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If you’ve spotted an error on one of your credit reports, you should take immediate steps to correct the inaccuracy.
Around 25% of U.S. consumers found errors that could affect their credit scores in one of their credit reports, according to a 2012 study by the Federal Trade Commission. The same study reported that one in five consumers had an error that a credit bureau corrected after the consumer disputed the mistake on at least one report.
An error on your credit reports could lead to lower credit scores and impact your ability to open a new credit account or get a loan. Here are steps you can take to ask the credit bureaus to remove incorrect derogatory marks from your credit.
- Send a letter to the credit bureau
- Determine if you should contact the data furnisher as well
- Wait up to 45 days for the credit bureau or data furnisher to investigate and respond
- Review the results of the investigation
- Check for updates to your credit report
Once you identify an error on your credit reports, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau recommends that you contact the credit bureaus that produced the reports with the error. Equifax, TransUnion and Experian, the three major credit bureaus, let you dispute inaccuracies on their respective consumer credit reports online or by mail.
Give your contact information and, in writing, explain what the error is and why it’s wrong. You’ll find sample letters to dispute credit report information with the credit bureau on the CFPB website. Be sure to include supporting documentation, such as a copy of an email verifying the status of the account that’s reported incorrectly. The CFPB also recommends that you keep copies of any letters or documentation that you send, and suggests that if you send it by mail, use certified mail with a return receipt.
Where to submit a dispute to the three major credit bureaus
|Online||How to dispute||Manage a dispute||Dispute online|
PO Box 740256
Atlanta, GA 30374-0256
Consumer Dispute Center
PO Box 2000
Chester, PA 19016
PO Box 4500
Allen, TX 75013
Errors on credit reports could include …
- Identity-related errors such as a misspelled name, wrong phone number or address, or your information incorrectly merged with another person’s credit record
- Incorrectly reported accounts, such as a closed account reported as open or an account wrongly reported as delinquent
- Account balance and credit limit errors
- Reinsertion of inaccurate information after it’s corrected
The CFPB also recommends that you contact the company that provided the information to the credit bureau. Companies that provide information to credit bureaus are also known as furnishers. Examples of furnishers include banks and credit card issuers. If the furnisher’s address is listed on your credit report, send your dispute to that address or contact the company for the correct address.
You can try going directly to the furnisher and asking them to correct their reporting mistake before contacting the credit bureau, says Kevin Haney, a credit bureau expert at Growing Family Benefits. That might save a step, since all the bureau can do in its investigation is communicate to the company that the consumer says it’s wrong, he says.
But if the error is an identity-related mistake made by a credit bureau, go to the bureau first.
“Those are the most likely to get corrected, because the bureau owns the problem so it doesn’t have to reach out to anyone,” Haney says.
In this case, you should also check with the other major credit bureaus to make sure the identity-related error isn’t on their reports as well.
The credit bureau generally has 30 days after receiving your dispute to investigate and verify information with the furnisher. The credit bureau must also report the results back to you within five days of completing its investigation.
If you dispute the error with the information furnisher, that company must also report the results of its investigation to you. It also typically have 30 days to investigate. But if the furnisher stands by the accuracy of the information it reported, it won’t update or remove the error.
One more thing to note is that either the credit bureau or the furnisher may decide that your dispute is “frivolous.” This generally happens when you’ve submitted incorrect or incomplete information on the dispute, but can also occur if you’ve tried to contest the same item multiple times without any new information or if you’ve attempted to claim that everything on your credit report is incorrect without proof.
If the bureau decides that your dispute is frivolous, it doesn’t need to investigate it further as long as it communicates that to you within five days, along with the reasoning for deeming the dispute frivolous. If your original dispute was labeled frivolous, you can try to resubmit a dispute with updated materials.
The credit bureau involved must provide you with results of the investigation in writing and also a free copy of your credit report if the dispute results in a change to that report. The credit bureau must also provide you with the name, address and phone number of the furnisher that reported the incorrect information.
If a furnisher continues to report a disputed item, it is required to notify the credit bureau involved about your dispute. If the disputed information is found to be inaccurate, the furnisher must tell the credit bureau to update or delete the item. The furnisher must also notify all the credit bureaus to which it sent the incorrect information so that the bureaus can correct their records.
Even if the furnisher insists that the disputed information is accurate, you can still request that the credit bureau include a statement in your credit file explaining the dispute.
Updates to your affected credit reports may take some time to appear. It can depend on the specific credit bureau’s update cycle and when the furnisher sends the new information to the credit bureau.
If the update doesn’t appear on your credit reports within several months, contact the credit bureaus and the furnisher to verify it’s reporting your account information to the bureaus.
If you identify an error on your credit reports, it’s crucial to dispute it immediately. Down the line, negative or incorrect identity-related information — like a misspelled name, wrong address or transposed Social Security number digits — can affect your ability to get credit cards, loans, insurance and even a job. The dispute process isn’t complicated but it can be time consuming and frustrating, especially if the result isn’t in your favor. It’s well worth the effort, however, if you succeed with your dispute.