You should really check your credit reports at least once a year. If you’re still not convinced, you should review the results of the Federal Trade Commission’s (FTC) latest study, which shows just how error-prone and inaccurate the credit report files from Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion can be.

The FTC looked at credit reports for 1,001 U.S. consumers and found that one-in-four (26%) people identified at least one material error among their credit reports from the three bureaus. These errors were not minor, but “material” in that the FTC says these alleged errors are in regard to information used to generate credit scores, including the number of collections accounts, the number of inquiries on a credit file, the number late or missed payments, among others. In other words, errors that will only cost you more money for the use of credit.

The FTC report is the first major study that looks at all the primary groups that participate in the credit reporting and scoring process: consumers; lenders/data furnishers (which include creditors, lenders, debt collection agencies, and the court system); the Fair Isaac Corporation, which develops FICO credit scores; and the national credit reporting agencies (CRAs).

Overall, the study found that around 5% of consumers saw corrections to their credit reports that resulted in a credit score swing of at least 25 points, putting them into a better credit risk tier and making them more attractive to lenders.

While 5% may not seem like a huge number, when you consider the sheer size of the U.S. workforce, this means that there are several million people with errors on their credit reports that could be preventing them from getting the credit, auto loans, or mortgages they actually merit.

“It is highly concerning that so many consumers across the country are carrying mistakes on their credit reports that can cost them every day,” said Pamela Banks, senior policy counsel for Consumers Union. “Consumers shouldn’t be denied a loan or pay higher interest fees because of a reporting mistake — especially when these errors can be identified and corrected through your free credit report. It’s critical that consumers know how to access their annual free credit report and take advantage of it before their credit is damaged.”

In a Pioneering Federal Trade Commission (FTC) Study, Five Percent of Consumers Had Errors on Their Credit Reports That Could Result in Less Favorable Terms for Loans

A Federal Trade Commission study of the U.S. credit reporting industry found that five percent of consumers had errors on one of their three major credit reports that could lead to them paying more for products such as auto loans and insurance.

Overall, the congressionally mandated study on credit report accuracy (.PDF link to full FTC report) found that one in five consumers had an error on at least one of their three credit reports. “These are eye-opening numbers for American consumers,” said Howard Shelanski, Director of the FTC’s Bureau of Economics.  “The results of this first-of-its-kind study make it clear that consumers should check their credit reports regularly.  If they don’t, they are potentially putting their pocketbooks at risk.”

The study, in which participants were encouraged to use the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) process to resolve any potential credit report errors, also found that:

  • One in four consumers identified errors on their credit reports that might affect their credit scores;
  • One in five consumers had an error that was corrected by a credit reporting agency (CRA) after it was disputed, on at least one of their three credit reports;
  • Four out of five consumers who filed disputes experienced some modification to their credit report;
  • Slightly more than one in 10 consumers saw a change in their credit score after the CRAs modified errors on their credit report; and
  • Approximately one in 20 consumers had a maximum score change of more than 25 points and only one in 250 consumers had a maximum score change of more than 100 points.

Other study results can be found in the executive summary of the report. “Your credit report has information about your finances and your bill-paying history, so it’s important to make sure it’s accurate,” said Charles Harwood, Acting Director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection.  “The good news for consumers is that credit reports are free through annualcreditreport.com, and if you find an error, you can work with the credit reporting company to fix it.”

About the Study

The FTC report is the first major study that looks at all the primary groups that participate in the credit reporting and scoring process:  consumers; lenders/data furnishers (which include creditors, lenders, debt collection agencies, and the court system); the Fair Isaac Corporation, which develops FICO credit scores; and the national credit reporting agencies (CRAs).  It is based on work with 1,001 participants who reviewed 2,968 credit reports with a study associate who helped them identify and correct possible errors on their credit reports.

Consumers in the study were selected to match the demographic and credit score information of the general public, and participants were encouraged to dispute errors that could affect their credit standing.  Credit reports with potential errors identified by study participants were sent to Fair Isaac (FICO) for rescoring.
After completing the FCRA dispute process, study participants were provided with new credit reports and credit scores. The original reports were then compared with the new reports.  If any modifications were made as a result of the disputes, the impact of errors on the consumer’s credit score was determined.

Congress directed the FTC to conduct a study of credit report accuracy and provide interim reports every two years, starting in 2004 and continuing through 2012, with a final report in 2014.  The reports are being produced under Section 319 of the Fair and Accurate Credit Transactions Act, or FACT Act.

FULL TEXT (.PDF) of FTC Report to Congress Under Section 319 of the Fair and Accurate Credit Transactions Act of 2003: Fifth Interim Federal Trade Commission Report to Congress Concerning the Accuracy of Information in Credit Reports (December 2012)

Related News:

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,