Errors occur on credit reports. This is a fact, and it's not really breaking news to anyone at this point either. In fact, the Federal Trade Commission released a study in 2013 which suggests that somewhere between 20 million and 42 million consumers have errors on their credit reports (depending upon the FTC's variable definition of an error).
Consumers have the right to accurate credit reports, a right which is afforded to them under the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA). According to the FCRA, any information which is included on a consumer's credit report needs to be error-free and this includes the personal data which is listed on a consumer's credit report as well.
The Personal Data Section
Not only do credit reports contain information regarding your debts, they also contain a large amount of your personal information as well. The personal data section of a consumer's credit report contains information such as the consumer's name, her aliases (AKAs), her maiden name, her social security number, her date of birth, her address, her previous addresses, and her employer.
Personal data is often referred to as "cosmetic" credit report information. Yes, the information is listed on a consumer's credit report, but it has no influence on a consumer's credit scores. The reason why personal data is not used to calculate credit scores is because it is inconsistent (often provided by the consumer on credit applications) and is not a reliable indicator of credit risk.
How to Check for Personal Data Errors
Thanks to the Fair and Accurate Credit Transactions Act (FACTA) which amended the FCRA in 2003, consumers have the right to access a free copy of their 3 credit reports every year via www.annualcreditreport.com. The best way to ensure that your credit reports remain error free is to check your credit reports regularly. Ultimately, it is up to the consumer and no one else to verify that the information appearing upon her credit reports remains accurate.
NOTE: Consumers do not have free annual access to their credit scores thanks to FACTA. That is a myth. If you wish to pull your credit scores online it is best to compare the different credit score offers ahead of time. CLICK HERE to check out some great credit score and credit monitoring reviews.
Why Incorrect Personal Data Can Be Problematic
As mentioned above, credit report errors in the personal data section of a consumer's credit report are cosmetic. These errors will not help or harm a consumer's credit scores. However, that does not mean that incorrect personal data errors should be ignored. In fact, personal data errors could indicate the possibility of attempted (or successful) identity theft. Furthermore, mistakes in the personal data section of a consumer's credit report could also indicate the possibility of more serious credit errors made by the credit bureaus themselves or by a creditor (or creditors) reporting the data.
How to Correct Incorrect Personal Data
Thanks to the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA), consumers have the right to dispute any information on their credit reports which is believed to be inaccurate. Whether the information is cosmetic or otherwise, if it is listed on a consumer's credit report then it is required to be accurate. When disputing inaccurate personal information (i.e. incorrect name spellings, incorrect dates of birth, incorrect social security numbers, etc.) it is helpful to provide supporting documentation to help prove how the information in question should be reported. As with any other type of dispute, the credit bureaus are required to complete their investigation within 30 days or less in most cases.
Michelle Black is an author and a credit expert with over a decade of experience, the credit blogger at HOPE4USA.com, a recognized credit expert on talk shows and podcasts nationwide, a contributor to the Wealth Section of Fort Mill Magazine, and a regularly featured speaker at seminars up and down the East Coast. She is an expert on improving credit scores, credit reporting, correcting credit errors, budgeting, and recovering from identity theft. You can connect with Michelle on the HOPE Facebook page by clicking here.