Credit score directly impacts your loan type and credit score. So what if there's a mistake? Here's how to dispute your credit report.
Your credit reports contain personal information about you, as well as your financial history — think credit cards, loans and other debts, how long you’ve had them, and whether you pay them on time. All of that information directly affects your credit scores.
Your credit scores affect the interest rates and terms you are eligible to receive when applying for a mortgage. So, it’s important to make sure that all of the information in your credit report is accurate.
After all, certain errors can lower your credit scores, which in turn can cause you to get a higher interest rate or be denied altogether.
We’ll explain how to get a copy of your credit report, how to identify errors, and, if necessary, how to dispute your credit report.
What's in this Article?
The three credit reporting bureaus — Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion — issue credit scores based on the information in your credit report.
All credit reports contain the following personal information, which does not affect your credit scores:
- Your name and any name you may have used in the past (including nicknames) to apply for a credit account
- Current and former addresses
- Date of birth
- Social Security Number
- Current and past phone numbers
- Current and past employers
Credit reports can also include information on overdue child support, as reported or verified by a government or local child support agency.
Credit reports also include information on your credit accounts and activities, and this data can affect your credit scores.
Depending on the length of your credit history, your credit report may include:
- The name of each creditor
- The type of each account (mortgage, home equity, car loan, student loan, credit cards, etc.)
- The date each account was opened and, if applicable, closed
- Current outstanding balance
- Current monthly payment amount
- Account payment history
- Last bureau reporting month
- Accounts that are, or have been, in collections
- Public records, which may include liens, foreclosures, bankruptcies, civil suits and judgments
- A list of all third parties who have accessed your credit file in the past 24 months
You are entitled to a free copy of your credit report, at least once annually, from each of the three credit bureaus under the federal Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA).
Larger creditors may report your account data to all three bureaus, but smaller creditors, such as credit unions, may only report data to one or two of them. That’s why it’s crucial to obtain and review your reports from all three of the credit bureaus.
You can order your free reports at annualcreditreport.com.
In addition to the free annual report option, you are also entitled to a free copy of your report if any of the following circumstances apply:
- You're unemployed and intend to apply for employment within 60 days
- You're receiving public welfare assistance
- You believe your credit report contains inaccurate information due to fraud
- You've been denied credit or insurance within the past 60 days
- You've placed a fraud alert on your credit reports
- Your state offers a free or reduced-price credit report
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion are also offering free weekly online credit reports through April 2022.
Additionally, as a result of a 2019 Equifax settlement, all U.S. consumers may request up to six free copies of their Equifax credit report during any twelve-month period through December 2026. These free copies will be provided to you in addition to any free reports to which you are entitled under federal law.
You should check your credit report at least once a year. But you may want to check it sooner in certain cases, including:
- 30-45 days before making any major purchase that will involve a loan
- 30-45 days before you apply for employment
- 30-45 days before you apply for new insurance, a mobile phone plan, or for utility services
- 30-45 days before you apply to lease an apartment
- Any time you suspect potential identity theft due to your personal information being compromised or breached
You’ll want to review your credit report carefully. Remember, some errors can bring down your score, causing you to be denied for certain mortgage loans or pay a higher interest rate on your home loan and other types of financing. Therefore, you’re helping yourself by taking the time to review and correct any issues before you apply for a loan.
Some of the most commonly found errors in consumer credit reports include (but may not be limited to) the following:
- Wrong name, phone number, or address
- Accounts belonging to another person with the same or a similar name as yours. This is called a mixed file, and it’s common among family members who have similar names
- Accounts you did not open, which can be signs of identity theft
Incorrect account status
- Closed accounts reported as open, or open accounts showing as closed
- You are reported as the owner of the account, when you are actually an authorized user on someone else’s account
- Accounts that are incorrectly reported as late or delinquent
- Incorrect date of last payment, date account was opened, or date of first delinquency
- Same debt listed more than once (possibly with different names)
Data management errors
- Incorrect information appears even though you previously corrected it
- Accounts that appear multiple times with different creditors listed (especially in the case of delinquent accounts or accounts in collections)
- Inaccurate outstanding account balances
- Incorrect monthly payment amount
- Accounts with an incorrect maximum credit limit
You have the legal right to dispute errors with the credit bureau that is reporting the incorrect data, as well as with the lender, creditor, or credit card issuer that shared the information.
Under the Fair Credit Reporting Act, also known as FCRA, companies must conduct a reasonable investigation of your dispute at no charge to you. If a company tries to charge you a fee for filing a dispute, you can file a complaint with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB).
“The best way to dispute incorrect information on your credit is to go directly to each of the three bureaus sites and submit them online so you can track it,” said Jodalee Tevault, a senior mortgage consultant with Fairway Independent Mortgage Corporation (Fairway owns Home.com).
You can dispute information online, but you can also submit a dispute form and supporting documents (such as account statements or receipts) for the disputed item by mail. You can also initiate a dispute by telephone with each of the credit reporting agencies.
Each of the major credit reporting companies has information on how to reach them, and how to fill out an online dispute form, at their websites linked below:
When disputing your credit report by mail, be sure to include a letter that asks the bureau to remove or correct the inaccurate or incomplete information. It may be helpful to include a copy of the applicable credit report, or at least the page(s) containing the information you wish to have fixed. You can highlight or make notes to point out the inaccurate information.
Be sure to include the date of request, your complete name and address, a list of each mistake you want fixed with an explanation of why. If you’re able, be sure to include documentation to support your request.
Always be sure to send by certified mail and pay for tracking with a delivery receipt so you can be assured your information doesn’t fall into the wrong hands. This way you will also be notified when the bureau receives your dispute request.
The credit bureau with which you’ve filed the dispute has 30 days from when they receive your claim to investigate your request. They will review your request and any supporting documentation you submit.
If applicable, they will reach out to the creditor and provide them with the documentation you’ve submitted. Then, the creditor must investigate the claim and report their findings back to the credit bureau.
The credit bureau must give you the results of the investigation in writing. If the dispute results in a change or correction to your credit file, you will receive a free copy of your updated credit report.
If the investigation doesn’t result in the changes or corrections you requested, you can ask the bureau to add a statement to your credit file indicating that you disagree with the results of the dispute. Then, future creditors will see that statement when they pull your credit report, which can give them additional context for any negative items.
If one or more of your creditors are reporting inaccurate data on any accounts in your credit report, don’t be afraid to reach out directly to dispute the information with them.
Once you dispute with the creditor, the creditor must notify the credit bureaus about your claim. The credit bureaus must then include a notice in your credit file that you are actively disputing the account.
If the creditor finds in their investigation that the information is indeed inaccurate or incomplete, the creditor must tell the credit bureau to update or delete that information from your report.
Fairway is not a registered or licensed credit management service provider. Please consult a credit counselor regarding your specific situation.