Fixing Errors on Your Credit Reports

Your credit reports contain a massive amount of personal financial information that is used to calculate your credit scores. While credit reporting agencies strive for accuracy, mistakes do occasionally slip through the cracks. Errors on your reports, even minor ones, can negatively impact your creditworthiness and ability to access loans and credit.

Fortunately, the Fair Credit Reporting Act provides rights and procedures to dispute and correct errors on your credit reports. By following the dispute process outlined by the credit bureaus, you have a strong chance of getting inaccurate or outdated information removed. An error-free report helps paint an accurate picture of your creditworthiness to lenders.


Understanding Credit Reports and Scores

Before diving into disputes, it’s important to understand what exactly credit reports and scores are. The three major credit reporting agencies – Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion – collect personal and payment information supplied to them by various creditors, lenders, and collection agencies. This information makes up your credit reports.

Credit reporting agencies organize reports into the following sections:


Personal Information

  • Name, current and previous addresses, birthdate, employer, etc.

Account Information

  • Details on active credit accounts like credit cards, loans, mortgages. This includes things like credit limits, balances, payment history.

Public Records

  • Bankruptcies, foreclosures, tax liens, or court judgments.


  • Record of requests for your credit report, known as “hard inquiries.” These occur when applying for new credit.

Credit scoring models like FICO use information in reports to calculate credit scores. Scores range between 300-850 and evaluate payment history, amounts owed, length of credit history, new credit, and credit mix to determine creditworthiness. Both positive (on-time payments) and negative (late payments, defaults) items on reports impact scores.

Now that we have a basic understanding of what credit reports contain and how scores are calculated from them, let’s dive into addressing inaccuracies.

Understanding Your Rights under the FCRA

The Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) establishes rights related to credit reports and governs the dispute and correction process. Here are some key points about your FCRA rights:

  • You have the right to obtain a free copy of your credit report annually from each of the three major credit bureaus. Spreading these requests throughout the year allows for ongoing monitoring.
  • You have the right to dispute any inaccurate or incomplete information in your reports. The credit bureaus and data furnishers are obligated to investigate disputes.
  • If an investigation results in the deletion or modification of disputed information, the credit bureaus must notify any entities that received your report in the past six months of the update.
  • You have the right to add a statement to your reports disputing any information or explaining your side of the story. This statement must be included in future reports released to third parties.
  • You have the right to know the source of any negative information in your reports, allowing you to target disputes to the appropriate data furnisher.

Knowing these rights gives you powerful tools to ensure your reports are accurate. Now let’s breakdown the dispute process step-by-step.


Step 1: Review Your Credit Reports

Request copies at to inspect for errors before formally disputing anything. Carefully check all sections for:

  • Incorrect personal information like name, address, SSN, etc.
  • Accounts you don’t recognize
  • Inaccurate account status, payment history, balances, limits
  • Outdated collections accounts or public records

Take notes on anything you believe requires a dispute. Obtain documentation to support your case like account statements, payment records, court documents. This evidence will strengthen your dispute.

Step 2: Submit Disputes to the Credit Bureaus

The bureaus have specific procedures for disputing items:


  • Online at, by mail, or call 800-685-1111


  • Online at, by mail, or call 888-397-3742


  • Online at, by mail, or call 800-916-8800

Dispute letters should clearly identify each item in question and the specifically nature of the dispute. For example, “This account does not belong to me” or “The balances are incorrect.” Attach any supporting documents.

The bureaus should acknowledge receiving your dispute within 15 days and investigate within 30 days. They will contact the data furnisher to verify.

Step 3: Wait for the Bureau’s Investigation

Be patient during this time. The bureaus are required to complete investigations and report results to you. Some common outcomes include:

  • Item deleted: The disputed item was removed due to being unverifiable by the data furnisher.
  • Item modified: Edited information like balances, payment status were updated based on the data furnisher’s records.
  • Item remains: The investigation found no errors in the original reported information. The bureaus will provide you notice of your right to add a statement of dispute to your reports.

Note that while disputing with the bureaus gets the ball rolling, the onus is on the original furnisher to verify their records. Disputed items may need further disputes sent directly to them.

Step 4: Follow Up as Needed

If any disputed items remain on your reports following the investigation, you have additional options:

Send disputes directly to data furnishers

Request reinvestigations through companies directly, not just the bureaus. Many have dispute addresses online.

File CFPB complaint

Issues unresolved by a furnisher can be addressed through the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.

Escalate to lawsuit (if needed)

As a last resort, claims of FCRA violations related to disputes may warrant legal action. However, allow thorough investigations first.

Send follow-up to credit bureaus

The bureaus must continue note any additional information from further disputes in your reports if sent within the 3-month reinvestigation period.

Being a proactive self-advocate is key to fixing errors through the multi-step dispute and correction process outlined under the FCRA law. With persistence, you can eliminate inaccuracies plaguing your reports.

Common Dispute Scenarios

Let’s explore some examples of typical scenarios where disputes are needed:

Mistaken Identity

Accounts not opened by you are reported in error due to a mix-up with a similar name/SSN. Attaching ID and a signed dispute form is helpful documentation.

Late Payments in Error

Specific payments or entire accounts show lates unfairly due to processing errors. Directly dispute lates and request re-aging or deletion of negative status.

Fraudulent Accounts

Unknown accounts opened with your info indicates potential identity theft. File an ID theft report for removal. Monitor reports closely after deletion.

Inaccurate Personal Info

Outdated name, phone, address, employment details can be easily updated. Include such clerical errors in disputes.

Collection Accounts Time-Barred

Past due collection accounts beyond the statute of limitations based on state laws (typically 2-6 years old) must be deleted.

Inquiries from Declined Apps

Remove unnecessary hard inquiries that fell off your reports anyway after two years. Soft inquiries have no impact.

Patience, documentation, and persistence are key to resolving the most common and frustrating error scenarios through the multi-step dispute and correction process.

Preserving an Error-Free Report

Once errors are cleaned up, ongoing diligence is important to maintain an immaculate credit profile:

  • Request reports annually to catch issues early before they take on a life of their own. Some offer more frequent monitoring.
  • Shred financial documents containing personal details rather than trashing them.
  • Place a fraud alert on reports if suspecting identity theft issues for extra protection.
  • Monitor accounts online and via mobile apps for suspicious activity.
  • Check that you’re getting all expected monthly statements – missing ones could indicate fraud.
  • Dispute any new inaccuracies immediately rather than waiting longer.

Vigilant self-monitoring and prompt action may save hours fixing larger problems down the road. Credit reports are forever, so protecting your good name requires ongoing attentiveness.


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