Your credit report is used to evaluate your application for credit, insurance, employment, and renting a home. Your credit report contains information about where you live, how you pay your bills, whether you’ve been sued or arrested, and whether you’ve filed for bankruptcy. This is why it’s so important to make sure this information is accurate and current. Monitoring your credit can also help you spot identity theft.
Credit report errors are actually very common, with some studies suggesting up to 25% of reports containing serious errors such as: outdated personal information, incorrect or fraudulent accounts, liens or judgments that do not belong to the consumer, and incorrect account information. An even greater number of credit reports contain smaller mistakes.
Mistakes on your credit report can be very costly. Along with causing you to pay higher interest rates on loans, you may be denied for credit, insurance, a rental home, or a loan because of these mistakes.
If you have mistakes on your credit report, there is a process to dispute them.
Checking Your Credit Report for Mistakes
Credit report errors are very common. Up to 70% of all consumer reports contain mistakes, and 26% of these errors are serious enough to have an application for housing, employment, or credit denied.
It is very important to check your credit report at least once a year to identify and correct any mistakes — and detect unauthorized activity.
You are entitled to a free copy of your credit report from all three major bureaus — TransUnion, Equifax, and Experian — once every 12 months. You can learn more about obtaining your free credit report here, or visit AnnualCreditReport.com.
How to Dispute Mistakes on Your Credit Report
Under the FCRA, credit bureaus and the information provider (or the company or organization that provided the information about you) are responsible for correcting incorrect information in your file.
After identifying mistakes or incomplete information on your report, you can take the following steps to dispute them.
1. Gather documentation to support your dispute.
To dispute the error, it is best to provide supporting documentation with your claim. For example, if a collection account appears on your file even though you paid the debt in full with the original creditor, you should submit a statement showing the pay-off with your dispute.
2. Dispute mistakes with each bureau.
If you find a mistake in your credit report from a credit reporting agency, the next step is submitting a dispute directly to the credit bureau.
You may dispute mistakes online or through the mail. It is recommended that you send a certified letter rather than relying on the online system because you are afforded the opportunity to include supporting documents and leave a traceable paper trail.
In the dispute letter, enclose a copy of your credit report with the mistakes circled or highlighted. Include copies (never originals) of documents supporting your position. Always send this letter by certified mail with return receipt requested so you have a record that it was received.
The letter should include the following:
- Your full legal name,
- Your date of birth,
- Your Social Security number,
- Your current mailing address,
- A brief description of the problem,
- A list of the items/documents you are including,
- A copy of your credit report with the mistakes highlighted.
Equifax Information Services LLC
P.O. Box 740256
Atlanta, GA 30374
By phone: (800) 864-2978
P.O. Box 4500
Allen, TX 75013
By phone: (888) 397-3742
TransUnion Consumer Solutions
P.O. Box 2000
Chester, PA 19022
By phone: (800) 916-8800
Always keep a copy of both your dispute letter and any documents you enclosed.
3. Send a dispute letter to the original creditor or information provider.
It is also a good idea to dispute the mistake with the source of the mistake as well. If the company corrects the information following your dispute, it is required by law to notify the credit reporting agencies of the updated information.
This letter should include the same information as the letter to the credit bureau.
What Can Be Disputed?
Technically, anything on your credit report may be disputed. Credit bureaus will only investigate and delete items the law requires them to delete, however.
You can dispute any items on your credit report that are outdated, inaccurate, incomplete, or that you believe cannot be verified. Negative items, with the exception of bankruptcy, can only appear on your credit file for 7 years. Bankruptcy may remain on your report for 10 years. If you have negative entries that are still on your report past this time, you can dispute them.
Other items that may be disputed include:
- Payments reported as late that were paid on time,
- Accounts that do not belong to you,
- Inaccurate credit limits, loan amounts, or account balances,
- Inaccurate creditor listed,
- Inaccurate account status, such as an account reported as past due that is current.
What Happens Next?
Credit bureaus have 30 days to investigate and respond to your dispute, or 45 days if you provide additional documentation during the investigation. If they do not respond during this time frame, you may have the right to sue.
After your dispute is investigated, the credit reporting agency must give you the results of the investigation in writing. The credit reporting agency may immediately delete the information that has been disputed, but they reserve the right to reinsert deleted items if they are later verified.
If the dispute resulted in a change to your credit report, you should be provided with a new copy of your credit report. You can also request the bureau send a correction notice to any company that has accessed your credit file in the last six months.
If you are not satisfied with the resolution, you also have the option of submitting a complaint to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.
If the credit reporting agency does not correct the inaccurate information in your credit report, contact Agruss Law Firm, LLC, for further help.