An error in your credit reports can have long-term negative effects on your credit score. These mistakes can make it harder to get the best credit cards or loans approved and impact how much interest you pay on them. However, you can dispute the negative items on your credit report that are there by mistake and be on your way to a higher credit score relatively quickly. Here’s what you need to know about removing errors from your credit reports.
Why is there an error on my credit file?
Checking your credit reports and finding an error can be a scary experience, although it’s not uncommon. The most recent study of the Federal Trade Commission found that some 26% of participants had spotted errors in at least one of their credit reports. You may be wondering how or why an error ended up in your credit report. There are many reasons why an error can end up on your credit profile, ranging from the most benign – a creditor who has not sent updated information to the three credit bureaus, for example – to the most serious, such as fraudulent activity captured on your credit reports.
Some mistakes that could have a significant impact on your credit score include:
- Incorrect account balances
- Derogatory marks dating back more than seven years
- Incorrect credit limits
- Invoices flagged as late or overdue when your account should be in good standing.
Errors on your credit reports that lead to lower credit scores can impact your chances of being approved for home loans, auto loans, and credit cards. Even if you are approved, you will be burdened with higher interest rates. To ensure that your credit reports are accurate, check them regularly and dispute any errors promptly.
In the past, the three credit bureaus provided a free credit report every year. Due to the financial impact the COVID-19 pandemic has had on many Americans, all three credit bureaus are offering weekly credit reports free until April 2022. Be sure to take advantage of these resources to help you monitor your credit reports.
How to dispute an error on your credit report
The Federal Trade Commission provides guidelines on how to dispute errors on your credit reports. If you successfully dispute an error, the item will be removed from your credit reports. You can do this by calling one of the three credit bureaus or by writing a dispute letter. Each of the three credit bureaus also offers online options for disputing errors on their credit reports. Here is the information you need to initiate your dispute with each credit bureau:
How to Dispute Errors on Your Credit Report Experian
- Call Experian Customer Service at 866-200-6020 to see if your dispute can be resolved over the phone.
- Write a letter of dispute to Experian’s National Consumer Assistance Center and mail it to PO Box 4500, Allen, TX 75013.
- Initiate an online dispute with Experian Online Dispute Form.
How to Dispute Errors on Your Equifax Credit Report
- Call the Equifax Customer Service Line at 866-349-5191 to see if your dispute can be resolved over the phone.
- Write a letter of dispute to the Equifax Customer Service Center and send it to PO Box 740256, Atlanta, GA 30374-0256.
- Initiate an online dispute with Equifax Online Dispute Form.
How to Dispute Errors on Your TransUnion Credit Report
- Call the TransUnion Customer Service Line at 800-916-8800 to see if your dispute can be resolved over the phone. Be sure to have a copy of your TransUnion credit file handy, as your TransUnion representative will need your file number to initiate your dispute.
- Write a letter of dispute to TransUnion’s Consumer Dispute Resolution Center and mail it to PO Box 2000, Chester, PA 19016.
- Initiate an online dispute with TransUnion Online Dispute Form.
How long does it take to clear a credit report error?
The Fair Credit Reporting Act limits the length of time a negative rating can remain on your credit report to seven years. After this time, the item will be removed from your report by the reporting office. The Fair Credit Reporting Act also requires the three credit bureaus to investigate and resolve a dispute within 30 days, although some investigations may take up to 45 days. The fastest and easiest way to initiate a dispute is through the credit bureaus’ online systems.
The bottom line
Once you identify an error on your credit reports, it’s important to dispute it as soon as possible. Getting things on your credit report in error can have lasting effects on your finances. While disputing an error on your credit reports can be time-consuming and difficult, the results – higher credit scores and lower interest rates – are definitely worth it.