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One in five consumers has a credit error on at least one of their three credit reports, according to a study from the Federal Trade Commission. You can take charge of your report by knowing where errors commonly appear, why they appear and what to do about them.

Get your free credit report - You're entitled, under law, to a free copy of your credit report once every 12 months from each of the major credit bureaus (Experian, Equifax and TransUnion). To access your report, go to

Common Credit Errors

Identifying information

Outdated or inaccurate personal information can range from a typo in your street address to a complete identity mix-up with someone else. Whatever the case, double-check your personal information to be sure it's completely accurate for all three credit bureaus, as they all pull from their own databases.

Fraudulent accounts

This type of error is the most serious. If your account contains information you don't recognize, it could mean that someone has opened an account with your name, Social Security Number or other personal identifying information. If this is the case, immediately put a security freeze on your credit reports at all three credit bureaus. Make the request in writing and include your name, address, date of birth, Social Security Number, copy of a valid ID and proof of address. A security freeze will disable anyone, including you, from opening any new lines of credit with your information. After the credit bureau receives your freeze request, you'll receive confirmation that your account has been frozen with an outline of next steps.

Incorrect account details

This error can happen when incorrect information is supplied to the credit bureau or the information is processed incorrectly by the bureau. Be sure that your accounts are labeled correctly and appear as the types of accounts that they are. For example, if you closed an account, make sure it's reported as closed. Similarly, make sure an account is labeled as "personal" if it's your account and "business" if it's for your company.

What to Do About Credit Errors

Contact both the credit bureau and the entity reporting your credit information (such as a credit card company) in writing if you find inaccurate information. Gather supporting copies of your documents and include them in your letter. For more detailed steps and examples of dispute letters, visit the FTC consumer information site.

This article is intended to provide general information and shouldn't be considered legal, tax or financial advice. It's always a good idea to consult a tax or financial advisor for specific information on how certain laws apply to your situation and about your individual financial situation.