How to Dispute Your Credit Report

How to Dispute an Error on Your Credit Report
BY Jane Meggitt
Mar 8, 2023
Key Takeaways:
  • Credit report errors are common, and some kinds of errors can pull your score down.
  • Most credit report errors can be corrected online by contacting the credit bureau reporting the information.
  • Disputing errors doesn’t hurt your credit.

Your credit report plays a huge role in your financial life. About one-fifth of consumers have errors on their credit reports. Some types of errors don’t have much effect. But some are bad enough to cause your score to drop, or worse, cause a creditor or employer to reject you. 

Credit report errors can impair your ability to buy a car, get a mortgage, rent an apartment, or get a job. They can also affect how much you pay in interest. If you find an error in your credit report, take steps to dispute it right away. 

Credit report errors

Credit report errors range from the weird but unimportant, such as reversing your hyphenated name, to the disastrous, like including negative data that actually belongs to someone else. 

Why are there errors on your credit report?

Credit report errors have many sources. If you have a common surname, you are especially vulnerable to errors on your credit report. For instance, there are 35,000 Michael Smiths and nearly as many Maria Garcias in the U.S. There’s a good chance some of them have a piece of data on their credit report that belongs to a different Michael or Maria.

Victims of identity theft are also vulnerable to credit report errors. In fact, such errors are often the very thing that raises the identity theft red flag. If there are mystery accounts on your credit report, or bad debts you’re unaware of, it’s possible the culprits are identity thieves.

You may also find balance or credit limit errors. It’s possible for an account to be listed more than once.

To make the situation more frustrating, you might correct an error only to discover it reinserted in your credit report later on.  

Which errors can affect your credit?

Some credit report errors, like a past address, don’t affect your creditworthiness. Others can affect your score, such as:

  • Identity errors

  • Closed accounts reported as open

  • Accounts incorrectly listed as late or delinquent

  • Same debt listed more than once

  • Outdated information on your credit card balance or limit, affecting your utilization ratio

It’s a good idea to get all errors corrected, even the ones you think don’t matter. Start by reviewing your credit reports.

How do you get your free credit report?

Visit AnnualCreditReport.com to get free copies of your latest credit reports from TransUnion, Equifax, and Experian, the three main credit bureaus. By law, each company is required to give you a free copy every 12 months. You don’t have to get them all at once. You can stagger them if you want to, especially if you’d like to keep an eye on your credit.

When you receive your reports, carefully go through the line items on each of them and make sure the information your creditors have reported to the bureaus is accurate. In the event you find an error on any of your credit reports, there are certain steps you can take to correct the inaccuracy.

How to dispute credit report errors

The credit report should contain information about disputing errors. Start off by contacting the credit bureau from whom you received the credit report. You can also contact the furnisher (the company or creditor providing the incorrect information).

Online disputes: Click the dispute button to start the process online. It should be easy to see when you’re viewing your credit report.

Dispute by phone: 

  • Experian: (888) 397-3742

  • TransUnion: (800) 916-8800

  • Equifax: (866) 349-5191

Dispute by mail:

To dispute credit report errors by mail, send a letter to the credit bureau explaining the nature of the error and that you want it changed. Stick to the facts when explaining why you are disputing the information. Below are some helpful tips:

  • Collect documentation to support your dispute. This might involve a copy of your statement or a canceled check showing your payment was timely. If a loan you have paid off is still listed as open, send evidence that the loan was paid and closed.

  • Dispute with each credit bureau separately, even if the same error is in all credit reports. 

  • Keep records of everything you send.

  • Allow the credit bureau to investigate: They have 30 days to conduct and complete the investigation. If, however, you provide additional information backing up your claim after initially filing your dispute, the credit bureau’s window for investigation extends to 45 days. 

  • If the creditor keeps reporting bad information, you may have to take it up a notch and prove to the creditor that they are wrong.

How to send a dispute letter to the credit bureau

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) provides a template for a sample dispute letter to credit reporting bureaus. After providing your personal information, address the specific items you are disputing. You must list any inaccuracies included in the report, along with the account number. Provide the specific reasons you believe the information is incorrect.

For example, you can point out the same debt is listed twice, if that is the issue.

Send proof of your identity along with the letter. You should send a copy of a government-issued identity card, such as your state driver’s license or non-driver’s license identity card or your passport. You must also include identification, such as a copy of a utility bill with your name on it or a bank or insurance statement.  

Here are the mailing addresses for all three credit bureaus:

EquifaxTransUnion LLCExperian
PO Box 740256Consumer Dispute CenterPO Box 4500
Atlanta, GA 30374-0256PO Box 2000 Chester, PA 19016Allen,TX 75013

How to send a dispute letter to the creditor

When it comes to sending a dispute letter to the business you feel incorrectly reported your information to the credit reporting agency, the process is similar to that of reporting it to the credit bureau.

Your letter should identify the disputed item and explain why you are disputing it. Ask the creditor to take action to have the item removed or corrected. 

Include a copy of your credit report with the erroneous information circled.

Send the letter by certified mail, return receipt requested. That allows you to document that the business received it.

Track your dispute

There's a time limit of 30 or 45 days when it comes to a credit investigation. You may need to provide more information down the line.

By law, the credit bureaus must report the results to you within five days of concluding the investigation. You receive a copy of the investigation results, as well as a free copy of your credit report reflecting any changes made. 

Usually, credit disputes are resolved within a few weeks. That doesn't mean you'll see a change in your credit report that quickly. The change may take a few months to appear on your credit report. 

After receiving information regarding the resolution of your dispute from the credit bureaus, check your credit report regularly for the correction. If several months pass and there's still no update, contact the credit reporting bureaus and the furnisher to follow up.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can disputing errors hurt your credit?

When you dispute credit report errors, you won’t hurt your credit score. If the error is corrected, it should help your credit score. An inaccurate late payment, for example, harms your credit score, so removing this misinformation impacts your credit score positively.

How long do you have to dispute credit report errors?

There's no deadline for disputing credit report errors. If it’s on your credit report, that means it was reported this month and will probably be reported next month. Dispute errors as soon as you discover them. That’s why checking your credit report at least annually is so important. 

Can I dispute something I don’t like on my credit report?

You don't have the right to dispute accurate information. You can do it, but as soon as the creditor uploads current data next month, if it’s accurate, it’ll probably make it back into your file. 

Negative information doesn’t stay on your credit report permanently. Late payments and collections stay on your credit report for seven years. Bankruptcy remains for 10 years. Accounts that are open and in good standing stay on indefinitely. Accounts closed in good standing stay for 10 years. Inquiries stay on for 2 years.