If you’re ever reviewing one of your credit reports and you discover inaccurate information, you can dispute it. But what do you do if a credit report dispute doesn’t work? Has that already happened to you? The first thought might be to dispute the information again, but that’s not necessarily the best thing to do. Read on to learn why your credit report dispute didn’t work and what you can do next.
3 Potential Reasons Why Your Credit Report Dispute Didn’t Work
1. The Dispute Lacked Supporting Documents
When you file a dispute, the credit reporting agency (CRA) you file the dispute with will contact the data furnisher (the company you have a financial relationship with – like a mortgage lender or credit card company) about the information in question. The data furnisher then has to investigate on their end and report back to the CRA, after which point the CRA will either update the information or leave it as is if it was proven to be accurate.
But you can do things in your dispute to help your case. If you have paperwork to prove the inaccuracy, include it with your initial dispute (you can even mail it in). Not doing this could be a reason why your credit report dispute didn’t work.
After the fact, if you know without a doubt that there’s an error on your credit report and you have the proof, send that proof in.
2. The Dispute Was Started With the Wrong Credit Reporting Agency
When you’re reviewing your credit report, it’s important to remember that the one you’re looking at isn’t the only one you have. It’s even more important to remember that your credit reports won’t necessarily be identical.
There are three major CRAs that generate personal credit reports: Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion. Data furnishers don’t have to report your data to all three of these companies. Therefore, there can be information on one of your credit reports that isn’t on the other two.
So, what does that have to do with your credit report dispute? The three CRAs are independent of each other, which means they won’t be working together on your dispute. If one of the CRAs shows an error on your report, that’s the one you need to file a dispute with. (An error on an Equifax report can only be successfully disputed if the dispute is with Equifax and not Experian or TransUnion, and so on.) If two of them show the same error, you have to file two disputes — one with each CRA showing the error.
Based on all of this, if you receive an unsatisfactory reply to your credit report dispute, double check whose report you found the error on and which CRA you filed the dispute with. If you disputed with the wrong CRA, go ahead and file a new dispute with the right one.
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3. The Information Disputed Turns Out to Be Correct
As nice as it would be to dispute anything we don’t want to be on our credit reports, that’s simply not what the dispute process is for. The dispute process is to correct errors or inaccuracies on a credit report. Therefore, here’s what you can dispute on a credit report:
- Incorrect personal information
- Inaccuracies in the details of any of your accounts, such as the payment history or account status
- A listing of an account you never authorized or co-signed on
As for what you can’t dispute (or that you can dispute but probably won’t succeed in having removed from your reports), here’s what to know. Just because there’s something you don’t wish to be on your report anymore doesn’t mean you can get it removed. This is even true of negative items such as collections accounts even after they’ve been paid. Their improved status doesn’t mean they can get removed from your credit reports.
To help, here’s a list of how long negative items can generally stay on your credit report:
- Chapter 7 Bankruptcy: Ten years from the day you filed
- Chapter 13 Bankruptcy: Seven years from the day you filed
- Charged Off Accounts: Seven years from the day the account became delinquent
- Collections Accounts: If your lender sells your debt to a collection agency, the collection agency may report it as a new account. That could result in the debt showing up twice on your credit report. However, both the original account and any “new” account should roll off your credit report seven years after the account became delinquent.
- Late Payments: Seven years
If you wish to dispute any of the items above before the number of years they’re supposed to be on your report passes, then you’ll likely end up not getting them removed from your report. And filing a dispute again won’t help.
Beware the “Frivolous” Dispute
So, what’s the harm in trying to file a dispute again if you didn’t get the results you want? If you repeat the same dispute in the hopes of getting a different result, the CRA could end up classifying your dispute as “frivolous.”
According to the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA), a dispute could be deemed frivolous if you failed “to provide sufficient information to investigate the disputed information” (as in point one above). Another reason it could be deemed frivolous is if the new dispute “is substantially the same as a dispute previously submitted by or for the consumer.”
If the CRA determines that your dispute is frivolous, they must tell you within five business days of that determination — either by mail or other means that you authorize (such as through a third party if that’s how you initialized the dispute).
Here’s What to Do Next
If you filed a dispute on your credit report with the correct CRA and supplied all the necessary information and you still didn’t get the erroneous item removed, you can create a statement to put on that credit report. Per the FCRA:
“If the reinvestigation does not resolve the dispute, the consumer may file a brief statement setting forth the nature of the dispute. The consumer reporting agency may limit such statements to not more than one hundred words if it provides the consumer with assistance in writing a clear summary of the dispute.”
You could also reach out to the data furnisher (most often a creditor) whose information on your credit behavior is being shown incorrectly and ask them to change it. If the furnisher determines that the reported information is inaccurate, they will make the change on their end and notify the CRA they work with about the change. Bear in mind, however, that if you raise the same dispute with the furnisher and provide the same information that you provided to the CRA, the furnisher may treat the dispute as frivolous.
Finally, if the CRA showing the error isn’t taking the proper steps in correcting erroneous information on your credit report, you could file a complaint with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau using this link and selecting the “credit reporting” option.