One of the most frustrating things about having errors on your credit reports is how they can unfairly damage your credit scores. Once the credit report error has been fixed, you probably expect your credit scores to go up. But that’s not necessarily what will happen, as one of our readers recently learned.
“Around Jan. of this year I had a medical bill go into collections by way of error. I have a perfect payment history (since 35 — I’m now 45) and my total credit usage always hovers between 20 and 30%. I have never been late on any payment and have no missed payments. This collection was an error from the doc’s office due to misfiling, and I contacted all 3 credit agencies as well as the doc, and it was determined to be an error and it was removed. When it originally hit, it dropped my score from 690 to 540, but after it was removed there has been no change. It was removed in early Feb., and my score today is 569 (Vantage 3.0 is the reference score each time I check). Nothing new in my account, and no major changes to utilization. … I feel like once the erroneous collection came off, my score should have jumped back up to around what it was prior, the high 600s.” — Chris Betz
As is often the case with credit scores, the answer to Chris’ question is complicated.
“Without viewing this consumer’s actual report, it is difficult to say why the score has not changed since the dispute was removed,” Kristine Snyder, a spokeswoman for the credit bureau Experian, said in an email. “Score increases and decreases will be dependent on other items on the report, and since each person’s credit history is different, there isn’t a definitive answer as to how much a score could be impacted from certain activities.”
That’s probably not a satisfying answer, but Chris’ situation highlights the complexity of credit scoring and how easily scores can fluctuate, even after what seems like the slightest change to your credit history.
Jeff Richardson, a spokesman for VantageScore Solutions, suggested Chris contact the credit reporting agencies to ask why his score hasn’t gone up more since the error was removed. And even though Chris said there haven’t been “major changes” to his credit utilization — how high his credit card balances are relative to his cards’ credit limits — that’s still a likely culprit behind his low score, assuming everything else remained constant. What Chris might consider a minor change to his credit utilization may actually be a big deal when it comes to his credit scores.
“Oftentimes it’s the utilization on a credit card at the time the score is pulled that is keeping the score low,” Richardson said in an email. (You can keep track of changes to your utilization and other things affecting your credit by getting a free credit report summary every 30 days on Credit.com.)
Generally, it’s hard to isolate one item’s impact on your credit score, given how many things affect it and how often those things change. Even if all things remain constant, getting an error off your credit score may not give you the credit score bump you’d like.
“There could be significant improvement quickly if there is no other negative information remaining,” Snyder said. “However, you could see very little change if there still are late payments or public records – court judgments, tax liens or bankruptcy – in your credit history, especially if the remaining negative information is more recent.”
There’s always the possibility of an error elsewhere on your report that could be dragging down your score. A lower-than-expected credit score can also be a sign of identity theft, which further emphasizes the importance of regularly checking your credit and reviewing your free annual credit reports.
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