You might be alarmed to find a mistake on your credit report as even a small error may hurt your overall credit score. After all, your credit report and FICO score help determine the rate you’ll pay to borrow money, as well your ability to secure a loan or insurance.
But don’t panic — there is a process to help you request corrections or dispute errors on your credit report.
Errors on credit reports are fairly common. In fact, 1 in 5 US adults have an error on at least one of their credit reports, according to a study from the Federal Trade Commission (FTC).
Some of the most common credit score errors include:
You might also see other mistakes such as an incorrect balance or payment status.
The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) recommends that you check your credit reports at least once a year, or if you notice your credit score has suddenly dropped. There are three major credit bureaus in the US — Equifax, Transunion, and Experian — which means you technically have three credit reports and three credit scores. When a lender runs a check on your credit they typically only reach out to one credit bureau.
Each bureau gathers and reports your information differently, which means your three scores may vary, but they should be within a similar range. For example, let’s say your scores are:
In this case, your scores are fairly close to one another, so there’s likely not an issue. But if your Experian score was 640, it would be worth checking your report to see if there’s an error.
You can receive one free credit report from each credit bureau once a year by visiting AnnualCreditReport.com. Note that during the COVID-19 pandemic the three credit bureaus began offering free weekly credit reports, a policy they have agreed to extend through the end of 2023.
Do the following once you have a copy of your recent credit report:
Note: It may take 30 days from the time you paid an account to show up on your credit report.
After you’ve read through the credit report, double-check with your credit accounts to make sure there’s really an error. For example, if a credit card account is showing as delinquent, but you’ve paid on time each month, verify this by checking your online credit card payment history.
Document each error if possible to confirm a mistake was made. Print or electronically save a copy of your credit card payment history to dispute a late payment claim, for example, or provide proof of address to verify your correct address.
Repeat these steps for each credit report.
You can dispute most errors online at the appropriate credit bureau’s website, listed below:
The website will guide you through the process, allowing you to identify the account you would like to dispute and provide a reason, along with any evidence.
You can also contest mistakes by sending a dispute letter to the appropriate credit bureau, as well as the credit company. Make sure the letter includes your full legal name, address, phone number, date of birth, account name, account number, the type of dispute you’re filing, and an explanation of the dispute. Keep copies of any correspondence you send. You can find sample dispute letters at ConsumerFinance.gov.
Send this letter to the corresponding credit bureau at:
If you’re also disputing with a credit company, you can typically find their dispute address on their online help center or by calling their customer service phone number.
If an account that you did not open appears on your credit report, take immediate action to dispute the account, protect your identity, and minimize the potential damage to your credit score.
First reach out to one of the credit bureaus and ask them to place a fraud alert on your account. This will add an extra layer of security to reduce the chances of someone else opening an account on your behalf. Once you reach out to one credit agency, it will notify the other two.
You can reach the credit bureaus at:
Next, notify the credit company of the fraudulent account and let them know you’ve disputed the account on your credit report. Update online passwords since they may have been compromised. If any charges were made on the account, notify the credit company so the charges can be flagged and reviewed.
Lastly, notify the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) about the fraud either online or by calling 877-438-4338.
After you file a report, the credit bureau is required to investigate your claim within 30 days. If you found the error after receiving your free credit report from AnnualCreditReport.com, the credit reporting company has 45 days to review your claim. If you add additional notes to the dispute, the credit bureau may take an additional 15 days to investigate.
Usually, credit bureaus notify your credit company of the dispute and ask them to review the claim. In some cases, the credit bureau is able to resolve the dispute if it has enough information on hand to verify the error.
If the credit company confirms the information is correct (in other words, not an error) your credit report will not be corrected.
If you still believe the information is incorrect, you can file the dispute again with more documentation, though it may make sense to call the credit company first to fully understand their decision.
If the investigation shows that the disputed information is in fact wrong, the credit company must correct the information and report its findings back to the credit bureau. In this case, you’ll see the corrected information on a future credit report, which can take several weeks to appear.
The credit bureau will notify you with the results of the investigation within 5 days from the time the dispute is closed.
Note: If you still think your credit report is incorrect after filing a dispute, you can reach out to a lawyer to review your situation. You may qualify for free legal counsel, depending on where you live.
Leaving an error on your credit report can cost you. If your credit score is blemished, you may not qualify for loans or credit cards when you need them, or you could be required to pay higher insurance premiums or rental deposits.
Monitor your credit on a regular basis, and flag and dispute errors as quickly as possible to ensure your credit stays healthy and you’re able to stay on track with your financial goals.
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