How to Dispute Credit Report Errors
Key Points About: Disputing Credit Report Errors
Errors on your credit report can happen due to a creditor not updating your info or it can be a sign of identity theft.
Inaccurate information in your credit report may affect your ability to get credit in the future.
To dispute an error on your credit report, contact both the credit reporting company and the company that provided the disputed information.
If you want to build your credit or at least maintain it, it’s always a good idea to review your credit report. Your credit report is one of the most important documents that you can have, right up there with your passport or driver’s license, but it isn’t always a document free of errors. Checking your credit report and finding a mistake, or worse yet, an account you don’t recognize, can be a troubling experience.
There are a few reasons why an error may have made its way to your credit report. Some are simple, like a creditor who didn’t update your file—and others can be more serious, like credit card fraud. These kinds of errors, if left unchecked, may have a big impact on whether you get credit in the future.
Luckily, U.S. law gives you the right to dispute any incorrect information on your credit report at all the three major reporting agencies (Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion) and through your creditors directly. Under the Fair Credit Reporting Act, you have the right to get free credit reports from all three major credit bureaus every 12 months. With the right tools in hand, you can proactively check your credit report and dispute any errors to the credit bureaus.
Reasons to dispute credit report information
Reporting errors on your credit report is so important because wrong information on your file may affect your credit score, which can have longer-lasting implications.
Examples of errors that may affect your credit score include:
- Incorrect balances on accounts
- Derogatory marks that are older than seven years
- Incorrect credit limits
- A delinquent or late payment reported on an account that was paid on time.
If left unchecked, errors on your credit report may affect your spending power and ability to get anything from a personal loan to a credit card. You may be saddled with higher interest rates if the errors on your report lead to a lower credit score.
This is because credit reporting companies share the information in your credit report with businesses who then use the report to decide whether to give you a loan, offer you insurance, or approve you for a mortgage. Some employers even use credit reports in their hiring decisions.
This is why it’s a good idea to regularly check your credit report: doing so can help you find and report fraudulent activity (if someone opened an account in your name without your permission) or a mistake in your creditor’s reporting. It’s helpful to make sure that all of the information on your file is correct by making a habit of checking your credit report and quickly disputing errors.
What you need to dispute a credit report error
You can submit your dispute with one or all the three major credit bureaus (for example, if only one bureau has the error, you don’t need to submit to all three, but it’s worth keeping an eye on the others for the next few months) and with your creditor directly. There are a few things you may need for your credit report dispute:
- Your name, address, and telephone number
- Account numbers for any account you may be disputing
- Documents that prove your dispute
- A copy of your credit report with the disputed items highlighted
When you submit your dispute, explain in detail what the error is and why it’s wrong. Be sure to include supporting documents, like a copy of the email or letter with the right information. The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) also recommends that you copy any documents you send and keep them for your personal records.
How to dispute an error on your credit report
You can file a dispute on your credit report online, over the phone, or by mail to one or all the three major credit bureaus or to your creditor directly.
Reporting credit errors online
Each credit bureau offers an online form for reporting errors. You will usually need to create an online account to fill out the dispute form and upload your supporting documents online. The CFPB has a helpful list of links you can use.
Reporting credit errors over the phone
Equifax and TransUnion allow you to report errors by calling on the phone.
Be prepared to answer questions and give additional information to verify your identity.
You can also choose to dispute a credit error by mail. You should also include copies of any proof that supports your claim, for example, if you have a letter from your credit card company proving identity theft. If you’re not sure what to include in your letter, the CFPB has a sample credit dispute letter that you can use as a template.
Send your dispute by certified mail and ask for a return receipt, so you can have a record of when the credit reporting company received your dispute. And remember, when sending supporting documents, never send the originals. Make copies to provide to the agencies.
How the credit dispute process works
After you send your dispute, the credit reporting agency will send all your documents to the creditor responsible for the disputed information (also called the “furnisher”). If the furnisher agrees that an error happened, then they will update your information. If this happens, the furnisher will notify credit reporting agencies to correct your credit report.
But, if the furnisher decides the disputed information is correct, the credit reporting agency will let you know within five days. After that, the agency can decide not to further investigate your dispute. But even if this happens, you can still ask the credit reporting company to include a note in your file explaining the dispute. This statement will allow you to explain why you believe the information is inaccurate and will be available to anyone who requests your credit report in the future. Moreover, you can also dispute again if you have more information that proves your claim.
No matter how you choose to dispute credit errors, it is important to clearly explain each error, what you need changed, and why you need it changed. If your error was due to fraudulent activity, you may also want to freeze your credit.
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