As of July 1 the three largest credit-reporting agencies began cleaning up credit reports, which could help lift the credit scores of about 12 million consumers.
In a survey by the Federal Trade Commission, one in four people say they spot errors in their credit reports, most commonly concerning tax liens and civil judgments. Up to half of tax lien data on a credit report is inaccurate or incomplete, says Eric J. Ellman, senior vice president for public policy and legal affairs at the Consumer Data Industry Association. Civil judgments—which means a court has ruled a person owes money—also tend to be ripe with errors or omissions on a credit report, experts say. Consumers can dispute the errors, but the process can be cumbersome.
On Saturday, Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion began automatically excluding tax lien and civil judgment records from credit reports that are missing a person’s name, address, Social Security number, or date of birth. Claims that do contain this key information, however, will remain on credit reports.
Six percent of Americans with a credit score—or 12 million—likely will see their score go up because of the new policy. About 11 million could see an increase of about 20 points.
“A lot of people who have liens or judgments against them already have crummy credit to begin with,” says Keith Gumbinger, vice president at HSH.com, a mortgage resource website. “A 10- or 20-point increase isn’t going to make a difference for a lot of borrowers.”
But borrowers who are on the cusp of qualifying for a home loan may stand to benefit the most. For example, Gumbinger says, a would-be buyer with a credit score of 570 who receives a 10-point uptick may be able to qualify for an FHA loan. FHA loans require a minimum 580 credit score.