting agencies in the UK:
Consumer Services Team
PO Box 491
0870 060 1414
Credit File Advice Centre
PO Box 1140
0844 335 0550
Customer Support Centre
PO Box 8000