How to Dispute Errors in a Credit Report
This article provides a brief overview of how to request your credit report and take steps to correct errors in it. It was written by the St. Mary's University School of Law Center for Legal and Social Justice, and contains references to other useful resources as well.
Three companies (Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion) gather and sell credit information to other companies. The credit report and your credit score determine what terms you may qualify for on a mortgage, credit card, auto loans, private student loans, and insurance. Employers can even use your credit report to decide whether to hire you.
Credit reporting companies must give you a free copy of your credit report once every 12 months, when you ask. Order at AnnualCreditReport.com or call (877) 322-8228. Check your reports at least once a year for accuracy.
Errors in credit reports are common. They can make a big difference in your credit score and credit history. You have the right to submit a dispute and ask for an investigation when you find an error.
Send a dispute letter by certified mail.
Tell the credit reporting company—in writing—which information is wrong. Sample dispute letters can be found at these websites.
Identify each item that you dispute; explain why you dispute it; and ask that it be removed or corrected. Enclose a copy of the report with the disputed item circled so that it is clear what item you are disputing.
All the credit reporting companies let you submit disputes online. Online submissions are helpful for small-dollar disputes, but don’t always get the same attention as a letter sent by certified mail. A larger dispute (for example, the report wrongly says you filed for bankruptcy) should be submitted in writing by certified mail, return receipt requested, to emphasize the importance of the dispute.
Include supporting documentation with your dispute.
You can upload, mail, or fax any supporting documents that explain the errors in your credit report. Some examples include a paid bill, a letter from the organization acknowledging you paid a charge, a police report, examples of your signature (if forgery is an issue), or other documents showing the report is wrong.
Keep a copy of everything, whether you submit your dispute online or by mail.
Credit reporting companies receive thousands of disputes per month, and you don’t want your dispute slipping through the cracks. Keep a copy of everything you send. Check with the credit reporting company if you don’t hear from them within 30 days.
Credit reporting companies must investigate the items you dispute, usually within 30 days. They must forward all relevant data you provide to the organization that reported the information. After the organization gets notice of a dispute from a credit reporting company, it must investigate; review the information; and report the results back to the credit reporting company.
When the investigation is done, the credit reporting company must give you the results of the dispute in writing, plus a free copy of your credit report (if your dispute results in a change). If you ask, the credit reporting company must send notices of corrections to anyone who received your credit report in the last six months.
In many cases, the credit reporting company sends the dispute to the organization that reported it; the organization sends back a brief response verifying the debt; and the credit reporting company determines the report to be accurate. This quick process, without serious review, is often frustrating for consumers.
If you can’t get a credit report changed even after making a full dispute with the credit reporting company, one option is to file a complaint with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, 855-411-CFPB (855-411-2372). The CFPB wants to know about problems with credit reporting companies—especially when they refuse to correct errors in credit reports. A second option is to hire a lawyer to help you make a claim under the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA), 15 U.S.C. section 1681.
These online resources contain more information about credit reporting errors, including sample letters for reporting a dispute: