Mortgage Confidential: Credit report mistakes: Fixing them the easy way

Mortgage expert David Reed invites Walletpop readers to ask him questions about real estate financing. leave your questions in the comment section of this post.

Credit reporting involves a massive database. A credit repository is a library full of information about the payment histories of consumers nationwide. Each time someone makes a charge on a credit card or makes a payment each month, that individual act is recorded and sent to the database for other businesses to research credit histories of potential customers to determine their creditworthiness, or lack thereof. There are three main repositories that store such consumer information; Equifax, Experian and Trans Union. It's the job of these three organizations to store credit data sent to them by merchants who in turn use those same three to research credit histories of other potential credit customers. As you might imagine, keeping this database current and accurate is a challenge. And there are plenty of mistakes going around.

Is your name Joe Smith? Then you might imagine you're not the only Joe Smith who lives in Detroit. It's possible that at some point another "Joe Smith's" credit data could be accidentally "dumped" into your credit profile without your knowing about it. When you applied for credit, did you apply as "Joseph" instead of "Joe?" Or later in life did you drop the "Joseph" altogether and just went straight for the "Joe" moniker? "Smitty" maybe? Or perhaps your name was misspelled at some point by someone else and your name appears incorrectly at the credit bureau.

Did you pay that collection account but the credit report says you didn't? That bankruptcy is not yours? Who is that other Joe Smith, anyway?!?

When applying for a mortgage and your lender pulls your credit report you might be surprised that someone else is appearing on your report by mistake. Or that an account you paid off is incorrectly showing as outstanding and in collection. Consumers are advised to regularly check their credit reports for errors...but what do you do when you find one? Or two?

The hard way is the obvious way, contact the three credit repositories, go through a series of "If you are a consumer, Press 1" or "If you want to report an error, Press 3" or the popular, "Para Espanol, marque le dos." After about five minutes of pressing numbers and getting to the right person you're asked to fill out some forms and forward your documentation disputing the credit error. After a few weeks you might have everything fixed. Or not. But the easiest way to have credit errors fixed is to have your loan officer do it for you instead. How can they do that?

Lenders have business relationships with credit reporting agencies. These agencies also hire customer account representatives who literally make sales calls on mortgage companies soliciting their credit report business. One of the services these agencies offer lenders is the ability to correct mistakes found on their borrowers' credit reports. Is there a collection account showing outstanding that has been paid? Then all you need to do is fax to your loan officer the documentation showing payment and your loan officer sends it to the credit agency. The credit agency looks at the documentation, removes the offending entry and provides a brand new credit report without the credit mistake. Something that might take you weeks to do along with the frustration of going through voice mail hell can be fixed in a matter of moments. This really works, I've done it for my clients several times over the years.

Yes, check your credit before you apply for a mortgage. But if you find a mistake, don't worry, take the easy road: Let your lender do the work.

Real estate finance expert David Reed is president of CD REED Mortgage Bankers in Austin, TX and author of Mortgage Confidential: What You Need to Know That Your Lender Won't Tell You and Mortgages 101: Quick Answers to over 250 Critical Questions About Your Home Loan.

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