Errors on your credit report can be a serious problem. This document determines your credit score and overall credit health, so it’s vital for it to be accurate. Your credit report is considered when applying for a loan, buying a home, and sometimes even getting a job. Your credit score reflects a lender’s likelihood of giving you money, so disputing any errors you may find is extremely important.
This article will discuss the ins and outs of your credit report, including how to view it and the appropriate steps to take when you find a mistake. By the end of this post, you will feel highly confident about disputing errors on your credit report and, more importantly, resolving them.
What Is a Credit Report?
Your credit report is essentially a lengthy document (physical or digital) that encompasses all of your credit activity and outlines your current financial situation. Therefore, you will find a lot of information on your credit report, including:
- Name, Social Security Number, and date of birth
- Employment and income information
- Total debt
- Credit cards
- Auto loans
- Student loans
- Payment history
- Accounts in default or collections
If you want to determine your own credit history or activity, your credit report is where you will find it. And typically, no details are left out. But mistakes do happen. So you can see that checking your credit report for errors and disputing them is incredibly important, for reasons we will discuss later on.
How Can I See My Credit Report?
You can view your credit report anytime you want. But you are entitled to view it each year at no cost. You can request a free copy of your credit report from each of the three major credit bureaus (Equifax, TransUnion, and Experian) once a year. To do this, you can visit AnnualCreditReport.com or call the toll-free number at 1-877-322-8228.
Additionally, you can download an Annual Credit Report Request Form and request a physical report by mail. Credit bureaus are required by law to give you a copy of this report every 12 months. They are also responsible for making sure the information they provide is accurate. And if it is not, they must give you an opportunity to correct any errors or omissions.
Ideally, everyone should be examining their credit reports each year. It can be a very helpful tool in giving yourself a financial checkup from time to time.
Why Is It Important to Dispute Errors on My Credit Report?
Disputing errors on your credit report is one of the most important things you can do for your credit score. If you have a mistake on your credit report, such as an outstanding debt or a late payment you didn’t make, it can significantly bring your credit score down by no fault of your own. A lower credit score can affect whether you get approved for a loan or credit card. And it can affect how much interest you pay on your debts.
If you dispute errors and have them removed from your report, you are on a one-way track to a better credit score. Especially for those who have a low score that they are trying to improve upon, disputing any errors is absolutely crucial.
How to Dispute an Error on Your Credit Report
Now that we have discussed why disputing errors on your credit report is so critical, it is time to review exactly how you dispute these errors and resolve them.
How you resolve these errors is also critical to whether or not they will actually be removed from your report. So it’s imperative that you follow each step closely. In the following sections, we will go through each step to take when submitting an error on your credit report and what will happen after the error is disputed.
1. Dispute the Error With the Credit Reporting Company
As soon as you notice an error on your credit report, you should first take it up with the credit reporting company or credit bureau reporting the inaccuracy. This will be either Equifax, TransUnion, or Experian. Getting all three reports is essential, as each may differ slightly.
Alongside your identification of the exact error, you should include written statements of why you believe the error is incorrect. And you will also want to include any documents that support your hypothesis.
For example, maybe one agency is stating that you are three months late on a credit card payment. However, you have a receipt stating that you paid the bill on time. You should make a copy and include it with your information. Templates of letters you can send are available in several places online.
When writing a dispute letter, you should include your contact and personal information (name, address, phone number, email) and report confirmation number if you have one. The letter should outline every mistake in the credit report, a detailed explanation of why you think they are mistakes, and a statement requesting that the information be removed.
Additionally, you should enclose a copy of the report and specifically highlight each error. Usually, credit bureaus will now allow you to do this online. However, printing the dispute report is always an option.
2. Dispute the Error With the Company Who Provided the Information (Furnisher)
You may also want to file a dispute report with the company that provided the false information.
For example, if the incorrect item on your credit report was a late rent payment, you may want to send a copy of everything you send to the credit bureau to your apartment complex or landlord. Likewise, if the incorrect item was a missed car payment, you can also send a copy to your dealership.
While this isn’t always completely necessary, it’s a good way of asserting yourself. Letting the other party or company know they have reported incorrect information that needs to be resolved is simply good consumer practice.
3. Be Sure To Include Documents That Support Your Dispute
Alongside your dispute letter, you should include documents supporting the dispute you are making. These documents must prove that you did not make a specific purchase or payment that was reported or that you did, in fact, make a payment on time.
For example, if the dispute you are making is about a late rent payment, you should submit things like an email receipt of your payment or a statement of the payment leaving your bank account on a specific date. These documents prove that you did not neglect a financial obligation or submit a late payment, as the credit report claims.
What Will Happen After I Dispute an Error?
Credit reporting companies are required to investigate every dispute you report, as they are legally bound to allow you to correct any false information. They are also required to report the results of their investigation back to you unless they determine that your claim is frivolous. And if the credit reporting company finds that your claim is legitimate and they correct it, they also must report this correction to all of the other credit reporting companies so that they can also update your reports.
Do Disputed Errors Always Go Away?
If your disputed error is legitimate and gets corrected, your report will be updated with the correct information, and your credit score will likely go up. Once your report is entirely corrected, the information will be removed, and it will be as though it was never there! However, this is only if the disputed error is investigated and found to be legitimate.
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