When was the last time you checked your credit report? We at MyBankTracker encourage consumers to take advantage of those once-a-year free credit reports from each of the three big names (Experian, Equifax and TransUnion), but it turns out that quite a few of those reports — millions, actually — contain incorrect information.

jazbeck / flickr | https://www.flickr.com/photos/jazbeck/8025692978/

jazbeck / flickr source

As many as 25 percent of consumers found errors on their credit reports, according to the Federal Trade Commission. The results of the newly released study show that 2.2 percent of the reports contained errors egregious enough to damage the consumer’s credit score.

While the other 98% of consumers remain unaffected (for now), 2.2 percent of all U.S. consumers still adds up to 10 million Americans who could be potentially denied loans or competitive interest rates. And apparently the Consumer Data Industry Association, the group that represents credit reporting companies, is proud of the “accuracy” of those credit reports. I suppose it could be worse; at least it’s only 10 million and not 100 million!

Apparently, only one in five consumers actually checks his or her credit report annually, according to a report from this past December. On the long list of things you have to do to keep track of your various monies and accounts, it’s easy to let checking your credit report slip your mind. But you know who’s checking your credit score diligently? Lenders, landlords and everybody else in a position to give you things you want. So get on it.

The uninitiated consumer might not even discern the difference between a credit report and score. The report is an analysis of your accounts and history to check that everything is in good standing. The score, which ranges from 300-850, is a more tangible measurement that you have to pay for.

The first time I checked my credit score was last summer when I was looking for an apartment in New York City. One of the landlords I contacted wanted my credit score, so I registered for a free trial with Profinity (per the landlord’s recommendation) and obtained it. Then, before my trial ran out and they started charging me a monthly fee,  I had to call customer service to deactivate my account and sit through all the spiels the associate threw at me.

I get that credit reporting companies have to make money somehow, but it grates me that I have to go through so much work just to access my own information. I’m asking for personal information about myself as a functioning member of our economy, not a detailed psychic reading or horoscope!

Trying to acquire your credit report can be just as annoying if you don’t know where to look, which I also experienced firsthand. If you go to the Experian website, for example, the only options listed are ones that cost money. “Where’s my supposedly free credit report?” I wondered, baffled. (TransUnion‘s site is a bit better.) Apparently the go-to place for credit reports is AnnualCreditReport.com.

Which brings me back to this inaccurate credit reports debacle. Not only are millions of credit reports ridden with errors, credit reporting companies exacerbate their irresponsibility by failing to fix the mistakes. Last year, the Columbus Dispatch investigated 30,000 complaints and found companies to be unresponsive, leaving consumers in the lurch through no fault of their own. Benjamin Marrison wrote,

Industry observers say there is no real incentive for the credit agencies to get it right, because their paying customers are the creditors and it would cost them money if they conducted hands-on investigations.

Wow. Talk about unempowered. “So just remember to check your credit report regularly,” finance experts recommend weakly. How about we hold credit reporting companies responsible for the jobs they’re supposed to be doing first?

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