If you’re the kind of person who gets annoyed when someone misspells your name, you definitely won’t be happy about incorrect public records. However, it’s something that happens frequently, sometimes due to human error and sometimes due to technical glitches. Perhaps you’re even to blame, if you completed an application form in a hurry and didn’t check your details before you submitted it. The good news is that in most cases, it’s fairly easy to correct public records, although it could take a while for your information to update.
Public Record Information
Public records contain information that identifies you, such as your name, age, date of birth, current and previous addresses, phone number, vehicle license registration number, business details, marriage/divorce information and voting history. A quick way to check that the information in your public records is correct is via online public record repositories such as SearchQuarry.com, many of which offer a free trial period before you commit to a monthly subscription. These sites have public records such as license plate records, court records, phone number records and birth, marriage, divorce and death records.
How to Correct Public Records
You've already identified the public record that has an error, so the next step is to contact the relevant department, such as the DMV or a court's clerk's office. The CDC's National Center for Health Statistics website provides contact details for every state's office of vital records, which is where you would go to ask for corrections to a birth, death, marriage or divorce record.
When possible, go in person as you must provide identification to back up your request for a change in information. Take as much identification as you can, for example, driver's license, utility bill and marriage certificate. Tell the staff that their records have an error and request a change. They will provide you with the paperwork you need to complete and take photocopies of your identification. Ask how long it will take for the information to be updated. After this time has passed, check the public records and if the error is still there, contact the department again and ask if there is a reason for the delay.
Read More: How to Access County Public Records for Free
Correcting Your Credit Report
While a credit report is not a public record, part of your credit report is reserved for public records such as a bankruptcy, judgment or tax lien. If you have already corrected public records with the court, you may need to contact the credit reporting company to request a change to your credit report. Explain in writing what information you think is inaccurate and why, including copies of documents to support your position.
Once you've identified the public record that has an error, get in touch with the relevant department to request a correction. Do this in person if possible, taking plenty of identification to support your request. The department will give you the paperwork necessary to complete the process.
- If you are disputing information beyond basic identifiers (name, address, phone number), such as code violations or an assessment grievance, you may be required to present your arguments at an official town meeting, or put them in writing. The same concept applies to challenging police and court records--you may need to submit legal papers or attend a hearing.
- Don't begin your search by checking public records online because those are not the original documents and there could still be errors in city hall files. But after visiting the appropriate government building, be sure to ask to the appropriate department members to fix any errors that might be included in the records posted online as well.
Claire is a qualified lawyer and specialized in family law before becoming a full-time writer. She has written for many digital publications, including The Washington Post, Forbes, Vice and HealthCentral.