As a financially responsible individual, you should be checking your credit on a regular basis. If all goes well, your credit card statements and report hold no surprises. Sometimes, though, you may find a mistake. When this happens, you’ll need to officially dispute the error to fix your score.
Credit report mistakes
Most credit report errors can be traced back to clerical mistakes, though some are caused by a lack of action on your part, or by criminal activity. To avoid credit report errors, use your legal name on every line of credit you open, remove your name from any accounts you are no longer associated with and have all of your creditors report your accounts to the credit bureaus. It’s also crucial that you monitor your score to find mistakes as quickly as possible.
How to dispute an error
If you’ve spotted an error on your credit report, follow these three steps to fix your credit:
Step 1: File a dispute with each of the major credit bureaus Inform all three major credit bureaus, Equifax
, about the error. In your written dispute, clearly identify each disputed item in your report, explain why you are disputing these items and ask that the errors be deleted or corrected. Include your full contact information, as well as copies of any documents that support your claim.
To file your dispute online, follow these links for each of the three major credit bureaus:Equifax
. You can also file your disputes by mail to Equifax and TransUnion; Experian currently accepts online disputes only. If filing by mail, it’s best to send your letter via certified mail with a requested return receipt.
Step 2: Contact the creditor
After you’ve contacted each bureau, also reach out to the creditor linked to the error. This step isn’t necessary, but it may speed up the correction process. Follow the guidelines above and include all relevant information and documentation. Let the creditor know you’ve also contacted the credit bureaus, as they’ll want to include a copy of your dispute if they report their findings to the bureaus.
Step 3: Follow up
Expect to be contacted by the bureaus and the creditor within 30 days after filing your disputes. If all goes well, your dispute will be accepted and your credit will be restored. If one of the credit bureaus or a creditor does not resolve the error in your favor, you can ask them to include a copy of your dispute in your file and in all future credit reports for a small fee. You can also consider hiring a lawyer to help you contest the report.
Always monitor your score and be vigilant about correcting errors. The payoff can affect your financial wellness for years to come.