Credit Bureau Disputes

Your credit worthiness is one of the most important parts of your financial health. Your credit score could perhaps be even more important, and it is dependent on your credit report. Specifically, what your credit reports says determines how much you can borrow and at what rates.

Yet, every day someone finds out that his or her credit report is inaccurate in some way. Some inaccuracies that might come up include:

  • Old accounts that were not closed
  • Accounts that are not yours
  • Inaccurate balances that do not reflect debts that have been paid
  • Wrong account numbers
  • Outdated name or address

Attorney Christopher D. Smith with SmithLaw in Sarasota, Florida has some posts on the blog about credit bureaus already. Examples include Your Relationship with Credit Bureaus and Things to Consider When Trying to Improve Your Credit Rating. However, credit bureau disputes are so common, SmithLaw thought that some more in-depth information might be helpful.

First off, is a credit report inaccuracy that terrible? Yes—almost any discrepancy can have some sort of consequence on your credit. Even an old address can be a problem—because someone else could be getting credit card offers in your name, and maybe even filling them out.

So, how can I get my credit report? You can get a free credit report from https://www.AnnualCreditReport.com, the site that the FTC lists as the official site. There are other ways to get one, but be wary of those—make sure you read the fine print to be sure you are not being duped in some way. Each credit bureau must give you one free credit report each year.

Once I get my credit report, what are some things should I look for? We cannot list everything to look for your credit report, but here are a few ideas. Verify things like your address, social security number, name, and that all the open accounts are yours. Then look at balances, terms, notes about how you pay, etc. on those valid open accounts to be sure those things are accurate. Make sure all the accounts that should be closed are listed as closed. Also, check the closed accounts to make sure they do not say anything negative that is not true.

What do I do if I find something wrong? How do I dispute that?

Some things are easier to fix than others are, and each credit bureau has various ways of handling disputed credit reports. Your credit report should include information about how to dispute items, and those ordered online often have ways to dispute items right on the account you create. If you ordered a paper one, the website of the bureau that issued your report is a great place to start or they should have a toll free number to contact them. As an example, we looked at Equifax’s procedures. This link has an overview of their credit dispute process. They also outline some procedures for correcting your name/address and other credit report disputes via mail and web.

Credit bureau disputes should be free and completed within a certain period, often 30 days. The Federal Trade Commission has some great general information about credit bureau disputes on their website.

If an item needs to be corrected, that information is supposed to be relayed to all three credit bureaus. However, different credit bureaus can have different information from time to time. So, if you are concerned about your credit report make sure you order one from each bureau. This might cost more, but it will give you the peace of mind you will need. A great idea is to order a free credit report from each bureau each year—but at different times of the year. That might help you catch fraudulent items sooner.

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