It’s important to know how to repair credit reports for free, as errors on your credit report are a common reason for being declined loans or receiving high interest rates when you apply for credit.
If you have mistakes in your credit reports, you can fix your credit reports for free, which can help you improve your credit scores.
Under the Fair Credit Reporting Act, the credit reporting bureaus and the creditors or reporting companies are responsible for correcting inaccurate or incomplete information in your credit reports.
This means that you have the right to dispute errors in your credit report and have them investigated in a timely manner and removed if found to be inaccurate.
However, the process of removing credit report errors can still be long and frustrating, so it’s important to keep records and be systematic in your approach, because the credit bureaus definitely will be, and they’re not necessarily on your side.
Order Your Credit Reports
The first step is to order your credit reports from AnnualCreditReport.com, which is setup by the 3 major credit bureaus to provide consumers with yearly credit reports as required by law.
Order a copy of your credit reports from all 3 major credit bureaus, including Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion.
You’ll want to order all 3 credit reports as there are often inconsistencies between the credit bureaus, so you’ll need to compare your credit reports for mistakes.
Review our article on Ordering Your Credit Reports for more information on monitoring your credit reports.
Compare Your Credit Reports
Compare your 3 credit reports and identity every item you believe is incorrect on all of your credit reports.
The easiest way to do this is to simply circle the errors on each of your credit reports, as you’ll want to provide a copy of these marked credit reports to the credit bureaus when submitting your dispute letter.
Once you’ve identified all of your credit report mistakes, you’ll want to assess if there are inconsistencies between your 3 credit reports.
If the credit report errors are the same on each of your credit reports, then you should be able to have the inaccuracies corrected on all 3 credit reports by only contacting one credit bureau, at least that’s how the system is supposed to work.
On the other hand, if there are inconsistencies between your credit reports, you may be required to contact multiple credit bureaus to correct the various mistakes.
Compare the inconsistencies and select the credit report that has the most errors or the one that has additional errors that the other credit reports don’t have, as that should be the credit bureau you contact first in order to correct the most mistakes at one time.
This should allow you to correct all 3 credit reports by only contacting one credit bureau, but if there are unique mistakes on each of your credit reports, you will be required to contact multiple credit bureaus in the end.
Disputing Credit Report Inaccuracies Online
All 3 of the major credit bureaus offer online dispute resolution services to help you correct certain types of errors in your credit reports, although you will not be able to correct all credit report errors online.
If you are not able to dispute your credit report error online, you will still need to write a dispute letter to the credit bureaus.
Check the credit bureau online dispute resolution websites for more information on which types of credit report errors can be corrected online or contact the credit bureaus by telephone.
Equifax: (800) 685-1111
Experian: (888) 397-3742
TransUnion: (800) 888-4213
Write a Dispute Letter to the Credit Bureau
Write a letter to the credit reporting bureau outlining any disputes you may have and request an investigation to resolve the issues in your credit report.
Send copies of supporting information if you have it, coordinating the copies you send with the disputes you outline in your letter and the mistakes you circle in your credit report.
You can find an example of a credit bureau dispute letter template at FTC.gov.
The dispute letter should include:
-Your full name, current address, date of birth, and Social Security Number.
-Any previous names or addresses you may have been connected to during the disputed period.
-The name of each creditor in dispute and details of the accounts in question including account numbers and account opening dates.
-State the facts about the errors, explain why you dispute them, and give instructions on how to fix your credit report by either deleting or correcting the incorrect entries.
-Provide copies of any documents you have to dispute the inaccuracies in your credit reports.
-Provide a copy of your credit report with the inaccuracies circled and numbered in coordination with your other documents and the dispute letter.
-Include notes and references to the enclosed copies of your documents.
-Provide a copy of your driver’s license to verify your identity and address or a utility bill if you don’t have a license available to at least verify your current address.
Where and How to Send Your Dispute Letter
The credit bureau dispute address where you should send your dispute letter is included in your credit reports, and we have included the credit reporting bureau addresses here as well for your convenience.
Equifax Information Services, LLC
P.O. Box 740256
Atlanta, GA 30374
P.O. Box 2104
Allen, TX 75013-0949
P.O. Box 2000
Springfield, PA 19022-2000
Send all materials by certified mail with the return receipt requested so that you can prove the complaint was received.
Make sure you keep copies of your dispute letter as well as all other documents provided and never send your original documents.
It’s not necessary to write all 3 credit bureaus, as the creditors are required to notify all 3 credit bureaus of any incorrect data that has been updated, so all 3 credit bureaus should be updated if your error is corrected.
However, if there are unique errors between your different credit bureau reports, you will have to write more than 1 credit bureau, so you should go ahead and do this right away to get the investigation process started at the different credit bureaus for all of your credit report errors.
Credit Bureaus Must Investigate Credit Report Errors
The credit bureaus must initiate an investigation into legitimate claims to fix your credit report within 30 days or 45 days if you have used the services of AnnualCreditReport.com.
The credit bureaus will contact the creditors or reporting companies to verify the information and provide them with all of the relevant data you provide about the inaccuracies.
The creditors must investigate the relevant information, and if the creditor can’t verify that the entry is correct, the creditor must notify all 3 nationwide credit reporting bureaus to correct the information in your credit reports.
Credit Bureau Provides Official Response
When the investigation is complete, the credit bureau will send you the written results of your dispute as well as a copy of your credit report if changes were made.
If the investigation proves an error existed, you also have the right to request a corrected version be sent to everyone that received your credit report during the past 6 months, and that extends to the past 2 years for credit reports received for employment purposes.
If an item in your credit report is changed or deleted, the credit bureau cannot put the disputed information back in your file unless the creditor verifies that the information is accurate and complete.
If the credit bureau does receive verification from the creditor that the information on your credit report is correct, they must also send you written notice that includes the name, address, and phone number of the information provider, so you can further dispute any inaccuracies.
If the errors are confirmed as accurate, you can request an explanation be inserted next to the error in your credit report explaining the situation with a 100-character limit.
You can also request a copy of your explanatory statement be sent to anyone that received a copy of your credit report in the recent past, but you can expect to pay a fee for this service.
Disputing Inaccuracies with the Creditors
You can also contact the creditors or reporting companies to dispute any errors that they may have reported, as they are required to investigate any errors and have your credit reports updated accurately if necessary.
Send the creditors a dispute letter stating your disagreement along with any supporting evidence similar to the dispute letter you would send to the credit bureaus.
If the creditor reports the item in question to a credit bureau, they must include a notice of your dispute, and if the information is proven to be inaccurate, the creditor may not report it again.
You can also help expedite the credit repair process by sending dispute letters to the creditors that reported the incorrect information prior to sending letters to the credit bureaus.
Your billing statement will usually contain the dispute address for the creditors or you can contact them directly to request this information.
Request Creditors Remove Past Delinquencies
If negative items on your credit report have since been brought up to date and have either been paid off or kept up to date for at least 1 year, the creditors may agree to remove past negative entries.
Write the creditors and request that the negative entries be removed, as they may grant your request if you are currently a positive customer and making your payments on time.
Timelines for the Removal of Credit Report Errors
Bankruptcies remain on your credit reports for 10 years, while other negative entries generally remain on your credit report for 7 years from the date the event took place.
Unpaid judgments can be reported for seven years or until the statute of limitations runs out, whichever is longer.
There is no time limit on reporting criminal convictions, applications for jobs that pay more than $75,000 a year, or for applications for more than $150,000 worth of credit or life insurance.
Disputing Accurate Negative Information on Your Credit Reports
You also have the option of disputing negative items on your credit report even if you know they are accurate.
This may not be morally sound, but since the burden of proof falls onto the creditors, the negative item will be removed if they can’t verify the accuracy of their reporting. So your negative credit history could be removed if the creditors have mishandled your documentation.
However, you’ll want to keep in mind that laws have been put in place to help consumers maintain accurate credit reports, and any abuse of these laws can overwhelm the system and result in delays for people seeking to resolve legitimate errors in their credit reports.
Additional Credit Report Resources
Order your FICO Credit Scores and Credit Reports from myFICO.com.
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