If you were checking for errors on your credit report and saw COAF, it’s easy to think you found one. However, it’s more likely that you recently applied for or successfully received a car loan—and that’s exactly what this mark would represent.
Here’s how it affects your credit score, and if you need to be concerned.
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What is COAF on my credit report?
COAF stands for Capital One Auto Finance.
Capital One Financial Corporation is a major financial services company that specializes in consumer and commercial lending. Their auto financing division provides auto loans for vehicles purchased from affiliated dealerships.
If you see COAF on your credit report, you probably applied for an auto loan through Capital One Auto Finance.
Is COAF a scam?
No, seeing COAF on your credit report doesn’t mean you’ve been scammed—Capital One Auto Finance is a legitimate company. If you see their name, it probably indicates that you have an account with them or they checked your credit.
If you’re certain that there’s activity on your credit report under COAF that shouldn’t be there, it’s possible you’ve been the victim of identity theft.
We’ll discuss the reasons (both legitimate and fraudulent) that COAF might be on your credit report in more detail in the next section.
Why is COAF on my credit report?
COAF can appear on your credit report for a number of reasons, some negative and some harmless. Here are the four most common reasons why COAF might appear on your credit report:
1. Capital One Auto Finance checked your credit
You’ll see COAF on your credit report if Capital One Auto Finance ran a credit check to determine your eligibility for a car loan. This type of check can appear as a hard inquiry or as a soft inquiry.
- Hard inquiries: These generally appear on your credit report when you apply for new lines of credit, credit cards, store cards, rewards cards, or installment loans. For example, COAF will show up on your credit report if you actually applied for a car loan from Capital One Auto Finance.
- Soft inquiries: These show up on your credit report when someone checks your credit but you’re not actually looking to open a new account. For example, if Capital One Auto Finance prequalified you for an auto loan, then they may have triggered a soft inquiry during the prequalification process.
Thankfully, soft inquiries won’t affect your credit score. Hard inquiries will usually lower your credit score by a few points, but the effect won’t last more than a year, and the inquiry will fall off your credit report entirely after two years. 1 Note that you usually can’t remove a hard inquiry early unless the bureau added it to your report by mistake.
2. You have an auto loan issued by Capital One Auto Finance
COAF will appear on your credit report if you currently have or previously had an auto loan issued by Capital One Auto Finance. This is because lenders usually report your monthly loan payments to at least one of the three major credit bureaus.
3. You’re a cosigner on someone else’s auto loan
COAF can show up on your credit report if you cosigned an auto loan for someone else, like a spouse, child, or friend. When you cosign a loan, you’re taking responsibility for paying off the loan if the primary borrower stops making payments.
Their payments toward the loan can also affect your credit score, for better or for worse. 3 If the primary borrower responsibly manages their payments, then being their cosigner can improve your credit score by helping you establish a positive payment history. On the other hand, missed payments might cause a drop in your credit score.
4. You’re a victim of identity theft
If you see COAF on your credit report but you’re sure you didn’t apply for an auto loan issued by Capital One Auto Finance, it could be a sign of identity theft.
If you suspect that someone’s trying to fraudulently open accounts in your name, take these steps:
- Contact Capital One Auto Finance and tell them you’ve never applied for or taken out one of their auto loans. Ask them for details about the loan application, such as when it was submitted and under what circumstances the inquiry was authorized.
- Report the identity theft to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). Go to www.identitytheft.gov and answer the questions to generate an identity theft report and recovery plan.
- Contact any of the three main credit bureaus (Equifax, Experian, or TransUnion) and have a fraud alert placed on your credit report. You only need to contact one of the bureaus; they’ll coordinate with the others, and your fraud alert will be acknowledged by all three. 4
Carefully monitor your credit reports over the next few months for further signs of fraudulent activity.
How does COAF affect my credit score?
There are several ways that COAF can affect your credit score, depending on whether it’s been reported as an inquiry or an account.
This effect is usually cumulative, so too many hard inquiries can really hurt your score. However, a single inquiry isn’t something to worry about—your credit score ranges from 300 to 850, which means 5 points in either direction isn’t significant.
What’s more, to avoid penalizing consumers for shopping around for the best interest rates on loans, both FICO and VantageScore have a shopping window (14 or 45 days, depending on the model) in which they treat multiple hard inquiries as a single inquiry. 7 8
This means that if you have several COAF inquiries on your credit report that were added within a short time frame because you applied for different financing options with Capital One, your credit score will only drop by the number of points you’d lose for a single hard inquiry.
Open and closed accounts
If you have an auto loan from Capital One Auto Finance on your credit report, then it’s contributing to your credit score by influencing the following factors:
How to remove COAF from my credit report
If you want to delete COAF from your credit report, then try one of the following approaches.
1. Send a dispute letter
If you see an item listed under COAF on your credit report that you suspect is a mistake, then you can dispute it by sending a dispute letter to Capital One Auto Finance and/or the credit bureaus.
Send your letter to Capital One Auto Finance if you believe the error originated with them (e.g., they reported a late payment that you actually paid on time). Send it to the credit bureaus if you believe they made the mistake (e.g., they confused you with someone with a similar name or Social Security number).
Either way, it’s usually a good idea to send copies of the letter to both parties (the bureaus and Capital One Auto Finance). They may contact each other as they investigate the matter, and it’s important to make sure everybody has received the relevant information.
Once you’ve filed your dispute, the credit bureau will be required to investigate and correct any inaccurate information on your report, usually within 30–45 days. 9
2. Use a credit repair company
A credit repair company will act as a middleman between yourself and whoever you need to communicate with, such as your lender and the credit bureaus. They might be able to get a hard inquiry or other COAF item off your credit report by helping you gather evidence and handling all the required communication.
However, be wary of scammers. By law, credit repair companies are not allowed to charge you before they’ve helped you. 10 If they ask for payment upfront, hire a different company.
Although hiring a credit repair company can save you some time and hassle in disputing items on your credit report, bear in mind that they can’t do anything for you that you can’t do yourself.
They also won’t necessarily be able to erase valid negative information or turn a bad credit score into a good credit score overnight. Think carefully before hiring a third-party company to get COAF off your credit report.