Although creditors are held to standards by the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) when reporting your data to the credit reporting agencies (CRAs), they may still make mistakes. Or, identity thieves may apply for lines of credit using your name or personal information. In these cases, incorrect data may show up on your credit report and, if you don’t spot it, may stay there.
Here are few important things to remember as you begin the process:
- Errors in your personal information, accounts, or payment history are important to remedy, but not everything can be disputed or removed. The information being disputed must be incomplete, incorrect, or the result of fraud.
- You cannot file a dispute for information which you know to be true. However, legitimate errors can be disputed for free, and it is important to do so to keep your credit report updated and correct.
Reviewing your credit report
If you’re planning to file a dispute, you may have already reviewed your credit report. If not, you can obtain one free copy each year from all three major CRAs at annualcreditreport.com. Pay careful attention to your personal information, including your address and the spelling of your name, as well as your account balances and payment histories when reviewing your accounts. Errors in this information may be easy to miss and can cause problems. Keep track of any errors you find and whether they’ve shown up before.
Filing a dispute
Once you’ve reviewed your credit report, and if you believe you have identified a potential error, you can file a dispute with the CRAs online, by mail, or over the phone. The method you choose will correspond with how you receive updates, so be sure to choose your preferred method of contact.
Investigating on your behalf
Once you file a dispute, you should receive a response within 30-45 days, likely by mail or email, depending on how you submitted your dispute. During this time, the CRA will investigate your claim, attempt to verify the information with the lender involved, and determine whether an error has occurred.
The dispute process at Equifax takes approximately 30 days. On average, a dispute filed at Equifax is completed within 10 days.
You can also contact the relevant lender ahead of time to ensure they have your correct personal information on file.
Once an error has been corrected, the other CRAs should eventually be notified and make the same changes. To help expedite the process, you can file a dispute with them for the same information.
Once you have had your dispute resolved, it’s not a bad idea to check your credit report again and ensure the changes have been made.