If you’ve checked your credit reports lately for errors, congratulations! That’s a smart first step to improving your credit score, which can make getting approved for home loans and credit cards, along with getting the best interest rates, a lot easier.
Errors can be as simple as a misspelled name, wrong phone number or address, or as serious as an account wrongly reported as delinquent.
The next step is to fix them. Here are some ways to resolve errors on your credit reports:
Write the Credit Bureaus
Write a letter to the credit reporting bureau where you found the mistake. Equifax, Experian and TransUnion are the three major credit bureaus, and you can write to them online or by mail.
Include your contact information, and explain the error you found and why it’s wrong. Include supporting documentation, such as a copy of an email verifying the status of an account that has been reported incorrectly.
The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau has sample letters on its website for disputing credit reports. Be sure to keep copies of any letters or documents you send, and if sending anything by mail, use certified mail with a return receipt.
Banks and credit card issuers that provide information about you should also be notified of errors, unless it’s an identity-related mistake made by the credit bureau—those should be sent directly to the credit bureau.
Also known as furnishers, companies that provide information to credit bureaus will often have their address listed on your credit report so you can contact the company directly.
Allow 45 Days
After reporting errors, allow up to 45 days for them to be fixed. The credit bureau generally has 30 days after receiving your dispute to investigate and verify the information with the furnisher. The credit bureau must report the results back to you within five days of completing its investigation.
If you dispute an error with the furnisher, it typically takes 30 days to investigate and they must report their findings to you.
If you’ve submitted incorrect or incomplete information, or have tried to contest the same item multiple times without any new information, then the bureau or furnisher may decide your dispute is frivolous. They must tell you this within five days, along with providing their reasoning. Once this is done, they don’t need to investigate further. You can resubmit a dispute with updated materials if your original dispute was labeled frivolous.
Even if the furnisher insists the dispute information is accurate, you can ask the credit bureau to include a statement in your credit file explaining the dispute.
Credit report updates may take a while to appear, depending on when new information is sent and a bureau’s update cycle. If you don’t see a change in a few months, contact them again to verify that your account information is being reported and updated.