How to dispute credit report errors
The information in your credit report determines your credit score, which is used to determine your creditworthiness to creditors and lenders. For example, your credit score significantly impacts whether you can get a mortgage for a new house or a car loan for a new vehicle. Plus, it determines interest on those loans and how much your total borrowing amount can be.
But what if your score has been lowered because of errors in your credit report? In that case, you'll want to learn how to dispute credit report errors. Below, we've outlined everything you need to know about the credit report dispute process. We've included some helpful information on improving your credit report when there aren't errors, but your score is low.
Why is an accurate credit report important?
Checking your credit report is the only way to know if the information inside is truly accurate — and ensuring accuracy is pretty important. Your credit report and the correlating score can affect whether you can:
Qualify for a mortgage to purchase a home
Get other loan types (including for a new vehicle)
Rent a place to live
Be hired for specific jobs
Receive insurance (of all kinds) at an affordable rate
A single error on your credit report can have unnecessary, lasting negative impacts on your credit score. But how do you know if your credit report is accurate?
How do you know if your credit report is accurate?
The only way to know if your credit report is truly accurate is to get a copy and check it. You can get a free report for each of the three major credit bureaus once a year through AnnualCreditReport.com. To get your free report, you'll need some basic information, like your name, date of birth, Social Security number, and current physical address.
Once you get your free report, carefully comb through the information to verify its accuracy. Seeing an account you never opened is an obvious red flag you'll need to initiate a credit report dispute. But you should also verify the amounts of any past due balances, the original creditors, and the date the account was sent to collections.
If you find one or two minor errors, there may be no cause for concern. However, if you see multiple small errors or any significant errors, you may need to think about whether you've been the victim of identity theft. If you believe someone is using your personal information, report it at IdentityTheft.gov to receive a personalized recovery plan—and eliminate those errors on your credit report.
How can you correct credit report errors?
Any information that's inaccurate or incomplete in your credit report has to be changed by both the supplying business and the credit bureau. The best place to start a credit report dispute is with the relevant bureaus, as this is sometimes enough to solve the problem on its own.
Disputing errors on credit reports with the credit bureaus
If you've found a mistake on your report, you'll first want to dispute it with the credit bureau. Keep in mind there are three major bureaus, and in some instances, you may find different information on each one. For example, you may find an erroneous account on one report that doesn't appear on the other two.
The contact information to begin your credit report dispute for each of the three major credit bureaus can be found below. Regardless of which one you need to contact to dispute errors on credit reports, the process is as follows:
Mail or fill out an online dispute form. If disputing errors on credit reports online, include all the information they ask for. If mailing a dispute letter, remember to include contact information and identify each mistake as thoroughly as possible. Then, explain why you're disputing the information, and request a removal or correction.
Attach verifying documents. Include documents that prove your error claims whenever possible. For example, you can include bill notices showing different amounts than reported.
Receive confirmation. Consider using certified mail if going this route so that you receive a confirmation when the dispute letter is delivered. Likewise, if filing online, you should receive an email confirming your submission — which you'll want to be sure to save.
Wait for your results. You should hear back from the credit bureau within 30 days, but this may vary because the dispute must be thoroughly investigated.
Send a dispute form in the mail to:
Equifax Information Services, LLC P.O. Box 740256 Atlanta, Georgia, 30348
Call: (866) 349-5191
Send a dispute form in the mail to:
Experian P.O. Box 4500 Allen, Texas, 75013
Call: (888) 397-3742
Send a dispute form in the mail to:
TransUnion, LLC Consumer Dispute Center P.O. Box 2000 Chester, Pennsylvania, 19016
Call: (800) 916-8800
What happens after a credit report dispute?
Once you submit your credit report dispute, the credit bureau must investigate your claim. To do this, they'll look at the information received from you and reach out to the supplying company. The supplying company will need to prove the information they provided is accurate. If they can't—or if your information is proven correct—a correction or removal of the information will be made.
If the supplying business can prove the information they submitted is accurate, nothing will be changed on your credit report. However, regardless of the outcome, you should receive a determination letter letting you know the results and what (if any) steps were taken on your behalf.
What can you do if an investigation doesn't resolve the dispute?
Not every dispute goes how you want it to, and sometimes, the credit agency will reach out stating that no errors were found and no actions were taken. What do you do then?
Reach out to the credit bureau and ask that a statement of your credit report dispute be included in your file. This way, anyone who accesses your credit report in the future will see that you disputed the information, and they'll be able to see why. If you had recent credit report inquiries, you can also ask that the credit agency send a copy of the dispute report to them, too. This should be done at no cost to you.
How to dispute credit reports errors with the supplying businesses
Another option for how to dispute credit errors is taking it up with the company that supplied it in the first place. Follow these steps to do so:
Gather your information. You'll need all the same information as filing a credit report dispute with a credit agency. Gather documents, a copy of the credit report, and any relevant personal details.
Write a letter to the supplying business. Ensure your letter clearly states what errors exist, along with how and why you want them fixed. Include your contact information and copies of any documents supporting your claim.
Verify the correct mailing address. Some companies have a specific address they want disputes sent, which may be available on their website. If you can't figure out where to mail your dispute, call the company's customer service phone number and ask for that information.
Ask for proof of receipt. Mail your dispute letter via certified so you have confirmation it was received.
Follow up if necessary. If you don't hear back from the supplying business within 30 days, follow up on your request via email or phone.
Receive the supplying business's decision: Once the supplying company has thoroughly investigated the information provided, it should send you a determination letter stating what it found. If you receive these results over the phone, ask for written confirmation of the decision.
What happens after a credit report dispute with the supplying businesses?
If the supplying business finds an error, it must submit new information to the credit bureau. The change or deletion of the disputed information should appear on your credit report within 30 days of submission. If the information was determined to be correct, the business must notify the credit bureau that you disputed the information and include details as to why.
Moving forward after learning how to dispute a credit report
Knowing how to dispute a credit report is a great first step on the road to financial health and literacy. But what if your credit report is accurate, just not great? If you have delinquent accounts on your report and a low credit score, there are ways you can improve it moving forward. We've described a few simple, actionable tips to help you steadily grow your credit score below.
Understand credit report limitations
If you have old delinquent accounts on your credit report, not all is lost. There are limitations to how long certain information can remain on your credit report. For example, most negative information can only stay on your report for 7 years, while some bankruptcies can remain for 10 years. If you have something on your report that's older than that and hasn't dropped off, you can send a letter requesting its removal. Plus, the credit bureau or supplying business can't deny your request because the law requires its removal after a set time.
Monitor your report regularly
What’s one of the simplest ways to protect your credit? Monitoring your report regularly. While this doesn't improve your credit score, it can remove errors more quickly—which means you won't get denied that mortgage because of something that shouldn't even be in your report.
Make wise financial decisions
Making wise financial decisions means thinking twice before making a large purchase or applying for a loan. You could also open a savings account and make contributions to it as possible. Remember that even $1 here and $5 there can make a world of difference if an emergency happens—and the interest you earn can help boost your initial deposit significantly. Also, look for a savings account that doesn't charge fees and offers a high-yield Annual Percentage Yield (APY), like the Varo Savings Account.¹
You'll also want to do research before making any financial decisions—even if you're in a pinch. For example, let's say you desperately need a few dollars to make it to your next paycheck. Instead of using expensive payday loans, consider a more cost effective alternative like a Varo Advance, which charges limited flat-rate fees and gives you 30 days to pay it back in as many payments as you want, when you want.²
Consider payment plans or arrangements for negative accounts
On a final note, you may want to consider making payment arrangements on any negative accounts you have on your credit report. Their removal can help significantly increase your credit score. Be sure to ask them to remove the delinquent account from your report entirely once you've finished your agreed-upon payments—and get their agreement to do so in writing.
Your credit score is important, which means you need your credit report to be accurate—and if your score is low but accurate, you should take some simple steps to improve it. To wrap things up, the key takeaways are:
Your credit report isn't guaranteed to be accurate, and you have every right to dispute something you believe is an error.
You can check your credit report for free once a year to verify accuracy.
Ways to dispute credit report inaccuracy include contacting the credit bureau or the supplying business.
If your credit report is accurate but your score isn't great, there are steps you can take to improve it.
Of course, Varo is ready to help you build your credit with the Varo Believe Credit Card, and we've got lots of helpful information that can help you make the best financial decisions moving forward. Knowledge is power, after all.³
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