If you find a mistake on your credit report, it’s worth reporting it to the credit bureau who issued the report. Their investigation can lead to the error being removed.
There’s a lot you can do to improve your credit score. From making on-time payments to keeping your credit utilization ratio low, your actions impact how strong your credit report is. That’s why, if you’ve been responsible, it can be very frustrating when an error appears on one (or all) of your credit reports – and damages your credit score.
Don’t worry – if you find a mistake on your credit report there’s a way to report it and get it removed. Keep reading to learn how to do it and keep your credit score from plummeting.
Ways to dispute an error on your credit report
If you believe an error has been made on your credit report, you should start by contacting the credit bureau (or bureaus) that issued it.
You can usually contact a credit bureau (Equifax, Experian, TranUnion) by phone, mail or an online portal.
If you want to contact the credit bureau by mail, you can send a detailed letter – outlining the error and why it’s a mistake – via certified mail and request a return receipt.
You should include a copy of your credit report with the letter, highlight the error and provide copies of any documentation you have to support your claim.
Documentation can include a canceled check, a statement that proves an account has been paid off, police reports, FTC Identity Theft Reports (in the case of identity theft) or any type of correspondence related to your claim. In addition, make sure you clearly list your contact information including your name, mailing address and phone number in your letter.
If you would prefer to start the claim process by phone, you can call the credit bureau’s dispute line, and they’ll walk you through the steps for filing it.
It’s typically easiest and fastest to dispute an error online, where you can upload any documentation that supports your claim. No matter how you contact them, it takes credit bureaus approximately 30 to 45 days to complete their investigations.
How to dispute an error on your credit report
If you find a mistake on one or all of your credit reports, take the steps listed below. They’re fairly simple, but they do take time and effort to complete.
Review all of your credit reports
Review all of your credit reports carefully. If you find a mistake on one it doesn’t mean you’ll find the same mistake on your other two, but it’s worth double-checking to make sure no other errors have been made.
If the error you found on one report doesn’t appear on the others, you only need to dispute it with the credit bureau that issued the report. If you do find the same mistake on one or more of your other reports, you’re still technically required to dispute it only with the bureau that made it. Afterwards, that bureau should contact the others and inform them to remove it from your reports. That said, it’s best to contact all three credit bureaus yourself just to be sure the error is corrected in a timely manner.
Submit your dispute
Once you know which credit bureau you need to submit your dispute to, you can contact them via mail, phone or online to start the process.
Contact the creditor
It’s also a good idea to contact the creditor who reported the mistake to the credit bureau. Once you contact them, creditors have to investigate the disputed information and report back to you within 30 days.
While they’re investigating the error, your account will be reported as “in dispute.” Once you’re notified that your file has been updated, check your credit report in 30 or 45 days to make sure.
If the error stems from a creditor you don’t recognize, you may be the victim of identity theft. This is a serious issue that will require more than just a dispute with the credit bureaus, and you should inform the police of any suspected identity theft immediately.
What happens after you dispute information on your credit report?
Once you submit your dispute, the credit bureau will start its investigation. At the end of the investigation one of the following will happen:
- The bureau will correct the error and remove it from your credit report.
- It will update or delete information that can’t be verified.
- It will verify the disputed error is accurate, and the error will remain on your credit report.
After submitting your dispute, you’ll be able to track it. Usually, the credit bureau will send updates via email on your claim status, but you can also log into your online account with the bureau to stay updated on your claim.
How does disputing an error affect your credit score?
The information on your credit report informs your credit score. Disputing an error won’t impact your credit score unless the dispute leads to an error being removed, which will improve your credit score. In other words, the act of disputing alone won’t hurt or improve your credit score: It’s the investigation results that matter.
It’s worth reviewing your credit report once a year (visit AnnualCreditReport.com to get a free copy annually) to check for any errors. Disputing errors can lead to improving your credit report and score. Perhaps even more important, these errors can point to bigger problems, like identity theft, that need to be addressed much sooner than later.