- Errors in credit reports are unfortunately somewhat common.
- Checking your report for errors can help incorrect information and identify fraud.
- It’s possible to have credit bureaus fix erroneous information on your credit report.
A recent Consumer Reports survey showed that 34% of participants found at least one error on their credit report. Errors on your credit report can harm your score and make it more difficult to secure a loan, among other things. When you spot an error on your credit report, it’s important to dispute it right away, since it can impact your credit score.
If you’ve wondered how to dispute credit report inaccuracies, the good news is that there are procedures in place to help you address these issues quickly. A credit dispute can sometimes be the best course of action. The information below will provide a step-by-step guide to how the credit dispute process works.
Step 1. Obtain and review all credit reports for errors
There are three major credit bureaus: Equifax, Experian and TransUnion. These companies provide credit reports to individuals and credit reporting information to lenders and others. You’re entitled to a free credit report from each bureau once every 12 months as part of the Fair Credit Reporting Act. These reports are available through annualcreditreport.com.
Read through each credit report to make sure entries are up-to-date and accurate. Spotting inaccurate information is crucial; the faster you see inaccuracies, the better off you’ll be. Also, check to see if there’s any incomplete information on the report since this can impact your credit. There may be an error on only one report, or the same error on all three reports, depending on your situation.
Common errors found in credit reports
There are several types of errors that you might find on your credit report. Here are a few of the most common errors and what they mean.
Account status and balance-related errors:
- Incorrect balance reported on a loan
- Incorrect credit card balance reported
- Incorrect credit limit information (too high or too low)
- Closed accounts reported as being open
Expired debts or negative information:
- Paid debts that should have dropped off your credit report automatically but didn’t
- Lawsuits and judgments against you that may not have dropped off on time
- Bankruptcy proceedings that haven’t come off your report automatically after 10 years
- Incorrect date for final payment, loan opening or first delinquent payment
Personal information and identity-related errors:
- Incorrect name, phone number or address
- Accounts belonging to someone else with a similar name
- Incorrect account information due to identity theft
|How to Report Identity Theft to Credit Bureaus|
|If you believe you’re a victim of identity theft, there are several actions to consider taking. The first is to freeze your credit by contacting the credit bureaus. Freezing your credit information prevents new lenders from accessing your credit history, which can prevent further fraud. You can also freeze your credit as a general safety precaution, even if you haven’t experienced identity theft.|
Step 2. Collect relevant documentation to file a dispute
You’ll need to gather specific documents before submitting your credit dispute. Credit bureaus ask for this information so they can adequately investigate a claim and help avoid frivolous credit disputes.
Frivolous credit disputes are those that pertain to correct information on your report that you flag as being inaccurate. A report is considered frivolous if you don't provide enough information for investigation or if the dispute pertains to information already disputed and resolved.
You may need to provide the following information as part of your credit dispute:
- Full name
- Social Security number
- Date of birth
- Current address and other addresses in the past two years
- Additional contact information, such as a phone number, so the bureau can follow up after the investigation has concluded
- Supporting documents (proof of paid-off debts, accurate balance statements, etc.)
Step 3. Submit your dispute to the credit bureau
There are three ways you can submit dispute errors on your credit report: by phone, by mail or through a credit bureau’s website. Sending your dispute online is often the quickest way to submit and resolve an issue.
|Does Disputing a Credit Report Error Hurt Your Credit Score?|
|Disputing a credit report error doesn't hurt your score. But, the outcome of the dispute may positively alter your credit score if an item is verified as being inaccurately reported.|
If you’re submitting your dispute letter by mail, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) has a sample template letter that you can use as a guide for writing your dispute letter.
|Online||Equifax’s Online Dispute Page||Experian’s Online Dispute Page||TransUnion’s Online Dispute Page|
Equifax Information Services, LLC
TransUnion Consumer Solutions
|By Phone||(866) 349-5191||
Step 4. Wait while the dispute is investigated
The majority of credit report disputes are resolved in 30 days or less, depending on the specifics of your situation. Reporting bureaus have five business days to inform you of the investigation’s outcome once completed.
If you initiate a dispute after receiving your free credit report, bureaus have 45 days to investigate. Should you provide additional information that’s relevant to your dispute within the 30-day period, bureaus receive an additional 15 days to investigate.
Step 5. Review the dispute results
If you haven’t received an update about your dispute after 45 days, reach out to the bureau (or bureaus) with which you’ve created disputes. There will likely be one of two outcomes after an investigation has concluded: The claim will either be resolved or denied. Either way, the credit bureau is required to send an individual's results in writing.
If the credit bureau agrees there’s an error
If the credit bureau agrees that there’s an error on your credit history, it will remove the item and send you a new copy of the modified report. Credit agencies generally update their reports every 30-45 days, so you may have to wait a few weeks to see your results.
You can also submit a request for the bureau to notify any party that received your report within the last six months. Remember that you’ll have to follow up with each credit bureau with which you filed a dispute.
If the credit bureau disagrees there’s an error
If the credit bureau doesn't agree with your dispute, the item will remain on your credit report. There are a few steps you can take to attempt to fix the issue or at least provide some context for it in your credit report.
- Redispute the error: You can redispute the error if you so choose, but bear in mind that you may not be successful the second time unless you have uncovered more information or evidence relating to the issue.
- Submit a statement of dispute on your credit report: You can also insert a statement to go along with your credit report, which can help explain the issue even if the bureau doesn't decide there's an error in your report.
- File a complaint with the FTC or the CFPB: You can also file a complaint against the credit bureau with the Federal Trade Commission or the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.
Why disputing credit report errors is important
Disputing errors on your credit report helps rectify issues with your credit history that may have lowered your credit score in the process. Error disputes are essential if your identity has been stolen and fraudulent accounts have been opened in your name. Credit report errors can affect your ability to secure a loan, credit card or anything that requires a hard credit check.
Spotting an error and filing a dispute immediately can help resolve any outstanding or incorrect issues on your credit report. Catching these issues quickly can help you fix your credit history and better portray your relationship with credit in the past and present.
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