An error on your credit reports can lower your credit score so you should be vigilant about checking these reports. Finding inaccurate information on your credit reports can be frustrating, but don’t let that prevent you from taking action to get it resolved. Don’t be scammed into paying a company to handle this for you as filing a dispute with any of the 3 credit bureaus is absolutely free and you can take care of it on your own. There are many ways to dispute inaccurate information on your credit reports, but the following steps outline the most effective method according to credit experts and the Federal Trade Commission.
Check All 3 Credit Reports
You can check all 3 of your credit reports on https://www.annualcreditreport.com, which is sponsored by all 3 credit reporting agencies and is authorized by the federal government. Be sure to save or print each report for future reference. As you go through the reports one by one you will have the option of filing a dispute with each credit bureau. However, hold off on doing this just yet as this method may not allow you to provide adequate information to get the dispute resolved. Creditors may not report to all 3 credit bureaus, so be sure to check each report thoroughly for errors. Read our article, How Can I Get My Free Annual Credit Reports for more information regarding this step.
You should make it a habit to check your credit reports each year to monitor the information reported. A study by the Federal Trade Commission found that 26% of participants had at least one error on their credit reports that negatively impacted their creditworthiness.
File A Dispute With The Credit Bureaus
According to Equifax, because reported information may not be on all credit reports and due to different dispute procedures you should file a dispute with each credit bureau that has the error on their report. You may have heard of filing a dispute with the creditor directly instead of the credit bureau, but there is more risk associated with that route according to the Consumer Data Industry Association.
You can file a dispute with the credit bureaus by mail, phone or online. We recommend filing a dispute online as it is faster and easier, but you can find mail and phone options on the sites as well. Here are the online dispute sites for the 3 credit bureaus:
Be sure to submit all documentation you have regarding the error as this will aid in the investigation.
Under the Fair Credit Reporting Act, credit bureaus are responsible for investigating credit disputes generally within 30 days - or less depending on the state. The bureau will contact the creditor in question to verify the claim. If the creditor does not respond within 30 days, the credit bureau will update or remove the information from the credit report per your request and send you the results. Some claims do not require verification and in this case the bureau will just remove the error from their credit report.
If the credit bureau resolves the dispute, the change will be reflected only on that credit report. It is up to you to file a dispute with other credit bureaus if necessary.
If the creditor verifies that the information is accurate, then there will be no changes to your credit report. In this case you have several options: file another dispute with the credit bureau with additional documentation to support your claim, file a claim with the creditor directly, submit a statement to be placed on your credit report, or wait for the information to fall off your credit report. Accurate negative information can stay on your credit report for 7 years (depending on the type of information, some can stay for 7 years plus 180 days) and bankruptcy information remains on reports for up to 10 years. After these time periods, the negative information should automatically fall off your credit reports. If that doesn’t happen, you can file a dispute with the credit bureaus.
If your credit score was negatively impacted, learn about ways to improve your credit score by reading our article 5 Easy Tips To Raise Your Credit Score.