A credit inquiry is a record of when a lender or creditor requests your credit file.
While a single hard inquiry, also known as a “hard pull,” is unlikely to impact your eligibility for new credit products such as a new credit card, it can affect your credit scores for up to two years.
When reviewing hard inquiries on your credit reports, you want to make sure that they are legitimate. What does that mean? For each hard inquiry line item you see, did you authorize the creditor or lender to pull your credit? If you did, you don’t need to take any action.
But it’s possible that when you’re monitoring your credit reports that you’ll flag instances of unauthorized hard inquiries. If you find one of these, you’ll want to file a dispute with the credit bureau that generated the report and ask the bureau to remove the unauthorized inquiry.
Here’s how to dispute inaccurate hard inquiries from your credit reports.
- Review your credit reports
- Look for unauthorized or incorrect hard inquiries
- If warranted, file a dispute with the corresponding credit bureau
Review your credit reports
You should make it a habit to regularly review your credit reports from the three major consumer credit bureaus — Equifax, Experian and TransUnion. The credit bureaus may not know which information is incorrect unless you flag it.
To check for incorrect hard inquiries on your credit reports, look for a section labeled something like …
- Credit inquiries
- Hard inquiries
- Requests viewed by others
- Regular inquiries
There may also be a separate section for soft inquiries, which should be labeled something like “requests viewed only by you.” Unlike hard inquiries, soft inquiries won’t affect your credit scores.
Not sure how to read the information your credit reports? Learn more about what’s on your credit reports and how to read them.
Look for unauthorized or incorrect hard inquiries
You can request to remove hard inquiries from your credit reports if …
- You didn’t apply for a new credit account, or
- You didn’t otherwise authorize the credit inquiry
If you did apply for a credit account or authorize a hard inquiry, you can’t remove it from your reports. It remains on your credit reports as part of an accurate representation of your credit history. If that’s the case, it should fall off your reports after about two years.
Not all suspicious inquiries are fraudulent
Some inquiries may seem suspicious: You might not recognize the name of the company that made the inquiry, or there may be more inquiries than you expect. But those situations don’t necessarily indicate a mistake or fraud.
For example, you may have used a loan broker that shopped around to try to find you the best rate possible on your loan. Each application the broker submitted on your behalf could lead to an authorized inquiry, even if you only took out one loan.
If you suspect fraud act quickly
But if a hard inquiry you didn’t authorize is on your credit reports, it may be because …
- Someone fraudulently applied for a credit account using your information
- A creditor pulled your credit even though it didn’t have your permission
- The credit bureau mistakenly added the inquiry to your report
If an unauthorized hard inquiry was due to someone else applying for credit with your information, it could be an indication that your identity was stolen. You might want to take some additional steps as soon as you spot the suspicious activity to help prevent further misuse of your information, such as …
- Putting a fraud alert on your credit reports
- Reporting the theft to the Federal Trade Commission
- Filing a police report
- You may even want to consider a credit freeze or locking your credit
You should also continue to check your reports to see if a fraudulent account appears following an unauthorized inquiry. If a fraudulent account appears on your credit reports, you’ll want to contact the creditor to close the account.
If a creditor pulled your credit without your permission or a credit bureau mistakenly added an inquiry to your report, the incorrect hard inquiry could still harm your credit until you take action.
No matter how it got there, you’ll want to file a dispute with the credit bureau whose report shows the incorrect hard inquiry to request that the bureau remove it.
If warranted, file a dispute with the corresponding credit bureau
If you dispute errors in your credit reports, including unauthorized hard inquiries, the credit bureaus are required to investigate. They’re also required to correct information that’s found to be inaccurate.
You can file a dispute with any of the three major consumer credit bureaus — Equifax, Experian and TransUnion — that has an inaccurate hard inquiry recorded for you on its corresponding credit report. Credit Karma members can dispute errors on their TransUnion® report through the Credit Karma Direct Dispute™ tool.
You may be able to dispute inquiries online, but consider mailing your dispute. Look for sample credit dispute letters online, like the one available from the Federal Trade Commission, to help you draft your dispute letter.
If the credit bureau in question investigates and finds that the inquiry wasn’t authorized, it should remove the inquiry from your corresponding credit report.
The impact a hard query has on your credit scores depends on your specific situation. For some, they have the potential to decrease scores and make it more difficult to qualify for credit while for others the barely make a difference.
Regularly checking your credit reports for unauthorized hard inquiries is a good idea either way. If you find an unauthorized or inaccurate hard inquiry, you can file a dispute letter and request that the bureau remove it from your report.
The consumer credit bureaus must investigate dispute requests unless they determine your dispute is frivolous. Still, not all disputes are accepted after investigation. Here’s what you can do if your credit dispute didn’t work.