Credit reporting errors are not uncommon — but what about credit report disputes? Many consumers might not even realize that there could be errors in their credit reports, much less that they can dispute those errors. And those who do know may hesitate to dispute due to fear of entering into a long and drawn-out process.
However, there’s no reason not to dispute a credit reporting error. Errors can drag down your credit scores, and could even be an indicator of identity theft in some cases. The good news is, a credit report dispute doesn’t have to be an arduous endeavor.
How to Dispute a Credit Report Error
Starting a credit report dispute is fairly easy. First, note which credit reporting company you got your credit report from. (There are three: Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion). That’s the one you need to file your dispute with — these three companies are separate entities, and one can’t fix the reported errors of another.
It is possible to dispute errors with your credit report online, over the phone, or sometimes by mail or fax. Regardless of the method you choose, the dispute process is straightforward, but the more proof you can provide, the smoother the process may be. For example, if your credit report shows a late payment but you paid all your bills on time, a screenshot or other verification of your financial statement showing the on-time payment in question can help.
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Once you’ve completed your credit report dispute, it’s on the credit reporting bureau to investigate the matter and get back to you. This is when the waiting begins.
How Long the Credit Report Dispute May Take
The waiting game doesn’t have to be long if you completed your dispute properly (in other words, if you filled out all the requested information and included sufficient documentation to prove your case). Once your dispute is filed, the credit reporting company has 30 days to complete the investigation. Here’s what that entails:
- The credit reporting company will reach out to the data furnisher who supplied the information you’re disputing.
- The data furnisher has 30 days from the date you filed your dispute to respond — if you’re a resident of Maine, they have 21 days.
- The credit reporting company will give you their investigation results when they get a response from the data furnisher.
- However, if the credit reporting company doesn’t receive a response within 30 days, they’ll update or delete the item in dispute. Again, if you’re a resident of Maine, this will happen if the data furnisher doesn’t respond within 21 days.
- As soon as the investigation is complete, you’ll get the results of the investigation from the credit reporting company.
If you don’t agree with the results and you have new documentation to prove your case (or documentation you didn’t originally include), you can file a new dispute. Keep in mind, however, that filing again without any new information could result in your dispute being labeled as a “frivolous dispute.” Once a dispute is labeled as “frivolous,” the credit reporting company will not reinvestigate the matter.
If all else fails, you can include a statement on your credit report in which you would write that you find certain information to be erroneous and why. This won’t remove or update the information on your report, but it does give you a chance to tell your side of the story. You can file this statement with the credit reporting company you disputed the error with.
Don’t Forget to Check All 3 Credit Reports
As you can see, the credit report dispute process doesn’t have to be a painful one, but it’s not enough to just check one of your credit reports. Remember that there are three credit reporting companies, and all three have their own versions of your credit report.
Since data furnishers don’t have to send your information to all three credit reporting companies, you could end up with three credit reports that look very different from each other. What’s more, anytime you have three different companies compiling paperwork on you, that’s three different chances for errors to be introduced.
Therefore, if you want to stay on top of credit reporting errors, make a habit of checking all three of your credit reports. (You can do this for free once per year at AnnualCreditReport.com.) Then make sure to dispute errors as you find them with the credit reporting company showing them.