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How to Fix Credit Report Errors

Written by Laura Martinez - 22 Comments

Your credit report is incredibly important. Not only do potential lenders check it when you’re trying to secure credit, but landlords, cell phone companies, utility companies, insurance companies, etc. have also been known to check your credit prior to doing business with you.

Given the above, it’s in your best interest to check your credit reports regularly and clear up any errors or out of date information. In addition to protecting your credit score, checking your credit report is also a good way of detecting against identity theft before things get out of control.

Fortunately, if you find errors on your report, it’s relatively easy to correct them. For example, I had a medical bill that was erroneously sent to collections. My insurance company had paid it years ago, so I was surprised to see it there. While this error had a huge negative impact on my credit score, I was ultimately able to get it fixed.

How to get your free credit reports

You can get a free copy of your credit report from each of the three credit bureaus once per year. To order your reports online, visit annualcreditreport.com. Note that this site is the only place where you can get your reports completely free. Sites such as FreeCreditReport.com and MyFICO.com have strings attached, as you have to enroll in free trial and then cancel before you get charged.

According to the Federal Trade Commission, there are additional circumstances in which you can get free access to your credit reports:

“Under federal law, you’re also entitled to a free report if a company takes adverse action against you, such as denying your application for credit, insurance, or employment, based on information in your report. You must ask for your report within 60 days of receiving notice of the action. The notice will give you the name, address, and phone number of the consumer reporting company.

You’re also entitled to one free report a year if you’re unemployed and plan to look for a job within 60 days; if you’re on welfare; or if your report is inaccurate because of fraud, including identity theft.”

Finally, it’s worth noting that each of the three bureaus will provide you with a free credit report if you place a fraud alert on your file.

How to dispute errors on your credit report

Now that you’ve reviewed your credit report and found some errors, you need to decide how you want to dispute it. For starters, all three credit bureaus offer online dispute resolution. This is a great place to start, though you can’t necessarily fix all of your problems online.

Contact numbers and online dispute sites:

Fixing errors on your credit report by mail:

As convenient as online dispute resolution might be, sometimes you’ll need to send your dispute through the mail. If you’re unsure, call the credit bureaus (numbers above) to verify what you need to do for your specific case.

When we were disputing an error on my credit report, I called Equifax to get some more information on what to send with the claim. Some items you may need to include (depending on your error):

  • Copy of driver’s license or state ID card
  • Copy of Social Security card
  • The full name of the creditor or collection agency
  • The account number in question
  • A concise description of why you’re disputing it
  • Any paperwork you have that supports your case

It definitely pays to call ahead and get specific guidance for your for how to handle your dispute if you’re going to mail anything to them.

Sample credit report dispute letter

In case you’re unsure what to include in your dispute letter, the FTC has a sample dispute letter to help you out.

Date
Your Name
Your Address
Your City, State, Zip Code

Complaint Department
Name of Company
Address
City, State, Zip Code

Dear Sir or Madam:

I am writing to dispute the following information in my file. The items I dispute also are circled on the attached copy of the report I received.

This item (identify item(s) disputed by name of source, such as creditors or tax court, and identify type of item, such as credit account, judgment, etc.) is (inaccurate or incomplete) because (describe what is inaccurate or incomplete and why). I am requesting that the item be deleted (or request another specific change) to correct the information.

Enclosed are copies of (use this sentence if applicable and describe any enclosed documentation, such as payment records and court documents) supporting my position. Please investigate this (these) matter(s) and (delete or correct) the disputed item(s) as soon as possible.

Sincerely,
Your name

Enclosures: (List what you are enclosing)

And remember… Always send copies of your documentation. Keep your originals!

Credit bureau mailing addresses

What follows is a list of addresses for the major credit reporting agencies.

Equifax Information Services, LLC
P.O. Box 740256
Atlanta,GA 30374

Experian
P.O. Box 2104
Allen, TX 75013-0949

TransUnion Corp.
P.O. Box 2000
Springfield, PA 19022-2000

You should receive a letter in approximately 4-6 weeks regarding the status of the dispute. Mark the date you sent your dispute on your calendar, and keep detailed records in case there are any further problems.

Dealing with accurate negative information

If there are legitimate negative items on your credit report, there’s not much that you can do. In most cases, negative information will be removed from your credit report seven years after the date it was last reported. As you slowly rebuild your credit history, you should see your more and more positive information on your credit report, the negatives will gradually drop off, and your score should rise accordingly.

Closing thoughts

Fixing your credit report takes a bit of time, but it’s worth it. I’m certainly glad to have the medical collection taken off of my credit report. Of course, it pays to have proper documentation as you go through the process. In my case, I had proof of payment, so it was just a matter of filing my request and waiting.

Have you been through this? Do you have any tips to add?

Published on April 22nd, 2009
Modified on August 12th, 2010 - 22 Comments
Filed under: Credit Cards

About the author: helps families achieve financial freedom by sharing tips for reducing debt and building freelance income over at Couple Money.

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22 Responses to “How to Fix Credit Report Errors”

  1. 1
    Baker @ ManVsDebt Says:

    This is a fantastic summary of information needed to fix errors on your credit report.

    In my experience, the people whom I’ve know with errors usually put off fixing them because (a) they don’t have the knowledge and (b) they think it won’t be worth the work.

    This kind of post goes a long way in helping eliminate (a) and hopefully minimizing (b). Great work!

  2. 2
    DDFD at DivorcedDadFrugalDad Says:

    Great post!

    I highly recommend checking your reports– I found errors and everyone I have spoken to who has checked theirs has also found errors . . .

  3. 3
    ckstevenson Says:

    What constitutes an error that one wants to fix?

    I read my credit report last year (got it as part of my refi, which was to a lower rated 30yr fixed) and the only “errors” I found were some listed addresses. They thought I lived at some point in NC with my Dad since we owned a beach rental property together. Do I care about that?

  4. 4
    Trevor @ Financial Nut Says:

    Good! I needed this post. I plan on disputing something this summer.

  5. 5
    Brad @ Twenty Something Sense Says:

    For those interested in tracking their credit for free, I suggest using CreditKarma.com. This is a truly great service for managing your credit.

  6. 6
    Laura Says:

    @ckstevenson: I had something similar with my credit report listing me in another state. It’s up to you, but I’d fix it for two reasons:
    1. It’s a bit misleading a may confuse some lenders.
    2. It’s a very easy dispute to fix.

    I think you raised a good point by asking how accurate do you want the report to be. Thanks!

  7. 7
    Nickel Says:

    Yeah, I tend to agree with Laura. Things like that are not at all contentious, so you might as well go ahead and dispute them. No, minor things like that are not likely to create problems, but it’s probably good to get rid of inaccuracies just in case.

  8. 8
    Kristy @ Master Your Card Says:

    Excellent review! And I’m so glad you mentioned the accurate negative information. I wrote something similar to this at MYC several months ago and was attacked by someone who tried to say it was perfectly legal to dispute legitimate negative information. The fact is, knowingly disputing accurate information in an effort to have it removed is fraud. So, it’s best to be completely honest when dealing with your credit.

    Something else I wanted to add. Even though the negative information stays on your credit file for 7 years, it only negatively impacts your score for 4 years. You should start seeing an increase in your scores at that point, not just at the 7 year mark when things start falling off.

  9. 9
    Wrinkly Dollar Says:

    Great tips Laura. I had an “error” on my credit report a few years back – the hospital kept sending my bill to a temporary address that I didn’t think to apply mail forwarding to. Years later I found out about the $200 that was in the hands of collection agencies! Now the mess is all gone, but I might have fought it in the past with these tips. Thanks.

  10. 10
    Josh Smith Says:

    Laura. You. Rock. This is just what my in laws needed to know. In fact they asked my not 3 hours ago how to do this.

    I’m sharing this one with our readers at WalletPop.

    Thanks for the excellent write up.

  11. 11
    Birdie Says:

    I really enjoyed the article AND the comments! In fact, I wanted to add to #9 by Wrinkly Dollar – make sure you renew all forwards every 6 months AND if you have adult kids or roommates who have moved out of your house to another location, check with them to see if they are starting to get junk mail to their address with your name on it. That has happened to me twice and definitely causes concern over the possibility of id theft when they move if the mail keeps going there. Best solution is pretty much follow the great advice in this article to keep checking your credit reports regularly :)

  12. 12
    Chris Says:

    Wow thanks Laura, you helped me in learning what options I have for my credit.

    I also wanted to say (sorry for being creepy) that I think you are very beautiful and well hot! Attractive young woman with a brain is very hot! :-)

    Thanks again!

  13. 13
    Brenda Says:

    Ok, so we submitted a dispute with one credit reporting agency and provide the documentation about a negative, which appeared on our report. We had purchased a timeshare and the sales rep did a “bait & switch” on us..We reported to Atty General and the timeshare company refunded 1/2 of what we had paid (they would have refunded all but we had stayed for 1 week).

    The credit agency responded to our dispute advising they had contacted the timeshare company and the information was correct & should remain on our report..they say we still owe them $8K, although they refunded 1/2 of money in exchange for their deed..now what do we do? They didn’t “investigate”, they just called the creditor and took their word for it…should we report both to Federal Trade Commission and will they do anything to help an individual consumer?

  14. 14
    Julian Malins Says:

    Banks want you to personally sign for commercial financing, then report the full amount as an expense which you pay every month. When the property (commercial) is titled in the name of a Trust or S Corporation this counts the expense twice against income, they refuse to change this error. I cannot get
    credit as a result since my income is reduced by double counting the payment.

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  20. 20
    free credit reports from all 3 bureaus Says:

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  21. 21
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