How to Dispute Credit Report Errors
Remember that "permanent record" your teachers were always talking about? You may not get a report card every year, but you do have a credit report that lists your open and closed accounts, debt load and payment history. Unfortunately, approximately 20% of all American consumers have at least one error on their credit reports, making it more difficult to open new lines of credit or qualify for credit limit increases.
The good news is that you can dispute credit report errors. Here's how to spot errors and dispute them before they hurt your finances.
The first step is to get copies of your credit reports from Equifax, Experian and TransUnion. These companies are known as the "big three" credit bureaus. To get copies of your reports, go to AnnualCreditReport.com and fill out the request form. If you use this site, you're entitled to one free copy of each report per year. Be prepared to verify your identity before you download your reports.
Once you have the reports in hand, review each one for inaccurate information. Here are a few examples of common credit report errors that can cost you:
- Identity errors: Start by searching for accounts you don't recognize. Unknown accounts may show up due to identity theft or simple clerical errors. It's also important to check your name, address and telephone number.
- Errors in data management: Lenders process large volumes of data every day, so they're bound to make errors once in a while. For example, a lender may report the same account twice, making it look like you have more debt than you really do. It's also possible for a lender to add inaccurate information back to your reports after you've already had it removed.
- Account status errors: Lenders may report inaccurate information about your accounts, such as the balance due or the last time you made a payment. If you're an authorized user on someone else's account, the lender may even report you as the account owner.
Lenders and credit bureaus are both responsible for fixing credit report errors. If you find an error in one of your reports, you should report it to both entities. Inaccuracies can prevent you from opening new accounts or make it difficult to qualify for low interest rates, costing you thousands of dollars in your lifetime.
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To dispute inaccurate information on your credit report, follow the process outlined by each bureau.
1. Visit the dispute page on the Equifax website.
2. Click "Submit a Dispute."
3. Provide your name, contact information and Social Security number.
4. Complete the captcha to verify you're not a robot.
5. Create a username and password.
6. Follow the onscreen prompts to complete your dispute.
You can also mail your dispute to the following address:
Equifax Information Services LLC
PO Box 740256
Atlanta, GA 30374
1. Visit the dispute page on the Experian website.
2. Click "Start a new dispute online."
3, Provide your contact information and personal details.
4. Create a username and password.
5. Find the account with inaccurate information.
6. Click "Start a dispute."
7. Choose a reason for the dispute. Options include account paid in full, no knowledge of account, incorrect balance and identity theft.
8. Follow the onscreen prompts to finish the dispute.
If you prefer to file a dispute by mail, send your documentation to this address:
PO Box 9701
Allen, TX 75013
1. Visit the dispute page on the TransUnion website.
2. Scroll to the middle of the page and click "Start Dispute."
3. Create a TransUnion account if you don't already have one.
4. Click "Start Request" and agree to the terms of the dispute process.
5. Click the "Dispute" link next to the account in question.
6. Answer the question about whether you've disputed the item within the past 120 days.
7. Choose the reason for your dispute: "It is not mine" or "It is inaccurate."
8. Provide more details about the dispute.
9. Follow the onscreen prompts to submit your report.
You can also mail your dispute to:
TransUnion Consumer Solutions
PO Box 2000
Chester, PA 19016-2000
If you decide to mail a dispute, include your name, date of birth, Social Security number, mailing address and the reason for your dispute. To speed up the process, provide the creditor's name and your full account number.
You don't have to pay a fee to dispute a credit report error. There may be a fee if you hire someone to help you prepare your dispute, however.
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