One of the most common inquiries we get from consumers is about mistakes on a credit report. The quick answer to any question about credit report mistakes is “File a dispute.”
But what does that mean? As a responsible consumer who is concerned about your credit report and financial reputation, you should know how to resolve issues with your credit report and understand what happens during the dispute process. Here’s what you should do to find and dispute errors on your credit report:
Step 1: Request a credit report. If you’ve been denied credit, insurance, a change in credit limit, or other benefits within the last sixty calendar days, or if you’ve recently placed a fraud alert on your credit file, you may request and view a free copy of your file, as allowed under FCRA, state, or federal legislation.
If you don’t fall into those categories, you can still request a copy of your credit report from Equifax.com. Don’t forget, you are allowed one free copy a year of your credit report from each of the three credit-reporting agencies at AnnualCreditReport.com.
Step 2: Review the credit report carefully.If you see an unpaid bill from Baltimore and you’ve never even been to Baltimore, it’s a clue that something isn’t right. Confirm the following details to make sure your credit report is accurate:
- Is my personal information—my name and address—correct?
- Are all of my credit accounts listed?
- Is my account payment history correct for each creditor?
- Are the balances and account ages (dates opened) correct for each of my accounts?
- Is there negative information on my report that should have cycled off (bankruptcies, liens, judgments, etc.)?
- Are there any inquiries on my account for credit I did not apply for?
- Are there any inactive accounts that show new activity?
Step 3: File a dispute. Any inaccurate information on your credit file can affect your score. If you have been a victim of fraud, or if a creditor incorrectly reports your account as delinquent, it may decrease your credit score and affect your ability to get credit at a better rate.
If you think any of the information in your credit file is incomplete or incorrect, you can notify the credit-reporting agency (CRA) directly to initiate a dispute—free of charge. At Equifax, you can file a dispute online, by mail, or by phone. Click here for more information about how to start an investigation/file a dispute with Equifax.
If you find an inaccuracy with one CRA, you may want to get your credit file from the other two credit agencies to see if their files contain the same error:
After you’ve corrected an error with one CRA, the other agencies should eventually receive the corrected information. However, for prompt correction, it’s best to contact the other two agencies individually to dispute the error. You may also contact your creditor directly to dispute inaccurate information.
Step 4: Wait for a response from the credit-reporting agency. By law, a CRA is required to investigate a dispute within thirty to forty-five days of its filing. In thirty days (or forty-five if the dispute is based on your annual free credit report), the CRA will notify you of the outcome of your dispute. If you submit your complaint by mail, the notification will be mailed to you; if you file online, you can receive email updates throughout the investigation.
Based on the investigation, the CRA will either update the current status of the disputed information (which may include letting you know if the furnisher of the information verified that it was reporting correctly) or delete the item from your file.
Remember that you can’t dispute a fact. You can’t argue a debt away if it is really yours. If the creditor has verified information that you disputed, the information will remain in your credit file, but you can add a statement of explanation. Learn how to add a statement of explanation to your credit file.
The information contained in this blog post is designed to generally educate and inform visitors to the Equifax Finance Blog. The blog posts do not give, and should not be assumed to provide, personalized tax, investment, real estate, legal, retirement, credit, personal financial, or other professional advice. Before making any financial decision, you should always consult with the appropriate professionals who can explain your options, rights, and legal responsibilities, and advise you on any tax, legal, credit, or business implications that may result from those decisions. The views and opinions expressed by the authors of blog posts are their own views and may not be the views or opinions of Equifax, Inc. and/or its affiliates.