How to fix credit report errors

Finance Journalist · 16 December 2020
If information on your credit report is incorrect, it may have serious consequences for you when you apply for credit or loans in the future. Here are some steps you can take to fix errors on your report.

What is a credit report error?

A credit report error is any piece of information that appears on your credit report and is inaccurate, out-of-date, incomplete, irrelevant, or misleading.

It’s important to check your credit report carefully, as incorrect information may affect your credit score and subsequently your ability to receive credit or loans in the future. You can get a free copy of your credit report from each of the three main credit reporting bodies in Australia (Equifax, Experian and illion) every year. You can also request a free copy if information on your credit report has been corrected or if you’ve been refused credit in the last 90 days.

It’s also a good idea to check your credit score regularly. Your credit score is based on information in your credit report. If it is lower than you expected, this may be a sign that there are items on your report that you may want to take a closer look at. You can check your credit score for free with Canstar.

→ You can check your credit score for free

When you have a copy of your credit report, some key areas to check for errors include:

Types of errors What to check
Loans or debts
  • Are the loans and debts listed on your credit report actually yours? (if not, it could be a sign of fraudulent activity)
  • Are the listed amounts of the loans and debts correct?
  • Are the same loans or debts listed more than once?
  • Is the record of your repayment history correct?
  • A default may appear on your report if you have been at least 60 days overdue in making a repayment of $150 or more – check the amount and timeframes.
  • Check to see if notices were sent informing you about the overdue payment and requesting payment (providers must send you two notices before listing a default).
  • Check to see if the report accurately reflects whether or not the overdue payments were paid in full.
  • Defaults will stay on your report for five years – check to make sure you don’t have any older ones listed on there.
Serious credit infringement
  • If you have a serious credit infringement on your credit report, it could be because you owe a debt but you appear to have left your last known address without paying it and without providing the credit provider with a new address. Check your address is up to date.
  • A serious infringement may also be listed if you have had no contact with the credit provider for six months or more about overdue repayments, and the provider has attempted to contact you during that time. Check to see if the credit provider tried to contact you.
  • Credit infringements will stay on your report for seven years – check any infringements aren’t older than that.
  • If you have repaid the debt, then it should be listed as a default and it will stay on your report for five years.
Personal information
  • Check to see if your name and date of birth are correct.
  • Check to see if your current and most recent addresses are correct.

It is important to note that defaults cannot be removed from your credit report unless they are incorrect. Defaults will stay on your credit report for five years, even after you have paid off the debt. However, if you pay the debt, the credit provider should update your details to show it has been paid. Lenders may look at paid defaults more favourably than unpaid defaults. However, it’s still important to remove defaults if they were incorrectly listed in the first place.

How to fix errors on your credit report

If you think there is a mistake on your credit report, then you can ask to have it changed. Incorrect listings can be changed for free and you can arrange this yourself.

Here are some steps you can take:

1. Contact the credit provider or credit reporting body

Ask the credit provider (such as your bank, telco or utility provider) or the credit reporting body (Equifax, Experian or illion) to investigate the information you think may be incorrect. If they agree it is incorrect, they can get the error removed or amended. This is free to do.

According to Moneysmart, the credit reporting body may be able to fix some errors on your report straight away or help you get them changed. For example, if your name or date or birth is incorrect, or if a debt has been listed twice.

It’s helpful to provide supporting documentation if you have it, such as payment records. This can help speed up the investigation process.

2. Get help if you need it

If you need help, you can contact a free financial counsellor or community legal centre to assist you. You can speak to a financial counsellor by calling the National Debt Helpline on 1800 007 007. Moneysmart also provides a list of organisations that can provide free legal advice to people who are in debt.

3. If you are unhappy with the outcome, you can make a complaint

If you are unhappy with the credit provider or credit reporting body’s response, you can complain to the relevant ombudsman. This could include the Australian Financial Complaints Authority, the Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman and the Energy & Water Ombudsman for your state or territory. You can contact your credit provider or credit reporting body to check what scheme it belongs to. If you are not satisfied with this, you can also complain to the Office of the Australian Information Commissioner (OAIC), the Australian Government’s privacy and information regulator.

To make a request with a credit reporting body, check the website of the body to see how to raise a dispute:

illion illion says you can contact the Public Access Centre or use the ‘Question This’ option when logged in to the website:

Be cautious of credit repair companies that say they can “fix” or “clean” your credit report by getting negative listings removed. You cannot remove information that is correct from your credit report, even if it is negative information. Additionally, in many cases these companies charge high fees for something you can do yourself for free (such as fixing an error on the report).

How long does it take to correct a credit report error?

If the credit provider or credit reporting body is satisfied that the information is incorrect, then it must take reasonable steps to correct it within 30 days. According to the OAIC, the credit provider or reporting body must also send a written notice about the correction to you, and anyone else it has disclosed the information to, within a reasonable period.

If the provider or reporting body believes the information is correct, then it must write to you and explain its reasons, the OAIC says. It must also let you know that you can access an external dispute resolution scheme or make a complaint.

Your credit report holds a lot of your personal information, so it’s worth checking it regularly to make sure that the information is correct. Once errors on your report have been fixed, this may help to improve your credit score. Check out our tips to improve your credit score. You can also check your credit score for free with Canstar.

→ Get your free credit score

Cover image source: Song_about_summer (Shutterstock).

This article was reviewed by our Sub Editor Tom Letts and Finance and Lifestyle Editor Shay Waraker before it was updated, as part of our fact-checking process.

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