By John Lee
There thousands of books and articles written about how to be financially successful. Some of these books are written for rich people that already have money, and some of them are written to folks that need to feel good about themselves and what they are doing. Many books and articles are written by financial planners and self-help gurus that have lost touch with the average person. I am writing this article from the perspective of a bankruptcy attorney.
Part Four: Check Your Credit Report Regularly
Do not assume that because you pay all your bills on time that you have good credit. The credit reporting agencies admit to making billions of mistakes on credit reports. I have seen credit reports that had false information, incorrect information, bad accounts, bad balances, paid off balances, wrong addresses, wrong social security numbers and wrong names on them. Almost any piece of information on your credit report could be mistakenly incorrect at any given time. The credit agencies input billions of pieces of information per day into the reports, and make a tremendous amount of mistakes. These mistakes, if not corrected could cost you thousands of dollars in increased interest rates and denied credit.
Not only do the credit reporting agencies make mistakes, but so do the creditors reporting the information to the agencies. In some cases, these mistakes are accidental, but in many cases they are a result of identity theft. Identity Theft is one of the fastest growing crimes in America, and once your identity is stolen, it could cost you thousands of dollars to correct.
For these reasons you should pull your credit report at least once per year and look for suspicious activity. If you see merchant accounts on your credit card that you did not open, or charging on those accounts that you do not remember, then you need to challenge that information with the credit reporting agency. Each reporting agency may have a slightly different way of dealing with the issue, but basically you contact the credit agency and let them know that you dispute a particular account or charge and they are required by federal law to investigate the dispute. If the agency can not verify the negative information on your report, then they must delete it and report back to you.
I have disputed everything from automobile purchases to cell phone charges to credit card charges on credit reports and have had the negative information removed. In my experience credit scores increase in varying degrees as a result of disputing and removing false information. By keeping negative information off your credit report you will save thousands of dollars in interest payments because you will be able to obtain credit at lower interest rates.
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