How to Dispute an Error on Your Credit Report

How to Dispute an Error on Your Credit Report

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 Common credit report errors include outdated personal information, mistaken or fraudulent accounts and incorrect account details.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 Literacy showed 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 agency claims 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.

Conclusion

It's important to dispute incorrect information on your credit report because it can have an impact on your credit health and financial future. To ensure that your credit report remains clear of errors in the future, monitor your credit with Credit Karma.

Disclaimer: All information posted to this site was accurate at the time of its initial publication. Efforts have been made to keep the content up to date and accurate. However, Credit Karma does not make any guarantees about the accuracy or completeness of the information provided. For complete details of any products mentioned, visit bank or issuer website.

All Comments

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1 Contribution
5940 People Helped

Helpful to 5940 out of 6453 people

I just want to call to everybody's attention something VERY IMPORTANT I learned about accounts in collections, etc. ---- and the advice I I often hear on posts like these, where someone says,  "just call the lawyer's office to ask about it...." or "just call the company....", "just call the credit card company", etc.  That is NOT always good advice!!!!  That can be VERY BAD ADVICE.  The reason is, there's a STATUTE OF LIMITATIONS on all debts.  I think if it's a "written" agreement, like a credit card would be, then the statute is 4 years (could be different state to state, I'm in California). 

Anyway, after the statute has run, meaning after 4 years - FROM YOUR LAST CONTACT WITH THEM - they can no longer sue you for that debt!!  But!!......IF YOU CALL THEM (or contact them in any way) about the debt ....that date it STARTS THE STATUTE TO RUN ALL OVER AGAIN!!  In other words, from the date you called them -- they now have 4 YEARS from that date that they can sue you.  This is really important!! 

If, for example, 3 yrs and 11 months ago was the last time you talked to that debt collector, credit card company, lawyer, or anyone else that's tried to collect on the debt, or who you owe the debt to, then it's NOT in your best interests to call them....because they only have 1 mo left wherein they can sue you.  Whereas, if you call them, they then have 4 more years to try to collect on that debt & to sue you!!!

I'm not a lawyer, this isn't legal advice, this is just what I learned about the law on my own.  Hope it helps.

Reply by
Rose2woods

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1118 People Helped
Helpful to 1118 out of 1454 people

WRONG!  Contacting a creditor does NOT restart the clock - only payment negotiations and/or can do this.

Reply by
Smiliesim

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937 People Helped
Helpful to 937 out of 1131 people

Like you, I'm not an attorney, nor expert.  In fact, I don't know a lot on this subject.  However, I've filed a bancruptcy (in CA also) and have learned a bit about "old" debt.  While I found your post enlightening, about the time statute renewing on the most recent date of contact, I'm not sure how accurate it is.  I do know for a fact, that your "4 years" is wrong.  It's 7 years for most debts and 10 years for others, before you're safe from being collected on/sued.  For some debts like student loans, child support, alimony, and court judgments there is no time limit-so you can be snet to collections/sued any time.  Regardless whether you've past the statue of limitations on a debt, while they cannot sue you or seek collections anymore, technically, you still owe that debt.  The only true way to have debt wiped from your record is to file a bancuptcy, and still not all debt can be discharged.  Now there are "4 year" statue of limititations, but those are regarding various time limits on when you can sue someone for other things, like medical malpractice (which is generally 3 years, depending on where you live and what you're fighting against).  Once again, however, if what you're otherwise saying about the "years" renewing when you contact them, that might explain why my attorney didn't want me contacting old debts regarding my current balance with them for my bancruptcy (I hadn't received bills in years, but wanted them listed in my bancuptcy regardless, which they were, with estimated balances).  Thanks, for the interesting post!

Reply by
bootsgal

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Helpful to 398 out of 472 people

I'm not a lawyer either, retired legal inv...you are right about the statue of limitations of the credit debt, BUT NOT THE CREDIT REPORT! I got excited too, when I did research, it showed in MS 4 years for the statue, reading further, that showed me BUT, NOT for a credit report to bump it off...don't ask me why...so I believe it is the credit bureaus with their little mayhem of 7 years...even if you did have 3 years...that is the time that the creditors have to get off of your tail...so you only have 4 more years left on the actual report! LIFE SUX!...if we were smart we would legislate for NO CREDIT BUREAUS at all...did you know that there weren't any when I was first born? Another history lesson for us all...yeah, we didn't want that, some lobbyist went after it for some big financial grouping and VOILA.....our lives are screwed up...they don't need to know all of our business....oh well, that's my take on this horrible experience of regrouping just for credit's sake!...

9 Contributions
156 People Helped

Helpful to 126 out of 147 people

It is amazing how many people on this section think Credit Karma can do anything about your credit issues.  They are just a clearinghouse that presents what the CRA's have on file. Please STOP putting ypur personal info in this blog for ALL to read.  Order your credit report and dispute all the wrong info to the credit company and also to the 3 Credit Agencies.  The address to every creditor is on your credit report.  It will take months but start with one and work your way through it before going on to the next.  They have 30 days to answer you.  Ask the info be VERIFIED or removed.   Most companies will choose removal because verifing is too much work.  

ALSO - the guy that is upset about all his past closed store accounts - closed accounts - paid off or not - hurt your credit. And ask the one company who you paid late to just once to change that report based on timely payments for the year after - they will do it as a "good faith" favor to you - you just have to ask.

1 Contribution
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Helpful to 192 out of 227 people

I saw above a comment that read, "Sorry to hear what happened. I have some experience in the financial area. Send me all of your information and I can help you". 

Dont send your financial information to someone YOU DON'T KNOW!!!

Can I say it any plainer.

1 Contribution
1658 People Helped

Helpful to 1648 out of 2377 people

I cannot dispute something if I don't know what it is; all I am asking is for you to tell me what it is.

Reply by
51Rats

1 Contribution
796 People Helped
Helpful to 796 out of 1087 people

Yea, I have something on my credit report and all I see is the law office...in collections...I have no idea who this is. I was alerted through an account that was set up for me after a medical facility had been broken into so if anything changed on my credit report I would know it. Well, it alerted me, but who is this? How can I see who is on my credit report causing me problems without paying an arm and a leg to someone. This is MY information...I should have TOTAL access and see everything...everyone else seems to...where do I go for help?

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