The CARES Act, passed by Congress last March, allowed many consumers to defer payments on credit cards and certain federally backed mortgages and student loans. But some banks and credit card companies have erroneously reported those deferred payments as late, potentially making a tough financial situation even worse for those hit hardest by the pandemic. Consumer Reports investigates the problem and reveals what you need to do to check and clean up your credit report.
Even a small error on your credit report can have a huge impact on your credit score. In terms of trying to get credit cards, a mortgage, or a student loan, it can be the difference between getting a good rate, a bad rate, or no loan at all.
Credit reporting errors are common. One study found that 1 in 4 people have at least one error on their reports. And complaints to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau about credit report errors have reached record levels.
This is a problem that existed long before the pandemic, but it’s an even bigger deal now because so many people have been affected by the crisis and may be looking for financial stability more than ever.
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So what can you do? Go to annualcreditreport.com to get your credit report from the three major credit bureaus: Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion. Then, if you find an error, dispute it with each credit bureau. Do it in writing, and send your letter and any supporting documents using certified mail.
After you alert the credit bureaus of the errors, Consumer Reports says it will likely take at least 30 days to get an answer, so continue to check your report to confirm that the error has been corrected.
Do you want to participate in Consumer Reports’ research? If you’ve looked at a recent report, let Consumer Reports know what you found at CR.org/creditcheckup.