How to dispute credit reporting errors

The three credit reporting bureaus deal with a substantial amount of information daily. As a result, mistakes can occur on your credit report. By requesting and reviewing the free annual credit reports from each of the credit reporting bureaus, you can be on the lookout for errors that may exist on your report.

Watch out for the following types of errors on your credit report:

  • Information that does not belong to you. This type of error is not only a concern for identity theft victims, but for everyone. Those with common names, and those with a junior or senior suffix attached to their name, may also find information that does not belong to them. Regardless of the nature of the information (positive or negative) you should work to correct it.
  • Inaccurate dates. Making sure dates are accurate is particularly important for credit accounts with derogatory information, because the date of the event is the basis for when the negative information will be removed from your account.
  • Old information. Don't assume that old information has been removed from your report; see for yourself that the matter is taken care of.
  • Other incorrect information. Account balances, payment dates, and credit limits (especially if you’ve consolidated accounts) should be checked for accuracy.

What to do if you find an error on your credit report

The Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) protects consumers’ rights by requiring credit bureaus to furnish correct and complete information to companies requesting credit histories for evaluation. If you find an error on your credit report, there are some steps you can take:

Write to the credit-reporting bureau disputing the item and include any supporting documents. Send copies of the documents, rather than originals, and keep the originals for your records. You can also visit the credit bureaus’ Web sites and fill out their online forms.

When the credit reporting agency receives your letter disputing the item, they are required to investigate the item in dispute (typically within 30 days) by presenting the information you submit to the creditor. By law, the creditor must review your evidence and report its findings to the credit bureau. The credit bureau must then give you a written report of its investigation and a copy of your report if the report results in a change.

If an item on your report is found to be an error and is corrected, you can request that the credit bureau send corrected copies of your report to any creditor who received your report in the previous six months or any employer who received your report in the previous two years.

If you are not satisfied with the results of a formal dispute, you can also write to the creditor disputing the incorrect entry. After receiving your letter, the creditor may not report the information without including a notice of your dispute. In addition, once you have notified the source of the error in writing, it may not continue to report the information if it is an error.

If your request to remove an erroneous item on your credit report is denied after going through the dispute process, you may add a statement (100 words or less) to your file giving your version of the dispute. The credit bureau must normally include a summary of your statement in future reports.

Before you try disputing all of the negative information on your report, you should know that this works only for errors. In fact, credit-reporting agencies often flag suspicious disputes. The only way to remove accurate but negative information is to wait. 

  • The Consumer Federation of America (CFA) is an association of nonprofit consumer organizations that was established in 1968 to advance the consumer interest through research, advocacy, and education. Today, nearly 300 of these groups participate in the federation and govern it through their representatives on the organization's Board of Directors.
  • Since 2007, the Homeownership Preservation Foundation (HPF) has served as a trusted, neutral source of information for more than eight million homeowners. They are partnered with, and endorsed by, numerous major government agencies, including the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and the Department of the Treasury.

  • The mission of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) is to create strong, sustainable, inclusive communities and quality affordable homes for all. HUD works to strengthen the housing market in order to bolster the economy and protect consumers; meet the need for quality affordable rental homes; utilize housing as a platform for improving quality of life; and build inclusive and sustainable communities free from discrimination.

  • The Council on Accreditation (COA) is an international, independent, nonprofit, human service accrediting organization. Their mission is to partner with human service organizations worldwide to improve service delivery outcomes by developing, applying, and promoting accreditation standards.

  • The National Foundation for Credit Counseling® (NFCC®), founded in 1951, is the nation’s largest and longest-serving nonprofit financial counseling organization. The NFCC’s mission is to promote the national agenda for financially responsible behavior, and build capacity for its members to deliver the highest-quality financial education and counseling services.