Steps to Cleaning Up Your Credit Report

Here are the steps you'll need to take to clean up your credit report.

By , Attorney · Northwestern University School of Law
Updated by Amy Loftsgordon, Attorney · University of Denver Sturm College of Law

Everyone should review their credit reports regularly and, if necessary, take steps to clean them up—that is, get rid of inaccurate and old information. To clean up your credit reports, you'll need to get copies of your reports from the three major credit reporting agencies (or "bureaus") and review the reports for inaccuracies or old information.

Then, you need to ask the credit bureaus to correct the information.

What Does it Mean to Clean Up Your Credit Report?

Cleaning up your credit reports means getting rid of inaccurate information or outdated information or fixing anything that isn't correct. It doesn't mean getting rid of delinquent accounts that are, in fact, delinquent.

You can't eliminate anything with a legitimate right to be on your reports. If a company claims that it can "repair your credit" or "clean up your credit report" and thereby miraculously boost your credit score, run the other way. In fact, when it comes to getting rid of inaccurate and old information in your reports, you should be able to do it yourself.

Do Credit Reports Usually Have Errors?

Yes. Most credit reports have some type of error, whether it's the wrong notation on how an account was closed, outdated information that should no longer appear on your report, or accounts that simply aren't yours.

Step One: Get Copies of Your Credit Reports

Most people only need to be concerned with credit reports from the three main credit reporting bureaus: Equifax, TransUnion, and Experian. You can get free credit reports weekly online at You can also pay a small fee for a report, although this usually isn't necessary given the availability of free reports. Get your reports from all three bureaus, as they often contain different information.

In addition to the three nationwide credit reporting bureaus, there are specialty consumer reporting agencies. Some of these agencies track tenant information and are used by landlords; some contain more personal information and are used by employers and insurers; and some track other types of information. You're entitled to one free annual report from these agencies as well. However, figuring out which ones have a file on you can be tricky. However, if you think your potential landlord might check a specialty consumer agency, you can ask which one they use.

Step Two: Review Your Reports

Next, carefully review each of your reports; look for anything inaccurate or incomplete.

Step Three: Make a List

Make a detailed list of everything wrong, inaccurate, outdated, or missing. Then, gather supporting documents. For example, if you closed an account still reported as open, see if you can obtain a letter or other document showing you closed the account.

Step Four: File a Dispute Online or Send a Dispute Letter to the Credit Reporting Agency

The three nationwide credit reporting agencies allow you to dispute information in your credit reports online, which is the easiest way to file disputes.

But if you prefer, you may send a detailed letter to the agency, detailing what's wrong and why. Be sure to include supporting documentation. You'll have to send the letter directly to the agency. Use the particular address the agency sets forth for these dispute letters. You can find those addresses on the agencies' websites.

When to Talk to a Lawyer

If you've exhausted all other options for correcting a credit report, and the agency still won't fix the error or errors, consider talking to a consumer law attorney or debt settlement lawyer who can help you enforce your rights. You have the right to sue a credit reporting agency that violates your rights under the Fair Credit Reporting Act, including continuing to report incorrect information.

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