About the Credit Report Dispute Process
D-I-S-P-U-T-E. Find out what it means to you.
Remember that old Aretha Franklin song, RESPECT? Keep that tune in your head when considering the dispute process for your credit report. You owe it to yourself to have accurate accounts of all of your financial activity. R-e-s-p-e-c-t your credit rating by learning everything you need to know about identifying potential errors in your credit report, and then knowing what to do should you find them. And keep in mind, when it comes to correcting errors on your credit report, your biggest ally can be a credit bureau like Equifax.
The Dispute Process: It Starts With a Mindset
If you think that ignoring errors on your credit report falls into the category of 'not worth sweating over' think again. Mistakes on your credit report -- whether they are tiny errors or major mistakes -- can damage your credit rating, and that can have far-reaching implications. If you treat the dispute process as just that -- a process -- you can help to protect your credit and your future.
Flubs vs. Fraud: How to Spot Them
There are two basic kinds of credit report errors, "flubs" and fraud. Flubs are errors caused by either inaccurate or incomplete information that is reported to the credit bureau by a creditor and, according to statistics, they're usually small errors caused by an individual's mistakes. The other type of credit report error is plain-old fraud, where someone is intentionally and illegally trying to tap into your financial good standing. In either situation, the best way to approach a remedy is by first finding the source of the error.
The good news is that that information is within your reach, right in black and white, on your most recent credit report.
Credit reporting errors can include something you didn't buy or authorize, amounts that differ from what you actually paid, different purchase dates, items not properly identified, math errors, missing payments made or absent credits to your account, accounts mistakenly attributed to you, and application notices that you didn't fill out.
Inaccuracies like these can be updated or removed from your record relatively simply and quickly when you keep on top of what is reported to your credit file with a credit monitoring product such as Score Watch® or Equifax Credit Watch Gold™ with 3-in-1 Monitoring.
Follow the 1-2 approach
1. Keep a lookout. By simply reviewing a recent copy of your credit report and keeping a sharp eye out for errors, you'll be taking the most important step in the process. Keeping your credit report 'healthy' (i.e. free of errors) is one of the best ways you can maintain an accurate and secure credit history for yourself. To obtain a copy of your credit report you have several options:
- Through the www.annualcreditreport.com site, you can annually obtain one free copy of your credit report from each of the three nationwide credit reporting agencies (Equifax, Experian and TransUnion).
- If you've been denied credit, insurance, change in credit limit or other benefits within the last 60 calendar days based In whole or in part on the information in your Equifax credit report, or you've recently placed a fraud alert on your file, you can obtain a free copy of your credit report: www.equifax.com/fcra .
- If you sign up for an Equifax Personal Solutions product such as Equifax Credit Watch™ Gold with 3-in-1 Monitoring, you'll get one free copy of your 3-in-1 Credit Report, unlimited access to your Equifax Credit Report™, and you will receive alerts within 24 hours of key changes to your credit file at any of the three nationwide consumer reporting agencies.
2. Take action on errors. Once you've uncovered a potential error, make sure you've got all the details you can gather before you take the next step of officially disputing the error, as this will expedite the process. With Equifax, there are three ways you can initiate a dispute:
NEW! 24/7 ONLINE DISPUTE:
www.equifax.com/dispute - this new online service is free, secure, efficient and available 24/7. You can access the entire dispute process online, and get a revised copy of your report after the dispute is completed.
Dial 1-800-685-1111 to get priority access to a live agent. You will need a current copy of your Equifax credit file with the 10-digit Report Confirmation Number. Your Report Confirmation Number can be found at the top of your Equifax Credit Report™. It is used to help you initiate a phone dispute of your credit file information. We request it for an online dispute, but it is not required. This number allows Equifax to more easily access your credit file. Please keep this number for your records. Access a free online copy of your Equifax Credit Report for dispute purposes now.
Equifax Information Services LLC
PO Box 740256
Atlanta, GA 30384
Please be sure to detail the items you are disputing when writing.
After I've Filed a Dispute, What's Next?
Once you have officially set the dispute process in motion, Equifax will investigate the disputed items. We will contact the credit grantors for verification of the items in question. The results of the investigation will be mailed to you, or emailed if you set up an online dispute. This process can take up to 30 days to complete (45 days if the dispute is initiated through www.annualcreditreport.com.)
Included in the results of the investigation will be a revised copy of your credit report, as well as the names and contact information of the credit grantors that verified the disputed items.
My Dispute is Complete. Now What?
If you found an inaccuracy with in your credit report at one credit reporting agency, you may want to get your credit report from the other two agencies to see if their reports contain the same error. After you've corrected an error with one agency, the other agencies should eventually receive the corrected information. But for prompt correction, it's best to contact each of the three agencies individually yourself. With a credit monitoring product, such as Score Watch® or Equifax Credit Watch Gold™ with 3-in-1 Monitoring, you continue to monitor the changes that are reported to your credit reports.