Recently, I took the step of checking my credit report for free at as I was preparing to do a big financial transaction. My reports from Experian and Equifax were absolutely clean with good scores from both of them. But then I had a big black mark on my TransUnion credit report.

I noticed TransUnion was reporting a lien supposedly filed against me in state court. It wasn't there last time I checked, but it had come on my report through a TransUnion public records search. So there it sat demolishing my credit score, as it would have until 2015.

Knowing that I didn't have any lien filed against, I challenged this item by first going to the state court's website. On their site, I put in the supposed case number for the alleged tax lien and quickly confirmed that the case number did not exist. Nor did the docket number did exist. Yet it was eating me up on my score.

So I told TransUnion. They did the same fact-finding I did and then I got back a letter from them in 2 weeks. It said simply that the item was removed from my report. No more, no less (and no apology!)

PIRG estimates roughly that 1 in 3 of us has an error so serious on our credit files that it could lead to denial of credit or higher interest rate than we would have otherwise. It is your right under the law to see your reports once each year for free. You gotta do it!

In addition, under a new federal law if your interest rate on a loan is marked up or if you are declined for a loan, the credit grantor has to give you the info they used to make that adverse decision, plus your actual numerical credit score. Particularly if you're declined for a loan, look through that legal mumbo jumbo and see what they have on you. Then take action to correct it if need be.

Image of Clark Howard About the author: Clark Howard

Clark Howard is a consumer expert whose goal is to help you keep more of the money you make. His national radio show and website show you ways to put more money in your pocket, with advice you can trust. View More Articles

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