If you find an error on your credit report, you can dispute the accuracy of the item with the credit reporting agency. Or, you can go directly to the source and dispute the item with the creditor or collector that reported the information to the credit reporting agency. After you dispute such information, the company that provided the information to a consumer reporting agency, like an original creditor or debt collector, must investigate.
Companies that furnish information about you to consumer reporting agencies must respond in the same time frame that applies when you send a dispute letter to a credit reporting agency. Generally, the company has 30 days to investigate, which can be extended up to 45 days if you send additional information during this period, and must inform you of the results within five business days of completion.
In a few situations, the creditor, collector, or other company that furnished information to the credit reporting agency doesn't have to respond to your dispute.
You already contacted the credit reporting agency. If you already contacted the credit reporting agency directly to dispute incorrect or incomplete information in your credit file, and the company that furnished the information already responded appropriately to that dispute, it doesn't have to respond again, unless you provide additional information.
The dispute was prepared by a credit repair organization. The creditor also doesn't have to investigate if it has a reasonable belief that a credit repair organization submitted the dispute or prepared the dispute on your behalf, or you submitted the dispute on a form supplied by a credit repair organization. This is just one of the many reasons you shouldn't use a credit repair clinic.
Under the federal Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA), a creditor who furnishes information to credit reporting agencies must:
Learn more about your rights under the Fair Credit Reporting Act.
If you get a letter from the creditor that furnished the information agreeing that the information is incorrect and should be removed from your credit file, send a copy of the creditor's letter to the credit reporting agency that reported the information.
A big part of maintaining good credit is checking your credit reports frequently. You should check them once per year, and more in certain situations.
You should get a free copy of your credit report from each major credit reporting agency (Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion) every year at AnnualCreditReport.com. A good strategy is to spread out your requests throughout the year, instead of getting them from all three agencies at once. Every four months, request a report from a different agency; that way, you'll be able to check your report three times a year, for free. Look for old or inaccurate information. Also, check for anything that looks fishy—it could be a sign of identity theft.
If you're planning to make a major purchase (like a house or a car) or a major financial commitment (like refinancing your mortgage), you might want to review information from all three agencies well in advance—especially if you haven't been diligent reviewing them regularly.
Here's why this is important:
If you have already received your annual reports from each of the three nationwide credit reporting agencies within the last 12 months, you will probably need to pay a fee. The agencies' websites sometimes hide the charge for ordering one credit report and advertise a low cost or a free copy with a 30-day or longer trial membership for one of their services, such as credit monitoring. If you don't want the service, be sure to cancel it within the 30 days to avoid the high monthly fees.
Sometimes, you can get additional free credit reports, like if:
Take advantage of these situations to review your reports again.
Don't forget that nationwide credit reporting agencies other than the three big nationwide agencies (Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion) also must give you a free report every twelve months if you request it. Consider whether you should check those reports as well. If you're planning on moving to a new rental, have had problems with bounced checks in the past, or are planning on getting a private health insurance plan, for example, you might want to find out what is in specialty reports about you on those topics.
To get your specialty credit reports, you'll have to contact each agency individually.
If you've exhausted all other options for correcting your credit report, and the credit reporting agency still won't fix an error (or errors), consider talking to a consumer protection attorney who can help you enforce your rights. You have the right to sue a credit reporting agency that violates your rights under the FCRA, including continuing to report incorrect information.