Disputing credit report errors is an important step to take in building good credit, but that doesn’t mean it’s always an easy or straightforward step to take. Although credit report errors can be fairly common, disputing them is still a little-known option. It’s time to fix that. To help, here are a few terms you should know when disputing your credit report.
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Terms You Should Know When Disputing Your Credit Report
The first term you should know is AnnualCreditReport.com — the website you can go to in order to receive your credit reports for free once per year. If you’re at the dispute stage with your credit report, you might already know this site. But if not, know that this is the place you can go to receive each of your three credit reports for free once a year.
2. Credit Report
Again, if you’re at the dispute stage, you already know what a credit report is. So why is this term being included here?
The answer is simple: many confuse credit reports with credit scores while others assume that these two items go together. They don’t. Although the information in credit reports populate the data needed to generate credit scores, they are two entirely different products. What’s more, you can’t dispute a credit score the way you can dispute a credit report. However, successfully disputing your credit report should have an impact on your credit scores.
3. Credit Reporting Agency (CRA)
This is an important term to know when disputing your credit reports — especially since it can lead to an unsuccessful dispute if not fully understood. The credit reporting agencies generate our credit reports and there are three of them.
The three CRAs are Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion. They are separate companies that create their own credit reports on you, which means that your three credit reports won’t necessarily be identical. Financial institutions like credit card companies get to choose whichever CRAs they want to work with and are by no means obligated to report your payments data to all three.
That means that when it comes to disputing credit report errors, it’s important that you know which CRA’s credit report has an error — and then only dispute with that CRA. If you dispute an error on your Equifax credit report with Experian, for example, the dispute will be unsuccessful. One CRA won’t fix incorrect information on another CRA’s credit report.
Before you start your dispute, double check which CRA is showing incorrect data.
4. Data Furnisher
Here’s a term you probably haven’t heard much in your daily life: data furnisher. A data furnisher is any lender or company that you have a financial relationship with that reports the data from that relationship to the CRAs.
Your credit card company is one example of this. Each month, your credit card company will report information such as your balance and payment history to whichever CRA (or CRAs) they choose to work with. This is how CRAs regularly update your credit reports.
If you file a dispute with a CRA, their first step will be to investigate the matter with the relevant data furnisher. If you have any proof that the data furnisher is supplying incorrect information to the CRAs — or that the CRAs are displaying information that doesn’t line up with what your data furnisher shows — then that can help you win your dispute. Helpful documents, for example, could be your monthly financial statement or even real-time data seen on your online accounts.
5. Dispute Letter
Before it was so easy to do things online, a credit report dispute would start with a dispute letter sent by consumers to the CRA reporting incorrect information. This letter would explain what information is incorrect, how you want it to be resolved, and would include any documents to prove your case.
Nowadays, it’s easier than ever to dispute a credit report online. You can do it on the websites of the CRAs (or with Upturn’s free credit report dispute tool, which enables you to dispute your TransUnion credit report). The only reason to go with snail mail and write a dispute letter instead might be because you love a paper trail. But if speed is what you want, it might make more sense to go ahead and file that dispute online.
6. Frivolous Claims
There are times when a CRA can deem a credit report dispute to be “frivolous.” If that happens, the dispute is dismissed, and any changes you requested won’t happen.
So, what’s a frivolous dispute?
One way a dispute can be deemed frivolous is if the dispute lacks enough information to proceed with an investigation. Another is if the dispute is identical to a previously filed dispute. In other words, you can avoid a frivolous dispute by carefully filling out all the requested information when you file and avoiding filing the same exact dispute twice in the hopes of getting a better result.
7. Information Deleted
Here’s an easy one — and good news if it’s the result you were looking for. When you file a dispute over information that shouldn’t be on your credit report, you would ask for that information to be deleted. If the result of your dispute says “information deleted,” then your dispute worked, and the information will no longer be on that report.
Depending on which bureau you dispute with, you might instead see “deleted” or “processed” if the item in dispute was deleted.
8. Information Updated
Let’s say there’s information on your credit report that should be there, but isn’t fully accurate, such as a mistake in your personal information (like your address, for example). You would then request that the information be corrected (listing, of course, what the right information is). If it works, the result of your dispute will be “information updated,” indicating that the change you requested was made.
Depending on which bureau you dispute with, you might instead see “updated” or “processed” when the change is made after your dispute.
9. Statement of Dispute
If you file a credit report dispute and you disagree with the result, you have the option to file a statement of dispute. This statement is your chance to tell your side of the story, and it will show up on the credit report being disputed.
A statement of dispute is often limited to no more than 100 words and can be added by contacting the CRA whose credit report you’re disputing.
10. Verified and Updated
As mentioned earlier, a CRA will respond to your credit report dispute by investigating the matter with the relevant data furnisher. If they do this and the information ends up being verified as accurate, then you’ll receive a dispute result of “verified and updated.”
The updated part of this term doesn’t mean that you got the update you were asking for, but rather that your current credit report reflects this decision.
There are other variations of this term you might see, such as “verified as accurate” and “verified as accurate and updated.” The first one means that your credit report will remain the same after the investigation determined the original information to be accurate. Other terminology you might see in this case could be “remains,” meaning the item will remain on your credit report as is.
The second, “verified as accurate and updated,” means the same thing, but in addition to that, other information on your report was updated.
Don’t Hesitate to Dispute If Your Credit Is Inaccurate
The idea of disputing your credit report might sound daunting, but the truth is the process can be relatively quick and painless. Whether you dispute directly with the CRA in question or you use tools like Upturn to help, the dispute itself can be quickly done if you fill it out carefully and accurately and be sure to include any supporting documents that prove your case.
Once you finish filing your dispute, the CRA typically has 30 days to investigate. What that means is you could see a more accurate credit report and potential changes to your credit scores in a short period of time. By ensuring that your credit report is accurate, you’re taking a significant step towards building good credit and the credit opportunities that come with it.