The information contained in your credit report forms the basis for your credit score. This in turn plays a big part in how lenders decide if they should risk extending credit to you or not, as well as how much interest you’ll pay if they do. Any error on your credit report can affect your score, but can be corrected if you're proactive and go through the required process.
Checking for Errors
You are entitled to one free credit report per year from each of the three main credit bureaus -- Equifax, Experian and Trans Union. You can get all three credit reports at the same time, or request one from each of the bureaus every four months so you can spot check your credit report throughout the year. Either way, order your free reports from annualcreditreport.com. Review each credit report carefully. Don’t assume if one is correct they all are correct, as the reports may not contain the same information.
The Dispute Process
The first step in getting an error corrected is to dispute it with the credit bureau. You can file a dispute either by mail or online, but include as much supporting documentation as you can to back up what you say, such as canceled checks that show payments. Send your dispute to the credit bureau that has the error. The Consumer Financial Protection Agency also recommends you send your dispute to each creditor reporting incorrect information.
What to Mail
Send your dispute to the credit bureau via certified mail. Include your full name and address, your phone number, the account number for the account in dispute. Include the confirmation number for the report, if available. Also include your Social Security number and date of birth, along with a copy of the credit report page that contains the error with that section circled. Never send original documents; mail copies and keep the originals in your files.
Contacting the Bureaus
Contact Equifax online at www.ai.equifax.com/CreditInvestigation, via mail at Equifax Information Services LLC, P.O. Box 740256. Atlanta, GA 30374 or by phone at 1-800-864-2978.
Contact Experian online at www.experian.com/disputes/main.html, via mail at “Experian, P.O. Box 4000, Allen, TX 75013” or by phone at 1-888-397-3742.
Contact TransUnion online at www.transunion.com/personal-credit/credit-disputes-alerts-freezes.page, via the mail at “TransUnion Consumer Solutions, P.O. Box 2000, Chester, PA 19022-2000” or by phone by calling 1-800-916-8800.
Getting the Results
The credit bureau has 30 to 45 days to investigate your claims and to respond, unless they feel that you are filing a frivolous report. However, it can take up to 90 days to see the results on your credit report. You should get a copy of your corrected report once the process is completed. If you don’t, check with the credit bureau and request one. Viewing your updated report is the only way to be certain that the errors on your report have been removed.
- Federal Trade Commission: Disputing Errors on Credit Reports
- Consumer Financial Protection Agency: What Should My Dispute Letter to a Credit Reporting Company Look Like?
- Consumer Financial Protection Agency: How Do I Dispute an Error on My Credit Report?
- Consumer Financial Protection Agency: If a Credit Reporting Error is Correced, How Long Will it Take Before I Find Out the Results?
- MyFICO: Fixing Credit Report Errors – What to Do
- Photo Credit gpointstudio/iStock/Getty Images
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