Millions of credit reports have errors

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By Blake Ellis

NEW YORK (CNNMoney) — Millions of Americans have mistakes on their credit reports, some of which are serious enough to lower credit scores and result in worse credit offers, according to a new government study.

As many as 42 million consumers have errors on their credit reports, and around 20 million have significant mistakes, a Federal Trade Commission study of nearly 3,000 credit reports to be released Monday indicates.

“Errors in credit reports can cost you a loan, a competitive interest rate, a job, security clearance and insurance,” said John Ulzheimer, president of consumer education at SmartCredit.com.

Not all of these errors will impact your ability to get credit, however. About 13% of study participants saw their FICO credit score change once a mistake on their credit report was fixed, and those changes were big enough to potentially result in better credit offers for 2.2% of participants.

The Consumer Data Industry Association defended this 2.2% rate, saying in a statement that overall, the report “shows that 98% of credit reports are materially accurate.”

“[T]he measure of accuracy is tied to the question of when an error has a consequence for consumers, not just when a report contains an error that will have little or no impact on creditworthiness,” the CDIA said.

But since the three biggest credit bureaus — Experian, Equifax and TransUnion — maintain credit reports for about 200 million consumers, the 2.2% error rate still means millions of Americans are being denied loans or given higher-priced credit due to errors on their reports, said Ulzheimer.

To avoid being deemed a higher risk than you really are, it’s important to look at your credit report from all three major credit bureaus to make sure everything is correct. Currently, fewer than one in five consumers check their credit report, according to a separate study released by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.

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