Credit report errors are not uncommon. In fact, some studies suggest that as many as 25 percent of credit reports could contain serious errors.Common credit report errors include outdated personal information, mistaken or fraudulent accounts and incorrect account details.
If you believe there may be an error on your credit report, you have a right to dispute it with the credit bureau reporting the error. The same process generally applies if you have a legitimate error, like incorrect names or addresses. Here are some important steps to take as you dispute credit errors.
Step 1: Get your free credit reports.
You are entitled to receive one free copy of your credit report from each of the three bureaus (Equifax, Experian and TransUnion) each year. If you’ve already used up your free reports for the year, you can still gain access to them directly through the credit bureaus, but you’ll have to pay a fee. Access your TransUnion and Equifax credit reports for free anytime through Credit Karma.
In some cases, the error may not be reported to all three credit bureaus. Check each credit report carefully to find out if this is the case. You only need to dispute the error with the bureau(s) reporting the incorrect information.
Step 2: Gather documentation supporting your dispute.
In order to dispute the error with the credit bureaus, you’ll need proper documentation that supports your claim. For instance, if the year that you opened a mortgage account is being incorrectly reported, find documentation that proves when the mortgage was originated. Circle the error on your credit reports and make copies of your supporting documentation to send with your dispute letter.
Step 3: Draft a dispute letter.
This is the letter that you’ll send to the bureaus reporting the mistake on your credit report. It’s a good idea to dispute the error in writing and keep a copy for yourself. Send it certified and mark “return receipt requested” so that you’ll have a record of the credit bureau receiving it. Follow the FTC’s guidelines for properly formulating your dispute letter. In your letter, include your supporting documents, as well as the credit report with the error clearly marked.
Step 4: Wait, then follow up on your dispute.
The credit bureau is required to investigate your dispute and will usually do so within 30 days of receiving notification of the dispute. The bureau will also send any information about the inaccuracy to the company or organization that provided the information, such as your credit card issuer or mortgage lender. The company will then investigate the dispute and report back to the credit bureau.
If your dispute is successful, the company is required to notify all three credit bureaus. The credit bureau also has to report the results back to you and include a free copy of your credit report if there was a change made on it due to the investigation.
If you haven’t heard back about your dispute after around a month, contact the credit bureau to follow up.
What to do if your dispute didn’t work:
Your dispute may not result in a corrected credit report. A 2005 report on Credit Reporting Literacyshowed that, in one survey, only 69 percent of credit error disputes resulted in the item’s removal from credit reports. If your dispute isn’t satisfied, it could be due to one of the following scenarios:
The disputed item wasn’t erroneous. If this is the case, you’ll be unable to dispute the error further. You cannot remove correct information from your credit report, even if a credit repair agencyclaims that you can.
The credit bureau claims the item isn’t erroneous, but you have proof that says otherwise. In this scenario, you have an alternative way of disputing, thanks to legislation put in place by the FTC in 2009. Instead of repeating your dispute to the credit bureau, go directly to the furnisher of the line of credit to perform what is called a “direct dispute.” For instance, if the error is a misreported late credit card payment, you would submit a new dispute letter to the credit card issuer, including the following information:
- Identifying information – Include your full name and account number.
- The purpose of your dispute – Be clear about what you are disputing and why.
- Documentation that supports your dispute – Send copies of original documents that can prove that you paid an account on time, such as your credit card statement.
Send your dispute to an address designated for consumer complaints. If there isn’t one provided, send it to the company’s mailing address. Make sure to keep a copy of all the information that you send, and just like your original dispute letter, send it by certified mail, marked “return receipt requested.” The company is required to investigate your dispute. If they refuse to dispute your claim, you may be allowed to take legal action. Read more at the FTC’s website.
It’s important to dispute incorrect information on your credit report because it can have an impact on your credit health and financial future.