When reviewing your credit reports, it’s important to make sure all of the information is complete and accurate. This includes everything from the account information to the other personal information that’s on your credit report such as your home address, name, and Social Security number.
By law, credit bureaus and the lenders and creditors that report information to them are both responsible for correcting inaccurate or incomplete information on your credit report.
Here are some steps you can take to address information you believe is inaccurate or incomplete:
- Get in the habit of regularly checking your credit reports from the three nationwide credit bureaus. You’re entitled to a free copy of your credit report from each of the three nationwide credit bureaus (Equifax, Experian and TransUnion) every 12 months by visiting www.annualcreditreport.com.
- If you find information you believe is inaccurate or incomplete on one of your credit reports, check your credit reports from the other two nationwide credit bureaus to see if the inaccurate or incomplete information appears there as well. Not all creditors report to all three bureaus. Some may report to only one, two – or none at all.
- If you see account-related information that’s incomplete or inaccurate, consider contacting the lender first. You may be able to straighten out the matter with the company itself, and the company will report the updated information to the credit bureaus. Lenders and creditors reporting inaccurate or incomplete information are responsible for updating it with each bureau they report to.
- File a dispute for free with one of the three nationwide credit bureaus. It’s important to remember that disputing information with one credit bureau may not impact information on credit reports from the other two bureaus. Also, dispute procedures may not be the same at all bureaus, so be sure to follow the procedure with the bureau where you're filing a dispute. You can contact any of the three bureaus online to file a dispute. Remember that documents you send to back up your claim will not be returned, so please send copies and not originals.
What information can I dispute on my credit reports?
You can dispute any of the following:
• Personal information: Your name, addresses, Social Security number or date of birth.
• Account information you believe is inaccurate or incomplete: For example, if you paid a debt two years ago, but your credit report still shows you owe a balance.
• Mixed credit files: This may happen if a father and son (Sr. and Jr.) have the same name, for instance.
• Duplicate reporting of an item: One example might be a debt listed twice.
• Information that may indicate fraud or identity theft : These would be inquiries and credit accounts, including collection accounts, on your credit report because you are the victim of identity theft.
Whether you’re contacting a lender or the credit bureaus, provide all the evidence and documents you can to back up your claim that the information is inaccurate or incomplete, such as an account statement verifying an account balance. Give details about why you believe the information in the credit report is wrong.
What should I expect after filing a dispute?
If you file a dispute with the three nationwide credit bureaus, you can generally expect to receive the results of your dispute within 30 to 45 days.
If the result of the investigation with the credit bureau finds that the information is accurate, it can’t be removed from your credit reports. If you still believe the information is inaccurate or incomplete, you can resubmit your dispute if you find additional documentation to back up your claim. You also have the option to provide a brief statement on your credit report summarizing your dispute, which can help explain your situation. Or you could contact the creditor to attempt to resolve the issue.
If the information is found to be inaccurate, your credit reports will be updated, generally within about 30 days.