Consumers who reviewed their credit reports in the past year found many things that appeared to be wrong.
According to a report from the U.S. Public Interest Research Group (an advocacy group), the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau received complaints about credit reporting in 2022 that nearly doubled the number of complaints it received in 2021.
Credit report issues can affect your score and therefore your ability to get credit and loans, as well as your interest rate. Fair Credit Reporting Act (a 1970 federal law) gives you the ability to dispute inaccurate or incorrect information that you may find on your credit report. Learn how to dispute an error on your credit report.
What is the Credit Dispute Process (CDP)?
According to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), disputing an error on a credit report with a bureau of credit involves six steps:
New report. You can request that the credit bureau sends updated reports to any employers who have accessed your report in the past two years, and to anyone else in the last six month.
Review your credit reports to identify errors
The first step to fixing credit report problems is to identify them. You can get free weekly online access to your reports through 2023 at AnnualCreditReport.com and should check them at least yearly but more frequently in certain situations.
Check your credit report more often if you are planning to apply for a new loan or if there is a high risk of identity theft. This could include fraud or data breaches.
Freddie Huynh is vice president of Freedom Debt Relief's data optimization. He says that you should review all three credit reports. Each one could have slightly different information.
What should you correct on your credit report if anything? When reviewing your credit report, be sure to look out for these common errors.
Public records, like a bankruptcy that doesn't belong to your name.
It's up to you whether or not to dispute the error. A misspelled name may not seem like it's worth correcting, but you could be leaving yourself open to bigger issues with your report. According to the FTC, accounts that aren't even yours may end up on your credit report.
Detweiler suggests that it may not be worthwhile to spend time tracking down an unauthorized credit inquiry.
She says that inquiries only account for 10% of your total score and they are not as important as people believe. It's not something to worry about.
Detweiler suggests that you fix errors which can have a significant impact on your credit score. She says that if it appears you were late when you weren't you should dispute the information.
When someone steals personal information, they can commit fraud such as applying for a credit card or making an unauthorized purchase.
Report identity theft online at IdentityTheft.gov, or call the FTC at 877-438 4338. You can explain what happened, and receive a recovery plan which you can update as necessary.
You can print or save your report when you submit it online. This report will help you to prove that your identity was stolen and fix any problems caused by it.
If you need to, you can also receive an email with the report number so that you can update it later with any new information.
Prepare to dispute the error
The credit bureau who created the report as well as the data provider (the company that supplied the information) will be the ones to whom you need to make a dispute.
You should dispute any errors that appear on Equifax or Experian reports but not TransUnion.
You can use these documents to prove that your report is incorrect.
Letters of correction from a lender
Credit Bureaus can be contacted to dispute the error
Huynh says that filing a dispute online is the fastest and easiest method, but it can also be done by mail or phone.
Use the CFPB template to send a dispute letter to the credit bureau, regardless of how you submit your complaint. Include a copy your credit report that has the incorrect or incomplete item circled or marked. You will need to explain the error in your letter.
It is free to file a dispute, but you must follow the correct process for each credit bureau.
Filing a dispute with Equifax
Online: If you already have an account with myEquifax or create one, you can submit a complaint on the Equifax site. You can check the status of the dispute by logging into your account.
Post: Send your information by mail to Equifax Information Services LLC at P.O. Box 740256 in Atlanta, GA.
Phone: Call 888-378 4329 between 9 am and 9 pm Eastern Time, Monday through Friday. Or between 9 am and 6 pm. ET on Saturday and Sunday.
Experian - How to File a Dispute
Online: Create an Experian Account to submit your dispute online. You can also monitor the progress of your dispute.
Email: You can download, print and complete this form, then mail it to Experian at P.O. Box 4500, Allen, TX 75013.
Phone: To initiate a dispute over the phone, call the number listed on your Experian report.
TransUnion: How to File a Dispute
Online: Create a TransUnion Account or Sign In to it in order to submit or check on the status of your credit dispute.
TransUnion will require as much information as possible in order to resolve your dispute via mail. Send TransUnion your name, your address, your Social Security number, your birthdate, the name of your data provider, your dispute, and any changes to your personal information such as your address or phone number.
Include the TransUnion file number and the partial account number from your credit report if possible. Send your documents to TransUnion Consumer Solutions at P.O. Box 2000, Chester PA 19016-2000.
Call 800-916-8800 from 8 am to 11 pm Eastern Time, Monday through Friday. Or between 8 am and 5 pm. ET on Saturday and Sunday.
Contact the Data Provider
The credit bureau can fix an error, but it will remain on your report until the data provider fixes the problem. The credit bureau reports only the information that is reported by the data provider.
Your credit report will still show the incorrect name if you only correct the name at the credit reporting agency, but not with the data provider.
To correct incorrect information, contact the data provider. The CFPB provides additional guidance and a model dispute letter.
Watch for and review responses
According to the CFPB, most credit bureaus will respond within 30 days to your complaint. You may have to wait 45 days if you give additional information during the investigation.
The credit bureau must inform you within five days of the completion of an investigation. The credit bureau may decide to:
You can delete information from your credit history.
Your updated report will be sent to you for free. The process will repeat itself as each credit bureau must be contacted separately to dispute the errors.
If You Are Unsatisfied with the Outcome
Dispute it again. If you have more information, send it to the credit bureau or data provider with a letter that explains the attachment. Write a dispute statement: "If the dispute is resolved, but the consumer disagrees with the information in the report, the consumer may leave a dispute statement on the credit file indicating their disagreement," Huynh explains. You should be able to tell the creditor your side of story in just 100 words. However, they are not required to take it into consideration.
Review Your New Report
Once your dispute is resolved, you will receive a new copy of your credit history from the credit bureau. Verify the error does not appear in the report.