Complete Guide to Credit Report Disputes

If there's inaccurate information on your credit report, you can dispute it.
Christy Rakoczy, Author
Melinda Sineriz, Editor
Last updated Jun 30, 2022

Is all the information on your credit reports correct? One study from the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) found that 26% of participants had at least one error on their credit reports. It's crucial that your credit report has only correct information because these reports are used to determine your credit score.

Lenders look at your credit score to determine if you are eligible to borrow money and how much borrowing will cost. Potential employers also look at credit histories, and so do insurance companies when setting premiums.

Unfortunately, some credit reports do contain incorrect information. When that happens, it can be a good idea to dispute the information so the credit reporting agencies can investigate it and remove it if it's not accurate.

This simple guide will explain how to dispute a credit report.

In this article
How to dispute a credit report
Why dispute items on a credit report?
What can you dispute on a credit report?
How long does the process take?
FAQs
Bottom line

How to dispute a credit report

The first step to disputing a credit report error is to realize your report has inaccurate information in the first place. That's why it's typically a good idea to check your credit report and score regularly. AnnualCreditReport.com allows you to do this for free for each of the three largest agencies that report credit. These major credit bureaus are called Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion.

Note: Normally, you're allowed one free copy of your credit report per year at AnnualCreditReport.com, but free weekly reports are available during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Once you've obtained a free credit report, look carefully for errors. If you find them, you will need to initiate the dispute process with the credit reporting agency or agencies that have the inaccuracies. If there is more than one agency reporting erroneous information, you'll want to contact each one separately.

The table below provides details about disputing information on your credit history. It is always fastest to submit your dispute online, but you can also do so by mail or phone.

Contact Method Experian TransUnion Equifax
Phone 866-200-6020 to obtain a credit report, then call the number listed on the credit report 800-916-8800 866-349-5191
Online Experian website Transunion website Equifax website
Mail Experian

P.O. Box 4500

Allen, TX 75013

TransUnion Consumer Solutions

P.O. Box 2000

Chester, PA 19016-2000

Equifax Information Services, LLC

P.O. Box 740256

Atlanta, GA 30374-0256

Information to have ready
  • Full name
  • Social Security number
  • Date of birth
  • Addresses where you lived in the past two years
  • A government-issued ID such as a driver's license
  • A utility bill or insurance statement
  • A list of inaccurate items on your credit report
  • Reasons you believe the information is inaccurate
  • Name
  • Social Security number
  • Partial account number of the disputed item
  • Your current address
  • Your TransUnion file number if available
  • Your date of birth
  • The name of the company that is reporting the disputed information
  • The reason for the dispute
  • Driver's license
  • Birth certificate
  • Copy of utility bill
  • Current bank statements with account details
  • Lender letters showing accounts have been corrected
  • Proof of identity theft
  • Bankruptcy schedules
  • Disability letters for student loans
  • Canceled checks or other proof of payment
Tip: If you decide to mail a dispute letter, send it via certified mail with a return receipt. And include copies of your supporting documents, not originals.

Why dispute items on a credit report?

Businesses use the information in credit reports to decide whether to do things such as:

  • Rent you a house
  • Loan you money
  • Approve you for a credit card
  • Set your interest rate when borrowing
  • Determine whether to hire you
  • Set insurance premiums

You don't want companies to make decisions based on a report that contains inaccurate information — especially if that information is negative. If your report incorrectly shows a missed payment even though you made all payments or if there is a court judgment on your report because someone stole your identity, your own ability to borrow, find work, or rent an apartment could be impacted.

Disputing errors on your credit report allows you to correct the record. The credit reporting agencies will investigate and, if the information that is disputed is found not to be accurate, they should remove it. Your credit history should then show only legitimate accounts, and your credit score will be calculated using accurate details.

What can you dispute on a credit report?

You can dispute any inaccuracy on your credit report. This could include:

  • Inaccuracies in your personal information, such as your name, address, birth date, or Social Security number
  • Any inaccurate account information, such as inaccurate late payments, a closed account being reported as open, or the wrong credit limit
  • Mixed-up credit files, such as if your report has someone else's credit accounts on it
  • Duplicate reports of items, such as a debt that is listed multiple times

If there is an incorrect address on your credit report or if there is an account you do not recognize, this could be an indicator that identity theft has occurred.

How long does the process take?

After you have filed a dispute with the credit bureau, it has 30 days to investigate.

This could include sending evidence you submitted to the business reporting the allegedly erroneous information on your credit report. If that business (also known as the furnisher) finds out that they were indeed incorrectly reporting info to the credit agency, the company must contact all three credit bureaus to correct the information.

You will get a written notice from the credit bureau when their investigation is complete. If the information you are disputing is found to be inaccurate, the credit bureau will typically remove it within about 30 days of the time they conclude it's not correct.

However, if the investigation does not resolve things, you can ask the credit bureau to include a statement of the dispute and to provide it to creditors who request your credit history in the future. You could also submit a complaint to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) about the credit bureau or the data furnisher. Explain what you’re disputing and include documentation that supports your dispute.

FAQs


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Can disputing hurt your credit?

Disputing doesn’t hurt your credit. A dispute doesn't change your credit by itself, but the removal of inaccurate information resulting from the dispute could have an impact.

If a dispute results in inaccurate information being removed that was having a positive impact, it could potentially hurt your score. For example, if a credit account belonging to someone else with a long positive payment history was erroneously included on your record but was removed, the loss of this account could damage your score.

Getting negative information removed, such as an inaccurate collections account, could increase your score.


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What can you do if a debt collector calls you?

Ask the debt collector for details about the debt. These details include:

  • The caller's name
  • The name of the collection company
  • The collection company address and phone number
  • The amount owed
  • Who the money is owed to
  • How you dispute the debt

You should also make sure you know your rights under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, including the right not to be called early or late.


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What items should you dispute on your credit report?

You typically should dispute any inaccurate information on your credit report including:

  • Incorrect personal information, such as your name, address, birth date, or Social Security number
  • Credit files that are mixed up and aren't yours
  • Duplicate reports
  • Inaccurate account information

Bottom line

It’s important to check your credit report regularly. This is helpful for many reasons, including when you're trying to figure out how to prevent identity theft online or aiming to ensure that lenders make informed, accurate decisions about loans.

If you've checked your credit report and found errors, now you know how to take action so you can protect your reputation as a responsible borrower. So, be sure to sign into AnnualCreditReport.com ASAP and pull up your report to see if there are any inaccurate negative items or other issues you need to resolve.

Author Details
Christy Rakoczy
Christy Rakoczy is an identity theft expert with more than a decade of experience writing about cybersecurity issues and laws surrounding identity fraud. She has a law degree from UCLA and is a former college instructor who taught courses focused on legal issues surrounding internet privacy.