Note: We receive a commission for purchases made through the links on this site. Our sponsors, however, do not influence our editorial content in any way.
If you check your credit report at least once per year as recommended by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), you’re bound to find errors from time to time. If you do, then it’s important to dispute those items to keep them tanking your credit score. Not sure how to dispute items on your credit report and walk away with your score intact? Simply move through the steps in this guide to get it done.
Upon finding errors on your credit report, you’ll want to pull all the copies you can to see if the wrong entries show up in multiple places. You can get copies of your credit report from all three major reporting agencies – Experian, TransUnion, and Equifax—for free once per year.
If you already used up your freebies, get copies from other helpful agencies instead, like:
Once you have your reports, check each one for the incorrect entries. Compare every line item with your own records to see if their data aligns with yours. As you find errors, mark them with a highlighter, so you can address them one by one.
Before filing the disputes, get all your information together, so you can refer to it as you go.
Depending on the type of dispute you file, you may need:
· Valid state ID or driver’s license
· Birth certificate
· Copy of your most recent utility bills
· Current bank statements
· Proof of identity theft
· Letters of correction from lenders
· Bankruptcy schedule
You will want to provide as much proof of your claims as possible for each dispute. So, look through your records carefully for the info, and then scan it into your computer for later reference.
Remember to put a freeze on your credit score if you suspect the erroneous entries are due to identity theft. Also, report the issue to the Federal Trade Commission and local law enforcement.
For each error you find, you must file a dispute with the agency reporting that item. If you find the same error through all three reporting agencies, you must file three separate disputes. To make matters more complicated, each credit reporting agency has its own preferred way of handling disputes.
Equifax only allows you to file credit report disputes using their online form. Just fill out the prompts as thoroughly as you can, and then hit submit.
Once you’re done, you will get a 10-digit confirmation code, which you should put in a safe place. You can use that code to check the status of your dispute and review their findings once they complete the investigation. You should hear back within 30 days of hitting submit, so watch your inbox for their message.
To file a dispute with TransUnion, you also need to use their online system. You will need to create an account before filling out their dispute request form. Include as much information about the error as you can while filling out the form.
Then, attach whatever supporting documentation you have as proof of your claims. Like Equifax, they will likely take up to 30 days to investigate the disputes and provide a response. You can log in and check the status of the dispute any time you wish.
Unlike the other two major credit reporting agencies, Experian allows you to submit dispute requests by phone, mail, or through their online system. If you’d like to move through the process by phone instead, call 866-200-6020. Or you can send your dispute to them at PO Box 4500, Allen, Texas 75013.
No matter which method you choose, make sure to clearly indicate which entries are incorrect. Also, provide all the documentation you have that confirms your findings. Once they receive your documents, they will email you to let you know. The investigation can take up to 30 days during which you’ll receive status updates at every step.
As you file the disputes, print out confirmation pages and copies of all documents used as proof. Print a copy of your current credit report as well if you don’t already have one on hand. Then, file each one in a folder labeled with the name of the credit reporting agency.
Within about a month, you’ll either see the disputed entries deleted or receive a letter letting you know that the charges were verified as accurate and belong to you. If their investigation resulted in a change on your credit report, they will provide a copy of the updated document. Print it out and file it away for safekeeping.
If you do not agree with the response from the credit reporting agencies, you can dispute the charges with the creditor directly. They will need to provide verification of the accounts upon receiving your request.
While doing that, check for any additional proof you might have that the debts are incorrect or not your responsibility. If you find anything, send it over to the credit reporting agency for further consideration.
You can get your State Attorney General’s office or CFPB involved if you feel like the creditors or reporting agencies are not acting in good faith. You will need to file an official complaint with those entities to have them take a look.
If your efforts do not pan out, you can add a brief statement to the entries in question. The statement should clearly explain your stance in hopes of keeping the errors from resulting in the rejection of credit card applications in the future.
Despite your best efforts, your credit score may refuse to budge. Thankfully, you can work with a credit repair agency if you need help disputing the errors on your report and boosting your score. They can even monitor your credit report on a monthly basis to alert you of issues as they arise. With their help, you can watch your credit improve in real-time, making it easier than ever to get a credit card, mortgage, or other loan product.
Once you’re done with these steps, keep monitoring your credit report. Also, plan to repeat all the dispute steps whenever you find errors. By doing so, you can keep your report accurately showing your creditworthiness, so you can qualify for loans and credit accounts of all kinds.