How to Dispute Credit Report Errors

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Taking the time to dispute credit report information probably ranks up there with car repairs or dental work in terms of popularity, but it’s just as important to your financial status as a working engine is to your automobile. And, just like a root canal, the sooner you decide to dispute credit report errors, the better off you’ll be in the long run.

Why? Because banks and credit card companies use your credit history to determine whether you qualify for a loan or credit and, if you do, what interest rate you’ll receive. That’s why it’s always in your best interest to make sure your credit report — whether it’s an online credit report or a credit report received through the mail — is accurate and error free. If you need to dispute credit report information, here are a few tips on the process.

Dispute A Credit Report Error — Step One

Your first step is to confirm any credit report errors or inaccuracies you may have found. Credit bureaus are obligated to investigate any disputes they receive, usually within 30 days, unless they consider the dispute frivolous. 

Since “frivolous” is often debatable, gathering evidence to support your claim is important. Find original letters and documents from banks, credit issuers and other companies that prove you closed this account or paid off that loan. And immediately investigate any unauthorized and unrecognized accounts you find listed in your credit report. Unknown credit accounts may be a sign of identity theft. Learn more about identity theft.

Dispute A Credit Report Error — Step Two

Once you document the errors or inaccuracies found in your credit report, contact the credit reporting bureau(s) to dispute the information. Make a copy of your credit report (if it’s an online credit report, be sure to print out at least two copies — one for your files and one for the credit bureau), highlight the items in dispute, explain why you believe the information is inaccurate, and ask the credit bureau to remove or correct the information on your credit report.

Make copies of the documents you gathered to support your claim, and send them, along with your credit report dispute letter and highlighted credit report, via certified, return-receipt mail to the credit bureau. (Be sure to keep a copy of your letter, and keep all original documents stored safely.) Assuming your dispute rises above the "frivolous" standard, the credit bureau will investigate it. Once the investigation is over, the credit bureau is required to contact you in writing with the results.

If your dispute is upheld, the credit bureau has to remove the incorrect information from your file. The bureau also has to give you a free copy of your report, along with the name, address, and phone number of the company that provided the erroneous information.

And your right to dispute a credit report doesn't end there. You can also direct the credit bureau to send correction notices to anyone who received either a mailed or an online credit report about you in the past six months. For instance, if you’ve been job hunting, you can order the bureau to send a corrected copy of your report to anyone who received a copy during the past two years for employment purposes.

If your dispute isn't resolved after the investigation, you can ask that a statement of the dispute be included in your file and in future reports. You also can ask the credit bureau to provide your statement to anyone who received a copy of your report in the recent past, although credit bureaus can charge you for this service.

Dispute A Credit Report Error — Step Three

While the credit bureau is investigating your dispute, be sure to contact any and all banks, credit card issuers and other companies that supplied the information in dispute. The credit bureau is also required to contact these companies directly, but being proactive can help to protect your credit history. Send copies of your dispute documents to each company via certified, return-receipt mail. Be sure to include your credit report dispute letter and ask them to investigate the disputed the data they gave the credit bureau, too. If the information in question is determined to be inaccurate, the company cannot report it again.

Please note: No one can legally remove accurate and timely negative information from a credit report. The law allows you to ask for an investigation of information in your credit file that you dispute as inaccurate or incomplete at no charge to you. Please visit ftc.gov/credit for more information on how to dispute credit report errors.

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