How to Dispute an Error on Your Credit Report

How to Dispute an Error on Your Credit Report

If you do notice a blemish on your credit report that doesn’t belong to you, you might be wondering how to dispute the error on your credit report. Fortunately, there are several institutions in place designed to help you.

Before you pay your monthly credit card bill, you should check for any errors. It is also a good habit to check your credit report annually. Especially if you’ve seen charges on your credit card statement that don’t belong to you. 

Types of errors

When disputing an error on your credit report, the first thing you should do is know what you’re looking for. There are a few common errors, including:

  • Inaccurate information – The first thing you should look for is accounts that don’t belong to you. For example, if your name is Jose Smith, you might notice an account registered to Joe Smith and for their information to show up on your credit report. Your report should only show accounts that you are aware of and on which you are an authorized user.
  • Incorrect personal details – Next, take a look at your personal information. Has the address changed without your permission? Are there spelling errors, or is your phone number still correct? If there are unauthorized changes, you should contact your creditors immediately.
  • Mistake accounts / identity theft – Finally, you should check for accounts that you did not open. Someone could be stealing your identity and opening new credit accounts. If they don’t pay the bill, you will be held responsible, and your credit can take a severe hit.

How to get a copy of your free credit report

Now that you know what to look for, you’ll need to get your hands on a free credit report. Many banks offer free credit reports to their customers. You can also ask any of the credit reporting bureaus for a free copy of your credit report every 12 months. Finally, websites such as provide a readout of your credit score immediately upon request.

A trusted source is the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) website which has complete instructions on getting your annual credit report.

How to correct errors

If you do notice an error, it is not the end of the world. There are several steps that you can take to correct the error you find.

Contact the credit bureau

The first step to correcting your credit report is to reach out to the credit bureau. You can reach out via mail with a dispute letter. Be sure to include copies of documents that support your dispute. You should also include a printed copy of your current report and indicate the portion you are disputing. Your supporting documents may include printed copies of your credit card statement, receipts, and more. Make and keep copies of everything you send to the credit bureau.

Reach out to the furnisher

Then, you can mail your letter by certified mail. Be sure to request a return receipt, so you know when it was received.

It is important to remember that your credit file might not include all your credit accounts. This is because not all creditors supply the credit reporting companies with the information they need to create a full report. Therefore, it may take time for some issues to show up on your report. You may need to repeat the process of contacting your credit bureau if you notice an error in the future.

Wait for a response

Now, you’ve done everything you can do at this point. The credit bureau will review your file and return a response to you within 30 days. They must return results in writing, so it may take a few days for your reply to reach you by mail. They will also return a free credit report if your dispute resulted in a change to your original credit report.

Review results

When you receive your results, take time to review your information. If your investigation does not resolve your dispute, you can ask for a statement of your dispute to be included in future reports. This may include a fee.

Verify all updates are correct

Finally, continue to monitor your credit report and ensure that any updates made are correct. While this does take some leg work on your part, it will help ensure that you maintain a favorable credit score.

The takeaway

Your credit report is a detailed document containing all the information on transactions that affect your credit score. You should review it regularly to ensure that you do not have errors that are negatively impacting you. If you notice an error, reach out to the credit bureau as soon as possible with as many supporting documents as possible. A dispute will take at least a month to resolve, but your credit report should go back to normal once it is resolved.

Another option is to freeze your credit so nobody is allowed to open a new account in your name. This is a good option if you know you won’t be applying for new credit in the near future (mortgage, credit card, auto loan). Unlocking your credit when applying for a loan may include a small fee. However the protection from identity theft and the hassles of dealing with a blemish on your credit far outweigh that small cost. 

The post How to Dispute an Error on Your Credit Report is part of a series on personal finances and financial literacy published at Wealth Meta. This entry was posted in Financial Literacy, Risk Reduction
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