NEW YORK (TheStreet) — According to a 2013 report from the Federal Trade Commission, 5% of U.S. adults experience errors on their credit reports — errors that the FTC says could "lead to them paying more for products such as auto loans and insurance."
"These are eye-opening numbers for American consumers," said Howard Shelanski, director of the FTC's Bureau of Economics. "The results of this first-of-its-kind study make it clear that consumers should check their credit reports regularly. If they don't, they are potentially putting their pocketbooks at risk."
The silver lining is that the government has been aggressive in ensuring consumers have a clear path to correcting credit score errors, in addition to other rights linked to their credit scores. Eighty percent of consumers who addressed credit score errors saw their scores corrected or modified.
The credit card website CreditCardChaser.com offers a good list of rights consumers have when it comes to protecting their credit health, including:
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One free credit report each year. Consumers have the right to one free credit report each year from each of the three major credit reporting agencies — Experian, TransUnion and Equifax. Get your free report at Annualcreditreport.com.
The Truth In Lending Act. Enacted in 1968, the Truth In Lending Act provides the right to resolve all credit card disputes fairly and accurately.
Fair Credit Billing Act of 2003. If your credit card is stolen and used without your consent, the FCBA mandates you shouldn't have to pay for those credit card charges. That includes unauthorized charges, incorrect charges and purchases that were not up to standards or weren't delivered.
Fair Credit Reporting Act of 2003. This act specifically addresses problems with errors on credit reports. Combined with the Fair and Accurate Credit Transactions Act, the FCRA gives consumers the rights to that free credit report, to challenge errors and to have mistakes removed from credit reports. It sets time limits for correcting credit report errors and calls for the eventual removal of bankruptcies and liens from your record.
Once you get a copy of your free credit report, review it thoroughly. If you see discrepancies or bogus information, send it along to the credit reporting agency that produced the credit report. Make sure you state the problem clearly, and ask that the error be deleted immediately. (Here's a sample letter to follow.)
Most credit reporting errors can be handled online. Here is the error resolution contact information for each of the major credit reporting bureaus — just click on the company name: Equifax; Experian; and TransUnion.