Sunday Reader Question: Disputing Negative Information on Credit Reports
TPG reader David asks:
"My wife recently had trouble getting approved for cards. I got a copy of her credit report and found out that there have been a number of late payments on her student loan, which her parents are responsible for. Have you had any history or know if that is something that we can/should dispute? I guess the real question is, can something that is opened in her name be disputed because she is not the one paying it?"
Once you take out a line of credit or loan in your name, you are responsible for making sure the payments are made in a timely fashion. Creditors don't care who makes the payment (by the way it's very nice her parents agreed to cover those fees) and if you are late, you can be sure they will report it to the credit-reporting agencies.
Credit agencies do give you the option to dispute items, but "my parents messed up" isn't one of them. I'd personally call the student loan company and explain to them the situation. They may agree to take some of the negative items off your report- but just make sure your account is in good standing! It never hurts to ask.
If not, there are two ways to dispute with each credit bureau: online and via certified mail. I had some truly bogus items on my report that I disputed online and they were taken off within 45 days. This website is a great resource for learning how to mount your dispute. While I don't think your reason is valid, you may be able to dispute them and have some taken off. Never hurts to try and it is free to dispute.
This is a great reminder to anyone who wants to get into opening credit cards for miles and points- know your credit score and make sure your report is free of errors. You can check annualcreditreport.com or go to each reporting agencies website (experian.com, transunion.com, equifax.com). They will give free reports, but make sure they don’t sign you up for the monitoring service automatically. If they do, make sure to cancel it right away.
For more information on how credit scores work, check out this post.