How to Fix a Credit Report Error

What do you do when you see something on your credit report that shouldn’t be there? Dispute it! Cleaning up your own credit report is usually pretty easy – just take it step-by-step.

Step one: Obtain your credit reports
If there’s an error on one report, it may – or may not – show up on the other two. To know, check the files from all three credit reporting bureaus. You can receive a free report from each company once per year from the Annual Credit Report Request service, or access them directly from the bureaus for a fee.

Step two: Know what can be removed
Not every negative item on a credit report may be removed. So what can be taken off? Information that is:

  • Wrong. If the report lists information that is incorrect, you can have it permanently purged from your record.
  • Duplicate. While an account can sometimes show up multiple times, you may request to have it reported just once. This can prevent the reader from thinking you have more debt than you really do. 
  • Negative but old. Lawsuits, judgments, liens, foreclosures, a Chapter 13 bankruptcy (from the date of filing), late payments, and charged-off accounts can only be reported for seven years. Chapter 7 bankruptcy will remain for ten years from the date of filing.
Step three: Dispute inaccuracies
If you do spot errors or information that should have aged off your report, it is time to take action:
  • File the dispute with the bureau. You may make your dispute on the company’s website, over the phone, or by mail. In all cases you’ll have to provide your personal identification and a detailed account of what is wrong, and what the correct information is. If you have any documents that support your case (such as copies of cashed checks that prove you paid an account), include them.
  • Wait 30 days. The bureau has 30 days to investigate, during which time a dispute notation will show up on your report. After that, if the creditor can’t verify the information, the bureau will remove it.
In most cases, updating your report is that simple. However, if the situation doesn’t get resolved, you can write a letter of explanation to add to your report. In one hundred words or fewer, explain your side of the problem. Write the note clearly, include supportive facts, and send it to the bureaus to be attached to your report. Your statement could make a positive difference to whoever is reading the report.

Other Related Articles: How to Access Your Free Credit Report, Your Credit Score, Fair Credit Reporting Act

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