How to Dispute Credit Report Items With the Creditor or Collector

If you find an error on your credit report, you can dispute the accuracy of the item with the creditor or collector. Here's how.

By , Attorney · UCLA School of Law

If you find an error on your credit report, you can dispute the accuracy of the item with the credit reporting agency that produced the report. Or, you can go directly to the source and dispute the item with the creditor or collector who 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.

The Creditor's Duty to 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.

When the Creditor or Collector Doesn't Have to Respond

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.

A credit repair organization prepared the dispute. 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.

The Creditor's Obligations When You Dispute Information

Under the federal Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA), a creditor who furnishes information to credit reporting agencies must:

  • reinvestigate when you dispute reported information (as discussed above)
  • not report incorrect information once it learns or has a reasonable basis to believe that the information is, in fact, incorrect (but it doesn't have to correct information if the only contrary information it has is your claim)
  • promptly provide credit reporting agencies with correct, complete information when it learns that the information it has been reporting is incorrect or incomplete
  • notify credit reporting agencies when a consumer disputes information (if the consumer sent the dispute to the address the furnisher specifies for disputes)
  • note when accounts are "closed by the consumer''
  • provide credit reporting agencies with the month and year of the delinquency of all accounts placed for collection, charged off, or similarly treated and
  • finish its investigation of a consumer dispute within the 30- or 45-day periods in which the credit reporting agency must complete its investigation.

If the Creditor Agrees That the Information Is Incorrect: Next Steps

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.

Monitoring Your Credit Reports

A big part of maintaining good credit is checking your credit reports frequently.

Check Your Reports Often

Under the FCRA, you can get one free copy of your credit report every 12 months from Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion. However, the agencies now voluntarily provide free weekly reports online, a service they started during the COVID-19 pandemic. You can view your reports at

Look for old or inaccurate information on the reports. Also, check for anything that looks fishy. It could be a sign of identity theft.

Check Your Reports Before a Major Credit Purchase or Refinance

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 diligently reviewed them regularly.

Here's why this is important:

  • It gives you time to get the credit reporting agency to add missing information and dispute incomplete or inaccurate information. That way, your credit file looks as good as possible.
  • If your lender purchases a combined report from a reseller, the information provided by the three major agencies is as consistent and favorable as possible. (A "reseller" is a credit agency that assembles and merges information from other agencies into a single report for use by a third party.)
  • You'll be aware of negative information you might want to discuss directly with the potential creditor to minimize its impact.

Whenever You're Entitled to Free Reports

Sometimes, you can get additional free credit reports, like if:

  • you're turned down for credit
  • your credit limit is reduced
  • you're offered less favorable credit terms than you requested or
  • you're unemployed and seeking employment.

Take advantage of these situations to review your reports again.

Check Nationwide Specialty Credit Reports

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, 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.

When to Talk to a Lawyer

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.

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