A few years ago, as I reviewed my credit report, I noticed something very strange. There were two social security numbers listed on my report as well as a strange address and a Verizon account I’d never seen before. I had always thought social security numbers were unique to a report, that a credit report should only have one number, but the credit bureau told me that sometimes the numbers get keyed in incorrectly and reports have two!
The differences were very minor, a 6 was replaced by a 0. If my social security number were 123-45-6789 then the erronous one was 123-45-0789 and both were listed on “my” credit report. I worked with the bureau to dispute the address and the Verizon account, proving I lived elsewhere during that period, but it underscored the importance of fixing errors as soon as possible. It was a small error, easy to prove, yet the process took two to three weeks with numerous faxes. If I discovered this a few weeks before signing a mortgage loan, I’d be pulling my hair out!
Another reason you should fix all credit report errors, even if they’re informational in nature and not account related, is that the information is often used to verify your identity online. When you apply for an account online, many places will do a soft inquiry on your report to pull some identifying information that only the real you would know. If you have mistakes on your report, you might be asked about something you didn’t know and thus introduce more headache.
Finally, what if the error helps you? I once had a revolving credit card account listed on my report that had a huge credit limit and a great payment history. I disputed it because it wasn’t mine. It probably helped my score but you never know with those things. Maybe it was mistakenly added to my account, maybe the person stops paying, or maybe it’s a symptom of my identity being stolen. By disputing it, I remove it from my report and settle it forever.
So, the next time you review your report and see something strange, dispute it. You don’t want it to come back to haunt when you least expect it.