Your credit report includes an array of information, including how consistently you pay your bills, your arrest record, where you live and whether you have ever filed for bankruptcy. Credit reports can have an impact on whether you are approved for a loan, where you can live and even your next job application. Because of the credit report’s weight on all of your applications, you should request a free annual report and confirm its accuracy. If you find any inaccurate or incomplete information, it is in your best interest to rectify the problem right away. Here is a short guide to fixing a mistake on your credit report:

Inform the credit reporting company
You will have to compile a record of the error in writing, which allows you to guide the credit reporting company through its mistake and helps you retain records of the incident. Mail the company a letter that spells out the mistake and why the information was inaccurate. You should also explain the materials you are submitting that support your claim. With this letter, enclose a copy of your report with all the relevant items circled in a colored pen, and, most importantly, documents that support your argument. Make sure to send copies, as you may need the originals in the future. Keep copies of the letter and your credit report as well. Send this package to the company through certified, tracked mail, and request a return receipt. If you would like more guidance on how to write the letter, you can find a sample dispute letter on the Federal Trade Commission’s website.

The company’s response
The credit reporting company must answer your dispute within 30 days. They are also required to inform any relevant companies of the possible error. For example, if the reporting company mistakenly stated that you made a late credit card payment, they must inform the credit card company of the dispute. The credit card company will then investigate the potential errors on its own end and provide its information to the reporting offices. The reporting company must send you the name, address and phone number of this investigator.

If the dispute cannot be settled at that time, you should request that all future credit reports include a statement of the dispute. The credit reporting company can also send the statement to anyone who recently received your report, but this can incur a fee.

If the information provider confirms your claim and declares the report inaccurate, the credit reporting company is required to take the next steps in fixing your report and preventing any future mistake.

Corrected reports
If your claim is successful and the mistake is fixed, the credit reporting company must undergo a few steps to fix the error. They need to inform the two other national credit reporting companies. This step keeps the mistake from showing up on another credit report. Once the dispute has been resolved, the credit reporting company should send you written notice of the results and a copy of your amended report.

At your request, the credit reporting company is also required to inform others about the mistake, if they requested your credit report in the last six months. If someone received your credit report in the last two years for employment purposes, you can also request that the credit reporting company send them an updated report.