Because your credit affects so many aspects of your life, it’s important to check your credit report regularly to make sure all information is correct and up to date. If you have negative listings on your report, fixing your credit can seem like a long and complicated process. But you have the right to dispute credit report errors if any of the listings are inaccurate.
Follow these simple steps to request your current credit reports, and then dispute credit report listings that are inaccurate.
Request current credit reports from Transunion, Experian, and Equifax
You can request a free copy of your credit report from Transunion, Experian, and Equifax once every twelve months. You can get a free report more often if certain events occur, like if you’re a victim of identity theft or a credit application is denied.
You should request a copy of your credit report from each bureau to make sure that your information is accurate with all three. The bureaus report similar information, but they can still differ from one another. Review all of your reports for accuracy.
How to get your credit report
We recommend that you WRITE to Transunion, Experian, and Equifax. Use this sample credit report request letter.
It’s also possible to obtain your report online through annualcreditreport.com. However, to receive your report online you must “click” and agree to certain terms. This click agreement may have language that could affect your ability to bring a lawsuit if your consumer rights have been violated.
Although it may take longer to obtain your reports through the mail, it’s important to consider the value of protecting your consumer rights.
Identify credit report errors
When you review each credit report for errors, you many need to do some research by reviewing your personal files, writing to a creditor for clarification of account status, or checking a court docket before beginning a credit report dispute with the credit bureaus.
Here are some common credit report errors to look out for:
- Payment history, such as accounts shown with a balance owing when it has been paid.
- Incorrect information, such as listing an address where you never lived, or a wrong social security number or birth date.
- Someone else’s information on your report. Many times if there is a Jr./Sr. or a similar name, another person’s information could be mis-merged onto your credit file.
- Duplicate information. If an account has been turned over to collection, the creditor and collector may both be listed, when only one or the other should be.
- Unauthorized accounts. If an identity theft has occurred, accounts may have been opened without one’s knowledge or authorization.
File a credit report dispute
The most effective method is to send a credit report dispute letter. We suggest sending your letter through certified mail with a return receipt so that you know the date your dispute was received.
The Bureaus have 30 days to respond to your dispute. They also accept disputes online and over the phone. However, these methods may keep you from providing necessary documents that support your claim.
Here are some additional tips to follow when filing a credit report dispute:
- Dispute letters should be concise and to the point. Dispute only one inaccurate item per letter. If there are two errors that require dispute, send two separate letters.
- Reference the credit report date, number, and page listing of the item you want to dispute.
- State briefly why this information is incorrect.
- Provide supporting documentation if you have it or can get it and show why this information needs to be corrected.
- State the action you would like the credit bureau to take, such as “remove” or “update” the credit file.
- Keep a copy of your dispute letter.
What to do if the inaccurate information remains
Under the Fair Credit Reporting Act, the bureaus are responsible for correcting inaccurate information. If the credit bureau has not corrected the information detailed in your dispute, you may need to:
- Re-dispute with the bureau
- Send a dispute letter to the creditor
- Contact a qualified credit report lawyer to evaluate your credit reports, disputes, and responses from the bureaus.
If the information is correctly reported, the bureaus may list late payments for up to seven and a half years. Other information, like judgments or bankruptcy, can be listed for longer periods.