I regularly check my credit reports to make sure everything is in order. In particular, I’m looking for errors that could damage my credit score and unauthorized accounts that could be fraudulent – and there are more and more cases of fraud every day!

Fortunately, I never found an error or fraudulent account, but I still check it. After all, your credit report is where your credit score is generated from.

If I ever have to take out a car loan or a mortgage, it is important that my credit score is as good as possible. If my credit score drops due to an error, I can get high interest rates on my next loan, which can easily cost me hundreds or thousands of dollars over the life of the loan.

For these reasons, you should also regularly check your credit report. You can get a free copy of your credit report from the three major credit bureaus once every 12 months AnnualCreditReport.comzrtfaaxquxsf. If you encounter an error when viewing your credit report, you can dispute it as follows.

How to dispute an error in your credit report

Disputing an error in your credit report is not difficult, but you have to follow a set process. Following this process is key to make sure the error is resolved and your credit can begin to recover!

That said, the error should actually be an error to be removed through this process. If you dispute a line item in your report that you don’t like, it won’t be removed if it turns out to be true. So before submitting a dispute, please check your details to ensure that they are indeed incorrect.

The first step in disputing an error in your credit report is to let the credit bureaus know that there is an error. To do this, you need to send a letter (I know, so old fashioned) disputing the mistake and waiting for the agency’s decision.

Should you argue with all three credit bureaus?

If the error occurs in all three credit bureau reports, you must contest the error on each agency to ensure that it is identified and corrected at each agency. Each credit bureau operates and collects information independently.

This means that it is possible that the error only appears on one or two of the credit reports of the three credit bureaus. In this case, only contest the error with the credit bureaus showing the error.

Where should I send my dispute letters?

Disputation errors on your credit report can be done two ways, online or through old-fashioned mail. Each agency’s website has an option to submit your letter electronically, which is perhaps the easiest way to dispute errors in your report.

If you would like to send a physical dispute letter, you can do so by emailing it to the agency or agencies with the error.

Postal addresses are as follows:

  • Equifax: Equifax Information Services LLC, P.O. Box 740256, Atlanta, GA 30348.
  • Experian: Experian, P.O. Box 4500, Allen, TX 75013.
  • Transunion: TransUnion LLC, Consumer Dispute Center, P.O. Box 2000, Chester, PA 19016.

What should I include in my dispute letter?

If you dispute the credit reporting error online, you must complete the agency’s online dispute form with the information requested.

If you decide to dispute the error by post, you can send the dispute by registered post with acknowledgment of receipt. This way you can verify the date when the credit bureau received your dispute. When sending a dispute letter, you must include the following in your letter:

  • Your Contact Information.
  • A list of the errors you dispute.
  • Why you dispute the information.
  • A request to delete or correct the information.
  • A copy of your credit report, marked with the errors you dispute.
  • Any backup you have that proves the error is incorrect.
  • A copy of your government-issued ID and a copy of a utility bill, bank or insurance statement, etc.

To facilitate this, the Agency has provided consumer financial protection a sample letter you can edit with the facts of your situation to file your dispute.

What happens after my dispute letter has been received?

Once the credit agency has received your request, they have some timelines to follow. If they consider your request to be frivolous, they don’t have to investigate it. However, they must let you know that they think it’s frivolous within five days of receiving the request.

Usually, credit bureaus consider disputes frivolous because you have contested the same item multiple times or because you have not enclosed enough information with your request.

If your dispute is not considered unimportant, the credit bureau has 30 days check. To do this, they contact the company that reported the information in the first place to check if it is correct or not. Once the study is complete, they must notify you of the results of the study within five days of completion of the study.

Consider contacting the company that reported the error

It may also be helpful to contact the company that reported the error in your credit report. Sometimes it is a genuine mistake made when reporting your information.

The company that reported the error can correct it in your credit report if desired, so contacting them in addition to the credit bureaus shouldn’t hurt anything. It can even speed up the process!

Decide if the resolution is appropriate

Ideally, the solution to your reported credit error is to have your credit report corrected to show the correct information. If this happens, you should be satisfied with the result. Unfortunately, this does not always happen.

If the credit bureau finds that the disputed information is reported correctly, it will not make any changes to your report. At that point, you must either accept their determination or file another dispute with additional information to support your claims.

How long does it take for a dispute to be removed from your credit report?

If the credit bureau finds that there is an error, it will remove or correct the disputed error. The exact time required for this depends on the process.

If you send your dispute by post, it may take several days for you to arrive. Than, the credit bureau has 30 days to investigate. They will then notify you of the results within five days of the completion of the study. It generally takes about a month for the error to be resolved.

Check if errors have been removed

Once you get a notification that the investigation is complete and the error has been fixed, you should check if it really got fixed. The credit bureaus are required to give you a free copy of your credit report after correcting a disputed error.

You should use this free copy of your credit report to check if the error has been removed from your report. You must take this action at any agency with which you have contested an error. After all, if I knew they made a mistake the first time, I would be careful they didn’t make a new mistake to fix it.

Are Third Party Dispute Resolution Services Worth It?

Third party dispute resolution services have no magic answer to fix your credit report. They contact the credit bureaus just as you could. If your report contains a lot of errors and you prefer to let someone else handle the process, you can hire someone else to do the work.

That said, you still need to provide all the documentation, so you’re probably better off saving yourself time and money by doing it yourself.

I personally would not hire a dispute resolution service that charges money to dispute an error in my credit report. I would use instead Experian Boost. The service is free and gives you credit for things like paying your utility bill on time. Simply link your bank account and Experian will do the rest. Experian says that customers increase their FICO score by an average of 13 points.

Overview

If you want to make sure your credit reports and credit scores are correct, get started by going to AnnualCreditReport.com to get your free credit reports from the three major credit bureaus. Then check them with a fine comb to make sure there are no mistakes.

If you find errors, use the processes described above to remove the errors from your credit report.

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