If you’re trying to build, repair or maintain your credit, you’ve likely gotten a copy of your credit report recently. If so, it’s very possible that you’ve spotted something that isn’t quite right. Maybe it’s an incorrect address, or perhaps it’s an account you don’t recognize. In some cases, it may even just be an inquiry that you don’t remember making.
Each of these can affect your credit score, so it’s important that you have them removed. Need to do that, but don’t know how to dispute your credit report? Here’s what you need to know.
What’s on Your Credit Report?
As you may know, there are three reporting agencies. Your credit is tracked and reported by Equifax, TransUnion and Experian. If you want to improve your credit, and dispute items on your credit report, you’ll need to have a current copy of each of these, as the items on each may vary.
Depending upon which report you’re currently looking at, the information on your report may look a bit different. In a nutshell, though, you’ll see your personal information, which includes employers, former names and aliases, and your current and previous addresses.
Third, you’ll see a listing of credit inquiries. These are, generally speaking, “hard inquiries” which means they’ll impact your score. Hard inquiries may result from you applying for credit, from employers checking your background or even from companies seeking to prequalify you.
Finally, you’ll see public records. Public records may include liens, bankruptcies, evictions, unpaid child support, court fees and more.
Give your three credit reports each a thorough examination. If you see anything at all that doesn’t look right, jot it down, or highlight the information. Now you’re ready to dispute your credit report.
What Can You Dispute on Your Credit Report?
Obviously, there are things on your credit report that are just – well – true. As you’d expect, you can’t dispute these items, but we’ll talk about that a little more in just a minute.
For basic disputes, you’ll want to look for:
- Inaccuracies in your personal information. This may include things as simple as a misspelling of your name, or a digit wrong in your date of birth. Old addresses you don’t recognize can be disputed, too.
- Items of credit which don’t belong to you. For instance, a credit card in your ex-wife’s name may appear on your credit report, and can be disputed.
- Duplicate items. Be sure to check account numbers to verify that they are, in fact, duplicates.
- Items beyond the statute of limitations. Each debt you owe has a statute of limitations; if that has passed but the item is still on your report, dispute it.
- Closed accounts that have been paid. For instance, if your cable bill was sent to collections, but you paid the bill, you may dispute it.
If anything at all looks weird to you, it won’t hurt to dispute it. In fact, it may be in your best interest. Strange items on your credit report may be indicators of identity theft. It’s better to be safe than sort.
There are obviously cases in which it may be best to seek legal help. For instance, if there’s an account which was cleared as a result of bankruptcy that’s still appearing on your report, contact your bankruptcy attorney.
How to Dispute Your Credit Report
Have you found al the discrepancies on your credit report? Ready to dispute them? You’re in luck! The actual act of disputing your credit report is very, very simple.
The easiest way to do this is through the websites of the three reporting agencies. Experian, TransUnion and Equifax all have vehicles where you can dispute inaccuracies and incorrect information online. Simply register for an online account. To do this, you’ll need to verify your personal information, but will be granted access to each item on your report.
From that point, it’s as simple as clicking a button. The option will usually be something like “Dispute this Item” and it allows you to do just that. Select the reason why you’re disputing the item, then send. The bureaus have 30 days to investigate, and to remove items that don’t belong on your credit report.
If you don’t want to dispute your credit report online, you can do it through the mail. There are actually two benefits to doing it this way. The first is that you can send along documentation to prove your case, like receipts from settled bills. The second is because you can send the mail certified. That means you’ll have record that the dispute was received by the bureau.
No matter how you choose to do it, you have the right to dispute items on your credit report as many times as you like. If you don’t get favorable results, simply try again, including more information if necessary.
Disputing Other Negative Items
We mentioned earlier that there may be negative items on your report that are just plain true. You can’t do anything about them.
Or can you?
Well, there might be, actually. Let’s say you went through a rough patch and didn’t always make your student loan payments on time. You’re back on track now, however, and would like to continue to improve your credit score.
Send a goodwill letter to the creditor. Not to the reporting bureau, but to the creditor who granted the account. Be contrite – sarcasm and anger will get you nowhere – and explain calmly why you missed those payments. Remind the creditor that your account is on the mend and, simply put, ask nicely if they’ll remove the late payments from your report.
Goodwill letters don’t always work. And it’s important that you send them in writing, rather than via email or phone conversation. However, you may be pleasantly surprised to learn that those late payments are removed and your credit is improved.
Before you hire a credit repair agency, try to dispute items on your own. It costs no more than the price of a postage stamp, and can drastically improve your credit score to have these items removed.