Information for contacting the credit reporting agency to dispute
When you review your credit report, look for any inaccuracies, such as:
Number of open accounts. Ensure that no more than your actual accounts are listed. Additional accounts may be an indication that you have been the victim of identity theft or you may have been confused with another family member with a similar name. Also, you may have thought you closed accounts, but they have remained open.
Number of inquiries. Ensure that only authorized companies have checked your credit report.
Some ways that companies may legitimately gain access to your credit report include when you:
Have applied for credit.
Are already a customer with a company (such as an insurance company). You have given them the right to review your credit at any time.
Have signed an employment application For employment purposes, there is usually fine print on the application permitting the employer to review your credit report. This type of inquiry does not affect your credit score.
Did a test drive for a car at a dealership. You give them implied consent when you give them a copy of your driver's license.
Agreed to work with a real estate agent.
Negative information that remains on your account longer than is permissible. Your credit report will go back to the point when you first established credit, but certain negative information must be removed after a set amount of time.
Account in good standing may stay on your report indefinitely.
If you are delinquent in payment, the longest it can stay on your report is seven years.
Public record accounts (for example a judgment if you were sued for non-payment) stays on your report for seven years.
Tax liens and wage garnishments can stay your report until they are paid.
will stay on your report for 10 or 13 years depending on the type.
What to Do if You Find Problems in Your Report
If you need to dispute any inaccuracies on your report, contact the credit reporting agency via the contact information in the report. Once you dispute something on your report, the agency has 30 days to investigate the claim and get a response from the other company. In 30 days, either the dispute must be investigated or the item must be deleted from your report. Credit reporting agencies are also requires to share any adjustments based on disputes with the other two agencies.
How to Improve Your Credit Score
Obtain your credit report. Look for negative information more than seven years old, accounts that have been closed and incorrect information. If you find any of these, write a letter to the credit bureaus asking that this information be removed from your record or that the mistake be corrected.
If the report does not contain information about account(s) you do have, write a letter including the information about those account(s).
Pay Your Bills on Time
Make sure your bill payments are made on time. Remember this is 35% of your credit score. If you can't keep track of due dates, get a calendar and simply write down the due date of any bill when it arrives in the mail. Mail your payments at least a week before the due date.
Be Aware of Your Balance to Limit Ratio
Part of your Amount Owed (30% of the credit score) is the proportion of balance to credit limit on certain accounts. It's best if your balance (what you have charged) is less than 30% of the amount available to you.
Pull together your credit bills.
Find the total amount you owe and the amount of credit that is available to you. Divide the first number by the second.
The resulting number should be less than 0.3
If you found any accounts that had a proportion over 0.3, work to get those balances lower. If your budget allows extra money for payments add it to those accounts. If you can't find the room in your budget try reworking it so there is some additional money.
Just Say No to More Credit
The next time you go to the mall, want to buy something and the salesperson asks, “Would you like to open a store account?,” just say “No.” Opening new accounts will lower your credit score. Note: If you are searching for mortgage or vehicle financing the inquiries will all count as one as long as the inquiries are all made within a 14 day period.
Watch Which Cards You Cancel
If you are going to cancel some credit cards try not to cancel one that you have held for a long time. It helps your score if you've had a card for at least two years.
This site is brought to you by Towson University's Financial Services, DECO EEOL and the Maryland Coalition for Financial Literacy with a grant from the BRAC Higher Education Investment Fund, administered by the Maryland Higher Education Commission.
The MD Attorney General's website offers this advice about monitoring your credit report:
Inaccurate information often appears in consumers' credit reports. In July 2000, Consumer Reports magazine reported that half of the credit reports they surveyed had serious errors in them. These errors could result in your being denied a credit card, an insurance policy, a job or a mortgage. If you aren't aware of the errors until you apply for the new credit, loan or job, you may not be able to get the report corrected in time.
That's why consumers should check their credit reports from time to time, and especially before applying for a major loan or a mortgage.
By law, Maryland residents are entitled to one free copy of their credit reports from each reporting agency each year.
You are also entitled to a free copy of your report if you have been denied credit and the company you applied to tells you it was because of something in your credit report, or if you are unemployed, are on welfare, or have been a victim of fraud.