The Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) (15 U.S.C. § 1681 and following) requires consumer reporting agencies (CRAs) to adopt reasonable procedures for gathering, maintaining, and distributing information and sets accuracy standards for creditors that provide information to CRAs. Under the FCRA, you have the right to dispute all incomplete and inaccurate information in your credit report.
Read on to find out how to dispute incorrect information in your report with one or more of the three nationwide CRAs: Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion.
Initiate a Dispute Online, By Mail, or By Phone
You may initiate a dispute about an incomplete or inaccurate item in your credit report online, by mail, or by phone.
Initiating a dispute online. The three nationwide CRAs allow you to dispute information in your credit report online. This is the easiest way to file a dispute.
Initiating a dispute by mail. If you prefer not to use the online process, you can mail in your dispute. After you’ve compiled a list of all incomplete and inaccurate information you want corrected or removed, prepare a letter identifying each correction needed and the reasons that support your dispute for that item.
Below are some examples of the types of corrections you might include in your letter:
- If the credit report identifies your spouse as “Jack Morton,” but you are divorced, you might say “I divorced Jack Morton on [date]. I’m now married to James Jones. Attached are copies of the relevant portions of my divorce decree and marriage license.”
- If the credit report shows an account that is not yours, you might state “Account Number 1234567 with the Department of Education is a premarital debt of my husband James Jones. See the included copy of my marriage license for the date of the marriage. This account pre-dates my marriage to James Jones.”
Send your letter to the address provided by the CRA for disputing information and keep a copy for your records. Also, enclose copies of any documents you have that support your claim. It might help to include a copy of your credit report with the disputed items highlighted. Keep your original documents.
Initiating a dispute by phone. To initiate a dispute by phone, call the CRA that has inaccurate information on your credit report. (See below for instructions on how to find the phone numbers for the CRAs.)
Contact Information for the CRAs
To find contact information for initiating a credit dispute with each of the three nationwide CRAs, go online. Here’s where to look:
- Equifax. Go to Equifax.com. Click on “Dispute something on my Equifax credit report.”
- Experian. Go to Experian.com. Click on “Disputes” and then “How to Dispute” to learn how you can submit your dispute online, by mail, or by phone.
- TransUnion. Go to TransUnion.com. Click on “Find out how to dispute an item on your credit report.” This webpage will provide you with links to information about how you can initiate a credit dispute. (Go to the “Credit Disputes FAQs” link to learn how to submit your dispute online, by mail, or by phone.)
What Happens After You Submit Your Dispute
Once the CRA receives your dispute, it must either reinvestigate the items you dispute or delete them from your credit report within three business days after receiving your dispute.
If the credit reporting agency deletes the information. If the CRA chooses to delete the incorrect information within the three-day time frame, it must notify you by telephone, provide a follow-up written confirmation, and provide a copy of a new credit report within five days after the deletion.
If the credit reporting agency conducts a reinvestigation. If the agency does not delete the information within three business days, it must:
- complete its investigation within 45 days if you disputed the information after receiving your free annual credit report (otherwise it only has 30 days, which can be extended up to 45 days if you send the agency additional relevant information during the 30-day period)
- within five business days of receiving your dispute, contact the creditor reporting the information you dispute
- review and consider all relevant information you submit and forward this information to the creditor that provided the information, and
- provide you with the results of its reinvestigation within five business days of completion, including a revised credit report if any changes were made.
Frivolous disputes. In most situations, the CRA has a duty to investigate an item once you dispute it. But if your dispute is frivolous or irrelevant, the CRA does not have to investigate further. This means that if you dispute everything or almost everything in the report—without regard to what you believe is accurate or inaccurate—or you repeatedly ask for reinvestigation of the same item, the credit reporting agency may not have to investigate your dispute at all.
If the CRA Doesn’t Respond to Your Dispute
If the CRA does not respond to your dispute within time limits imposed by law, you may:
- Dispute it again. If you submit the dispute again, be sure to provide some new information. If you dispute the same error without giving the CRA any new information, it might decide that your dispute is frivolous.
- Submit a complaint to the CFPB. You may also submit a complaint to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), the primary agency that oversees CRAs, along with a copy of the dispute information you sent to the CRA.
- Talk to an attorney. If you’ve exhausted all other options for correcting your credit report, and the CRA still won’t fix the error or errors, consider talking to a consumer law attorney who can help you enforce your rights. You have the right to sue a CRA that violates your rights under the FCRA, including continuing to report incorrect information.
- Leave the error on the report. In rare cases—and only if the error isn’t hurting your credit score, causing you to be denied for credit, or is scheduled to fall off your credit report soon—it might not be worth the effort to keep trying to correct the error. You should, though, continue to review your credit reports for future errors and dispute those errors if they're serious.