With the multitude of variables that are involved in factoring your credit score, you could be one of the 25% of U.S. consumers whose report contains an error. If you spot an error, then it’s up to you to dispute credit report inaccuracies.
Errors on your credit report can severely impact your credit score, and steps to correct them need to be made immediately. If you don’t dispute inaccurate items on your credit report, your ability to obtain loans or open new lines of credit can become difficult.
Following this step by step guide can help guarantee that you don’t suffer the effects of a credit report mistake by showing you how to file a credit bureau dispute and reclaim your financial future.
Disputing Credit Report Issues
1. Find All Errors
Before you learn how to dispute your credit report, you need to know what errors to look for first. Step one is to ask for a report from each of the three major credit bureaus: Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion. These three bureaus will provide one credit report free of charge per year.
You can choose to review three reports all at once, or you can space them out over the course of the year. Each bureau might have small differences between them, and if one of them has an error, it doesn’t mean that the other two will.
If you decide to review all three together, then you can address any major errors in a single sitting. However, by spacing them out over the course of the year, you don’t have to buy an additional report if an error shows up at a later point.
Regardless of the method you choose, you should review your credit score at least once a year. This way, if an error does show up, you can issue a credit dispute in a timely manner.
Some of the most common errors that can show up on your credit report include:
- Errors in your personal information; name, address, or contact details.
- Errors that belong to another person with similar contact information, such as having the same name.
- Accounts reported with incorrect balances
- Accounts reflecting inaccurate credit limits
- Accounts still being reported as open despite being closed
- Mistakes that are erroneously attributed to your account due to identity theft
- Inaccurate attribution of account ownership, usually caused because you may only have authorized user status
- Errors that had previously been caught, but have once again resurfaced
- Accounts that may be labeled as delinquent
- Multiple instances of the same debt being reported
Because of these potential errors, you should know how to dispute items on a credit report. Any of the mistakes listed above can cause your credit score to be reported lower than it should be.
2. Contact the Credit Report Provider
If you happen to find some errors when combing through your credit report, then it’s time to go through the process of disputing something on your credit report to the provider.
It’s critical that you understand that credit report providers generate income by selling your credit report information. The buyers are normally potential employers, landlords, utility companies, and insurers. Your credit report is used to validate your identity as well as showing the potential risk of issuing you a loan.
Without learning how to dispute credit report inaccuracies, you could end up missing out on a job, unable to purchase a house, and given extremely high rates on a loan.
Since each bureau will have small differences between themselves, you may need to dispute credit score errors three times separately.
Before contacting the credit bureau, you should first try and handle the errors through the furnisher. Furnishers are creditors such as banks and credit card companies or businesses like debt collection agencies who report your activity to the credit bureaus.
This step shouldn’t be avoided since the bureaus can only let the furnisher know that you are reporting a mistake. The bureaus can’t enforce any changes on the furnisher.
However, if the furnisher is unable to remedy the issue on their side, then you will need to contact the credit bureaus to see if they can correct the problem on their end.
3. Send a Letter to the Credit Bureau
When beginning the process of disputing credit report inaccuracies, you will need to send a written letter to each of the three credit bureaus that are reporting the mistake. Equifax, TransUnion, and Experian all provide an online portal for disputes to be reported. However, to guarantee that your problem will be addressed, you may want to also send the dispute through certified mail.
Your written letter should be thorough and highlight the exact details of the incorrect information reported. Make sure to include copies of a valid government-issued ID, your birth certificate, and the credit report. The credit report should have the mistakes highlighted to help reduce any miscommunication.
Also include copies of:
- The File Identification Number (FIN) of the credit reports
- Your social security number
- The current address of your permanent residence
- The name and contact details of the furnisher that provided the incorrect item
- The account number of any disputed items listed
The nature of the error may also dictate the need to include additional information, such as:
- Current bank account statement with the misreported balance
- Any documentation that shows an account has been closed if it’s being reported with activity
- Documentation that you’re the victim of identity theft
The final documentation listed here can be obtained through either the police or a Federal Trade Commission Identity Theft Report.
4. Wait for a Response
After filing a dispute with a credit bureau, it will usually take around 30 days for them to report the findings of their investigation. After validating the mistakes or inaccuracies, either internally or with the appropriate furnisher, the bureau has five business days to return with the results after the investigation has concluded.
If you decided to first report the mistake with the furnisher, then that bank or company is obligated to inform the findings of their investigation to you as well. The course of their investigation will also take around 30 days to complete. They must report the results even if they uphold that the information they reported to the bureaus is accurate and will not adjust the perceived error.
You may encounter an obstacle to your dispute if either the furnisher or the credit bureau deems your claim frivolous. This usually occurs due to a dispute being filed without accurate or substantial supporting evidence.
If your dispute has been labeled frivolous, then the credit bureau will halt its investigation. They must still issue a response to you, indicating that your dispute has been filed as frivolous. You can resubmit a dispute if you bring in new or more substantiating evidence to support your claim.
5. Review the Results
After the credit bureau has finished its investigation, within five days, they will issue its response to you in writing. If changes have been made due to the investigation, then the results will come with a free updated credit report. Updates made due to incorrect items provided by furnishers will also include the company’s name and contact information.
If you did have errors corrected on your credit report, make sure to contact any parties who could have seen the mistaken information. This includes anyone who’s requested your report within the last six months.
However, if the disputed item continues to be reported by the furnisher, you can request that the credit bureau include a statement with your credit report that details the dispute. If anyone receives your credit report, it will include this statement as well. You can also pay the credit bureau to send the statement to any parties that have received your report in the past few months.
If neither the credit bureaus nor the furnisher updates the errors, or if you believe that you didn’t receive just treatment, then you can issue a complaint to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.
6. Check for Credit Report Updates
The final step when learning how to dispute credit report errors is to check that your credit report has been updated. The updates may take some time to show up on your reports as each credit bureau needs to wait for the new information to be provided by the furnisher.
If, after a few months, you receive your credit report with the same mistakes being listed, then you need to get back in touch with the credit bureaus and the furnishers to make sure they’re reporting the right information.
Don’t hesitate to dispute credit report errors. Incorrect information and misreported accounts can destroy your credit rating.
Having a poor credit rating can cause several unexpected problems. You may not be approved for a loan application or be subjected to high interest rates. If you get insurance, you can expect to pay higher premiums.
Bad credit can also make it harder to land a good job, open your own business, or even get an apartment.
If you’re struggling with bad credit, don’t let it control your life. If you have financial issues that are overwhelming you, know that there is professional debt relief help that can help you to get you back on track.
Contact CreditAssociates about debt relief today at 844-378-2633 or through our contact form. We’ll help you get your finances under control and start building good credit once again.