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Errors on your credit reports can cause your credit scores to be lower than they should be, which can affect your chances of getting a loan or credit card and how much interest you pay. Disputing credit report errors and getting those negative items removed can be a quick route to a better score.
Here's how to dispute credit report errors and have them removed in four steps.
1. Check all three credit reports for errors
You’re entitled to free weekly credit reports from the three major credit reporting bureaus: Experian, Equifax and TransUnion. Request them by using AnnualCreditReport.com.
There may be small differences among your reports, because some creditors don’t report your account activity to all three bureaus. But if negative information has popped up on one report, it’s wise to see whether it’s also on the other two.
There is no cost to dispute credit report errors, and you can dispute as many items as you like. Filing a dispute does not hurt your credit score, but the result of the dispute may have an effect on your score.
Which credit report errors should you dispute?
The most concerning errors are those that could hurt your scores or suggest identity theft. Those include:
Wrong account status (such as a payment mistakenly reported late when you paid on time).
Negative information that's too old to be reported; most derogatory marks on your credit must be removed after seven years.
An ex-spouse incorrectly listed on a loan or credit card.
Wrong account numbers or accounts that aren’t yours.
Inaccurate credit limits or loan balances.
Accounts you don't recognize.
Addresses where you've never lived.
If you suspect your identity has been stolen, follow the steps to report identity theft.
Which credit report errors aren't worth disputing?
Small errors that don’t affect your score — like a misspelled former employer name or an outdated phone number — don’t hurt anyone’s assessment of your creditworthiness and aren't worth disputing.
And sometimes a negative mark might surprise you but is not an error. If it’s accurate, don't use the dispute process. Instead, try to resolve the problem directly with the creditor. For example, if you accidentally missed a payment, contact the creditor, arrange to pay up and ask if it will rescind the delinquency so it no longer appears on your reports.
The credit agencies are not obligated to investigate "frivolous" claims.
2. Gather materials to dispute errors
Your goal is to make it as easy and quick as possible for investigators to confirm that your complaint is valid. Depending on the error, the things you gather to support your case could include:
Copies of credit card statements or loan documents
Copies of bank statements
Copies of birth or death certificates, or a divorce decree
If you've reported identity theft, include a copy of your FTC complaint or police report.
Documentation to provide for your dispute
In addition to the above, you'll need to provide:
Proof of identity
Your Social Security number and date of birth
A copy of government-issued identification (such as driver’s license or passport)
Your current address and past addresses going back two years
A copy of a utility bill or bank or insurance statement that includes your name and address
3. Dispute credit report errors
All three bureaus have an online dispute process, which is often the fastest way to fix a problem, or you can write a letter. You can also call the credit bureaus, but you may not be able to complete your dispute over the phone. Here's information for each bureau:
How to dispute Equifax credit report errors
How to dispute Experian credit report errors
How to dispute TransUnion credit report errors
Use the TransUnion dispute online help page.
Write to TransUnion LLC, Consumer Dispute Center, P.O. Box 2000, Chester, PA 19016.
Call 800-916-8800 and have a copy of your TransUnion credit report handy; the representative will need the file number.
See our guide on how to dispute your TransUnion credit report for details.
How to check with the data furnisher
When you file a dispute, the Federal Trade Commission suggests also informing the company that provided the data to the credit bureaus, such as a bank, lender or card issuer, in writing. These sources of information are known as furnishers. Notifying the data furnisher may cause them to proactively stop reporting the inaccurate information to the credit bureau, although that's not guaranteed.
Send the letter to the company using the address it listed on your credit report. If there is no address listed, ask the company for one.
The FTC notes on its website: "If the provider continues to report the item you disputed to a credit reporting company, it must let the credit reporting company know about your dispute. And if you are correct — that is, if the information you dispute is found to be inaccurate or incomplete — the information provider must tell the credit reporting company to update or delete the item."
4. Review the response to your dispute
The credit bureaus must investigate your dispute and then tell you the outcome in writing. Under most circumstances, the bureaus have to respond within 30 days.
If the credit bureau agrees it's an error
The bureau will remove the item and send you a new copy of your credit report. Review the new report to make sure it's right.
You can request that the bureau communicate the correction to anyone who received your report in the past six months. If anyone requested your credit for employment purposes in the last two years, you can ask for a corrected copy to be sent to them.
If the credit bureau disagrees
The bureau — or the furnisher — may disagree that the item is a mistake and refuse to remove it.
If you’re sure the item on your report is incorrect, it’s time to take it to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. Explain what you’re disputing and provide copies of your proof. The CFPB will look into it, and you can follow progress with the email updates it sends or by logging in to the website.