Errors on your credit reports can cause your credit scores to be lower than they should be. Getting those negative items removed can be a quick route to a better score, which can save you money on loans or insurance.
Here’s how to dispute credit report errors and have them removed in four steps.
1. Review all three credit reports
You’re entitled to at least one free credit report every 12 months 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.
What to look for
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).
- 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.
A negative mark might surprise you, but that doesn’t mean it’s an error. If it’s accurate, 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.
If you find an error on a credit report
Some misinformation could suggest identity theft, such as accounts you don’t recognize and addresses where you’ve never lived. Check with the source of the information, such as a bank or creditor, to learn more. If you’ve been victimized, follow the steps to report identity theft.
Focus on errors that might lower your score, such as payments marked late when you paid on time, incorrect credit limits or derogatory marks that are too old to be included.
Smaller errors that don’t affect your score — like a misspelled former employer or an outdated phone number — don’t affect anyone’s assessment of your creditworthiness and aren’t worth disputing.
2. Gather materials to dispute errors
Depending on the error, the things you gather to support your case could include copies of credit card statements, loan documents, bank statements, birth or death certificates, or a divorce decree. Your goal is to make it as easy and quick as possible for investigators to confirm that your complaint is valid.
If you’ve reported identity theft, make a copy of your Federal Trade Commission complaint or police report to include.
There is no cost to dispute, and you can dispute as many items as you like. However, it’s a waste of time to dispute inconsequential things or negative items you know to be true. The credit agencies are not obligated to investigate “frivolous” claims.
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, but you may not be able to complete your dispute over the phone. Here’s information for each bureau:
- Use the Equifax online portal.
- Write to Equifax, P.O. Box 740256, Atlanta, GA 30374-0256.
- Call 866-349-5191 and follow the prompts to speak to an agent.
- See our guide on how to dispute your Equifax credit report for details.
- Use the Experian online dispute form.
- Write to Experian National Consumer Assistance Center, P.O. Box 4500, Allen, TX 75013.
- Call 866-200-6020 to see if your dispute can be resolved by phone.
- See our guide on how to dispute your Experian credit report for details.
- 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.
In addition to the list of items you are disputing and copies of documents supporting your case, you’ll also need to provide proof of identity:
- Your name, including any generational suffix, middle name or initial.
- 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.
4. Review the response
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 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 bureau disagrees
The bureau — or the company that furnished the information, such as your credit card issuer — 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.