Everyone makes mistakes, but you don’t want one made on your credit report.
Credit report mistakes can and do happen. The Federal Trade Commission recently found that approximately 5 percent of consumers have errors on their credit reports, which could mean paying more for credit and loans.
But under the Fair Credit Reporting Act, credit reporting agencies and information providers—those who actually supply the credit reporting agencies with your information—are required to correct any erroneous or incomplete information in your credit report.
If you’ve recently pulled your credit report and have spotted an error, you can dispute the information by following these three steps, according to the Federal Trade Commission:
File a dispute with the national credit reporting agency that issued the report. This can be done by mail, online or by phone. Contact information for all three national credit reporting agencies is available online at the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s website.
In your dispute, clearly state what information you think is inaccurate, and include copies, not originals, of any supporting documents that will help prove your claim.
Directly contact the information provider, also known as the furnisher. Information providers could include lenders who have granted you credit, such as a bank or a credit card issuer, or collection agencies.
You can also file a credit report complaint through the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s website. The agency will forward your issue to the furnisher, provide you with a tracking number and update you on the status of your complaint.
What happens next?
Once you have filed your dispute, the credit reporting agency must:
- Investigate the items in question—usually within 30 to 45 days—unless it considers your dispute frivolous
- Mark which item is in dispute on your credit report
- Forward all relevant data you provide about the disputed information to the original organization that furnished it
After 30 to 45 days, you should hear back from the credit reporting agency and it must:
- Inform you of the results of its investigation
- Give you a free copy of your credit report if the dispute results in a correction
- Send notices of any changes to anyone who received your credit report in the past six months and to anyone who received a copy for employment purposes in the past two years, if requested
If you are dissatisfied with the credit reporting agency’s response to your dispute, you can submit a complaint to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.
Helpful hints for disputing a credit report error
As you work through the dispute process, keep track of all correspondence, says Linda Sherry, director of national priorities at Consumer Action , a nonprofit agency that works to empower underrepresented consumers in the marketplace
“It can become a frustrating experience. There is a lot of back and forth involved to correct an inaccuracy,” Sherry says. “Keep hard copies of everything. Print out emails, keep track of who you have spoken with, write down exactly what you were told—the day, the time and the representative’s name that you spoke with.”
Check your credit report regularly to ensure that it is accurate and up to date. You are entitled to one free credit report from each of the three national credit reporting agencies annually, available through annualcreditreport.com.
Sherry recommends that consumers stagger their requests for their free credit reports, instead of requesting all three at once. By receiving a report every four months, you can get a more complete picture of what your credit looks like throughout the year, she says.
Keep in mind that some information in your credit report may not look familiar. Many credit cards are often issued by parent companies with names you might not recognize, or a company might have merged with another company, resulting in a name change.