If you found an error on your credit report, you are not alone. Every year, the credit bureaus handle approximately 8 million disputes. The government estimates that consumer credit reports contain 40 million errors. However, only 20 percent of mistakes are ever disputed. The good news is that many people have improved their credit scores by removing errors, so a few minutes of work could have significant rewards.
Credit Reporting Errors
Several types of errors may appear on your credit reports. The first kind involves your name, past addresses and contact information. Usually, these errors won’t affect your ability to obtain credit. However, the second type of error could hurt your credit rating. These negative entries include inaccurate late payment records, current balances, collections and judgments. The third type of error relates to identity theft. If there are accounts that you don’t recognize, it’s important to act quickly. You should place a fraud alert on your file that will make it more difficult for scammers to open accounts in your name.
Disputing Errors on Your Credit Report
You can dispute errors over the phone, by mail or on the Internet. Depending on the type of error and how it’s showing on your report, you may have to contact one credit bureau or all three agencies. Review your loan documents and credit card statements to identify the source of the error. Sometimes, creditors supply incorrect data. If that’s the case, you should dispute the information with your creditors as well. Other times, the credit bureaus are responsible. Once you have identified the error, follow these steps.
- Gather evidence that shows the error and the correct data.
- Make copies of relevant documents, such as your credit report, credit card statements, current address or driver’s license. Circle the error.
- Type a cover letter explaining the error and stating which item needs to be corrected. Make sure to include your name, address and phone number. You can also include relevant account numbers. You can find a sample letter on the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) website, or you can use forms supplied by the credit bureaus.
- Submit the documents and cover letter to the appropriate credit bureau or to your creditors, or upload the files using the bureaus’ dispute portal. If you’re sending paper documents, use certified mail to prove that the bureau received your complaint.
Equifax Information Services
P.O. Box 740256
Atlanta, GA 30348
P.O. Box 4500
Allen, TX 75013
TransUnion Consumer Solutions
P.O. Box 2000
Chester, PA 19016
Results of the Investigation
Credit bureaus have 30 days to investigate your dispute and another five days to send you the results. You can track the progress of your dispute online even if you mailed your complaint. Although the results will be available online, they should also be sent to the address that you provided.
Depending on the outcome, the information may or may not be removed from your credit report. Here’s how it works. If the information is accurate, it will remain on your credit report. If the information is inaccurate, it will be corrected or removed. The entry should also be removed if it cannot be validated.
If your dispute was unsuccessful, the entry may show a note saying something like this information was disputed by the consumer. This shouldn’t be a problem unless you are disputing a mortgage. You will also have the option to reopen the investigation and submit more documents.
Consumers who have had difficulty disputing errors or removing records that are more than seven years old should file a complaint with the CFPB. The Fair Credit Reporting Act is intended to protect you from a variety of problematic practices, so you should report any violations to the CFPB or the FTC.