How to Challenge Items on Your Credit Reports

Written By Mary Beth Eastman
Last updated November 26, 2019

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August 27, 2019

Simple. Thrifty. Living.

Everyone from consumers to banks relies on credit bureaus to give them accurate information. Unfortunately, the three major credit bureaus (TransUnion, Experian, and Equifax) make serious mistakes that can ruin your credit rating.

One study by the Federal Trade Commission found that 26% of credit reports contain mistakes. And in a follow-up study, the FTC found that most who reported an error believe at least one disputed item on their report is still inaccurate.

Mistakes often happen when someone has a name or Social Security number similar to yours. It may not seem fair, but it’s your responsibility to challenge inaccurate items on your credit reports.

Follow these step-by-step instructions to challenge items on your credit report and get the credit rating you deserve.

Check Your Credit Reports Annually

You can’t challenge an item you don’t know about. Check your credit reports annually and comb through them for errors.

All credit bureaus will give you a free copy of your credit report. You must request your copy, though.

Report Errors to the Credit Bureaus

An error may not appear on reports from all three credit bureaus. When you find a mistake, report it to the company that has made the error.

You can file disputes online. Start by visiting the offending credit bureaus website, finding the dispute page, and submitting a formal complaint that clearly identifies the error.

Write a Letter Disputing Errors

Although credit bureaus make it relatively simple to dispute errors online, you may want to write a letter that gives them more information.

In your letter, include:

  • The name of the company that submitted the error.
  • The type of error (late payment, lien, etc.).
  • Why you believe the item shouldn’t be on your credit report.
  • Any evidence you have to support your claim.
  • A request for correction or deletion.

You should also send a copy of your letter to the business or institution.

Make sure you keep copies of everything you send!

Wait While the Credit Bureau Investigates

Federal law requires credit bureaus to start investigating your claim within 30 days. The bureau may not reach a conclusion for 90 days, though.

Prepare to wait for a response. Credit bureaus often take their time with these matters.

In some cases, the credit bureaus may decide to leave mistaken items on your credit report. You know the item doesn’t belong, but it will likely stay there for a few years.

If this happens, ask the credit bureau to include a statement of dispute. That way, anyone looking at your credit history will know that you take issue with the item.

You probably won’t get very far arguing with credit bureaus. They hold all of the power in this situation.

When a credit bureau’s investigation doesn’t resolve the issue, you should consider using a credit repair professional.

The top credit repair companies have a lot of experience negotiating with credit bureaus and creditors. Many of them also have lawyers that can put pressure on bureaus. Check out our credit repair reviews to find a service that is right for you.

Before you hire a credit repair professional, make sure you research the company to avoid scams. You can find reliable reviews on the Better Business Bureau website. You can also read reviews posted on other websites.

About the Author

Mary Beth Eastman

Mary Beth Eastman serves as the content manager for Simple. Thrifty. Living, where she is dedicated to helping readers use money and credit wisely. Mary Beth believes that access to the right financial information paired with a growth mindset are essential tools for getting out of debt and building wealth. Mary Beth has a degree in Journalism from Bowling Green State University and has focused her 20-year journalism career on putting readers front and center, carefully considering their concerns and presenting information that will help them in their everyday lives. She has won numerous statewide journalism awards. Her writing on personal finance as been featured on numerous websites in addition to Simple. Thrifty. Living, including Huffington Post and Lexington Law blog. Mary Beth resides in Pittsburgh, Pa., with her family and two rescue dogs.

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