How To Dispute Credit Report Errors
Like it or not, it’s not uncommon for credit reports to have errors. In fact, one in five people find credit report errors, according to the Federal Trade Commission.
Since your credit score is calculated based on the activities on your credit report, it’s important to thoroughly check your credit report for errors, since these mistakes can lower your score. Read on to learn more about how to dispute credit report errors, where to find your credit report and some of the most common inaccuracies.
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Methods to dispute credit report errors
There are three ways you can dispute an error on your credit report: Online, by mail or over the phone.
No matter how you proceed, it’s important to clearly state the specific error(s), what you need changed and why you need it changed. The three credit bureaus each offer an online form for reporting errors, but it may be beneficial to also send them a letter explaining your dispute. Be sure to review each of your three reports for errors, as they often differ.
Here are the ways you can contact the three credit bureaus to address your dispute:
|Phone||(800) 864-2978||(866) 200-6020||(800) 916-8800|
|Address||P.O. Box 740256 |
Atlanta, GA 30348
|P.O. Box 4500 |
Allen, TX 75013
|P.O. Box 2000 |
Chester, PA 19016
Each bureau — Experian, Equifax and TransUnion — allows you to dispute errors on their website.
You’ll need to create an account with your personal info and then provide any documents that support your claim. You can complete this process for free.
File by mail
You can also make credit report error claims through the mail by submitting a dispute letter. (Use this FTC sample to help you get started.)
Include any documents that support your claim, but be sure not to send the original copies in case you need it again. In your letter, identify the item you’re disputing and any facts that verify the inaccuracy. Be sure to note that you want the information corrected.
Send the letter by certified mail with a return receipt requested. This will provide you with proof that the credit bureau received your dispute.
File over the phone
The credit bureaus also offer the option to dispute credit report errors over the phone, though you’ll need to submit documentation either online or by mail in order to verify your claims.
You can use the following phone numbers to contact the credit bureaus:
- Equifax: (800) 864-2978
- Experian: (866) 200-6020
- TransUnion: (800) 916-8800
How to dispute credit report errors
Once you’ve located the errors on your credit report, it’s time to dispute them. You’ll provide the information about the error, why you think it’s inaccurate and any documents that verify your claim. Once you submit a dispute, the credit report bureau must investigate it within 30 days (sometimes 45 days).
Here are the steps you can take to dispute credit report errors:
1. Submit dispute to credit reporting agency
If you find an inaccuracy on your credit report, you can start by submitting a dispute to the credit reporting agency (Equifax, Experian or TransUnion).
Here’s what you’ll need to provide during this part of the process:
- Your contact information (name, address and phone number)
- The report confirmation number (if applicable)
- Identify all mistakes (include the account number for each one) and explain why you are disputing them
- Request that the information be removed from your report (or corrected)
- Include a copy of your credit report (with the errors highlighted), as well as copies of any other supporting documents
2. Dispute information with credit furnisher
You can also contact the data furnisher — the lender or business that provided the bureau with the incorrect info. Explain your case and be ready to submit documentation supporting the claim.
Ask the furnisher to update the relevant credit bureau with the correct information. If the furnisher gives you a hard time or does not comply, you’re better off working directly with the credit bureaus.
3. Track your progress
After you’ve filed a dispute, you may be able to track the progress of your request. For instance, Experian emails consumers about their case’s progress, providing updates when the case is opened and when it is resolved. Equifax also provides updates to consumers who filed a dispute.
Typically, the process is complete within 30 days. Once the review is finished, one of three things can happen:
- Any incorrect information that was pointed out will be fixed.
- Any information that the credit bureaus cannot verify will either be updated or removed.
- If the information is found to be correct, it will stay on your credit report.
How to get a free credit report
The three major credit bureaus (Experian, Equifax and TransUnion) compile your personal information and financial history into a full report. These companies sell information about your creditworthiness — from bill payment history to the number of credit cards you have open — to employers, lenders and other businesses that then use that data to evaluate your financial reliability.
The Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) requires that consumers are able to access their credit reports for free once per year from each bureau. The law is also designed to ensure that the bureaus only list correct information on your reports.
You can access your credit report for free at AnnualCreditReport.com.
What’s in a credit report?
Your credit report contains a wide array of information. Credit-scoring agencies, like FICO and VantageScore, use your credit report to compose your credit score.
Here is a list of what you will find in your credit report:
- Personal information: Your name, Social Security number, current and previous addresses, phone numbers and date of birth.
- Payment history: Each account on your credit report shows if your payments have been on time or late. If a payment was reported as being late, the report will list how late it was (e.g., 60 days or in collections due to nonpayment).
- Account history: Each of your credit accounts (also known as “tradelines”) are included in your credit report. Each account will feature details about the creditor, payment history, its balance and more. This section will include credit cards and loans.
- Collection accounts and bankruptcies: If you’ve allowed an account to go unpaid and it’s in collections, that information will be listed in your credit report. Bankruptcies will also be listed.
- Your inquiries: When you apply for new credit, a “hard inquiry” is made. This happens when a lender pulls your credit report to view your information. These inquiries impact your credit score, temporarily pulling your score down by several points. Soft inquiries — like checking your credit report or when a lender checks your credit for marketing purposes — are also listed here, but soft inquiries do not impact your score.
- Contact information and your rights: You will also see your contact information and all of your rights listed on your credit report.
What are the most common credit report errors?
Some of the most common credit report errors include the following:
- Errors around your identity
- Incorrect account statuses
- Data management mistakes
- Incorrect balances
Not all errors are created equal. The errors on your credit report could appear in different sections and may have varying impacts on your credit score. For example, you may want to clear up an incorrect former address, alias or former employer, but those types of errors won’t impact your credit score at all.
Missing or seemingly incorrect information isn’t always an error. Creditors aren’t required to report your payments to all three credit bureaus and may only report payments to one or two of them. Or they might not report your payments at all. As a result, differences in your reports or lack of information may not be an error.
If you see closed and repaid accounts on your reports, those aren’t necessarily errors either. Accounts that never had a late payment can stay on your credit report for up to 10 years. If there was a late payment or if the account was sent to collections, the credit bureaus aren’t required to remove the account until seven years after the first late payment on the account. This can be the case even if the account was closed, if you paid off the balance with the original creditor or if you paid off the debt with a collection agency.
Here are some credit report errors you can dispute, and others you cannot:
What you can dispute
A credit card or loan that was opened in your name without your knowledge
An account that was closed more than seven years ago and is still on your report
An account that shows a higher or lower credit limit than it should
Incorrect late payments or other inaccurate negative marks on one of your accounts
Previously disputed accounts appearing on your credit reports again
Incorrect dates on an account, such as the date it was opened, past due or closed
Incorrect public records, like a bankruptcy that never happened
Multiple open accounts for a single debt
What you cannot dispute
Legitimate information, like your current and previous addresses
Public records, such as bankruptcies
Accurate information that has not yet aged out (seven years)
Accounts currently and previously in collection
What happens if a credit dispute is denied?
If you don’t agree with the resolution of your dispute, you can take additional steps.
- Contact the source of the claim: If your dispute is rejected, you can go back to the original source of the credit claim and provide information that the claim is incorrect. The source could be a lender or even a debt collection agency. You can find their contact information on your credit report.
- Resubmit a claim: You can refile an error claim with additional information that might ensure a different outcome.
- Add a statement of dispute: You can request that a note detailing why you dispute the claim be added to your credit report. This note will be displayed to anyone viewing your credit report.
- Contact a lawyer: If all else fails and your credit is seriously affected by an error, you could contact a consumer protection attorney to see what steps could be taken to remove the information from your credit report.
What happens if you are a victim of fraud?
If you notice accounts listed on your credit reports that have been fraudulently opened in your name, here are steps to take to resolve the issue:
- Contact the company that opened the account and alert them to the fraud. Ask them to freeze or flag that account as fraudulent.
- Place a fraud alert on your credit reports and possibly even freeze your credit.
- Report the incident to the FTC and your local police department.
- Remember to regularly check your credit reports. Doing so will go a long way toward preventing fraud in the future.