Credit report mistakes can be a common occurrence for consumers. That makes knowing how to dispute a credit report important.
If you find something in your credit report that doesn’t belong there, here’s what to do.
Step 1 – Identify Any Credit Report Errors
Review your credit report periodically for inaccurate or incomplete information. You can get one free credit report from each of the three major credit bureaus—Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion—once a year at annualcreditreport.com. You can also subscribe, usually at a cost, to a credit monitoring service and review your report monthly.
Here are a few examples of errors you might spot:
- Outdated information such as a late payment that is more than 7 years old.
- A remedied delinquency such as a collections account that you paid off yet still shows as unpaid.
- An incorrect name.
Step 2 – Verify Your Credit Report’s Errors
Contact the creditor to verify their records and confirm the error. You may be able to resolve the issue at this point. If the issue can’t be resolved, contact the credit reporting company.
The U.S. Federal Trade Commission recommends taking these actions:
- Tell the credit reporting company, in writing, what information you think is inaccurate. The Federal Trade Commission provides a sample dispute letter that makes this step easier. The letter outlines what information to include, from presenting the facts to requesting that the error be removed or corrected.
- Include copies, not originals, of materials that support your position.
- Consider enclosing a copy of your credit report with the errors circled.
- Send your letter by certified mail with “return receipt requested”—to ensure the letter is delivered. Keep your post office receipt.
- Keep copies of everything you send.
Step 3 – Allow Time for the Investigation
3. Allow time for the investigation – Credit reporting companies must investigate the disputed items. The process usually takes fewer than 30 days. They’re required to send relevant information to the information provider—meaning, whoever reported the disputed item to the credit reporting companies. The provider must investigate the dispute and report back to the credit reporting company.
If you’re right—it is an error—the information provider has to notify the three major credit reporting companies so they can correct the information.
Step 4 – Follow Up After the Investigation
Here’s what to expect when the investigation is complete:
- The results of the investigation, in writing, from the credit reporting company.
- A free copy of your credit report, if the report is changed.
What about parties who have seen your incorrect information? You can ask the credit reporting company to notify them of the corrections, the FTC says. This includes:
- Notifying anyone who received your report in the past six months.
- Sending a corrected copy of your report to anyone who received it in the past two years.
But what if the investigation doesn’t resolve your dispute? Ask the credit reporting company to add a brief statement in your file that describes your side of the dispute. Usually for a fee, you can also ask the credit bureau to send a copy of the statement to anyone who has recently received a copy of your report.
Also, if you believe you were treated unfairly or a valid error remains on your credit report, you can file a complaint with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. CFPB forwards the complaint to the company you have an issue with. CFPB usually will get you a response within 15 days.
Disputing a credit report mistake is a process that takes time to resolve.
It’s important to be organized, disciplined, persistent and professional. It can be worth the effort. Eliminating errors on your credit report can help improve your credit health and help save you money on loans and credit.
Editor’s note: This content was lightly edited and updated on April 3, 2018.