Can you remove hard inquiries from your credit reports?

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In a Nutshell

Too many hard inquiries can hurt your credit, but you can request to remove hard inquiries that are inaccurate. Here’s how to dispute hard inquiries that shouldn’t be on your credit reports.

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A credit inquiry is a record of when someone requests your credit file. A hard inquiry (or “hard pull”) can affect your credit scores but a single hard inquiry is unlikely to impact your eligibility for new credit accounts, such as credit cards.

If a hard inquiry on your credit reports is legitimate — if you did apply for an account or otherwise authorize the inquiry — it could take up to two years for it to fall off your credit reports.

But it’s possible for there to be unauthorized hard inquiries on your reports. It’s a good idea to regularly review your credit reports for inaccuracies like these. If you find one, you should file a dispute with the credit bureau that generated the report and ask the bureau to remove the inquiry.

Here’s how to dispute inaccurate hard inquiries from your credit reports.

  1. Review your credit reports
  2. Look for unauthorized or incorrect hard inquiries
  3. If warranted, file a dispute with the corresponding credit bureau

1. 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.

Learn more: how to read a credit report

2. Look for unauthorized or incorrect hard inquiries

You can request to remove hard inquiries from your credit reports if …

  1. You didn’t apply for a new credit account, or
  2. 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. It should fall off your reports after about two years.

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.

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 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 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.

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.

3. 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.

Keep reading: A guide to credit dispute letters

Bottom line

Depending on your specific situation, hard inquiries may not have a major impact on your credit scores. But for some, they have the potential to decrease scores and make it more difficult to qualify for credit, such as a loan or credit card. 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.

About the author: Louis DeNicola is a personal finance writer and has written for American Express, Discover and Nova Credit. In addition to being a contributing writer at Credit Karma, you can find his w… Read more.