Your credit score is already a beast to keep up with. Throw in a couple of credit report errors and you could have a financial mess on your hands. It’s important to review your credit reports thoroughly and often to ensure that all of your information — both personal and account-related — is up to date and accurate. If it’s not, it could be dragging down your credit scores unnecessarily, leaving you with costly issues when it comes time to apply for credit cards, loans, and other lines of credit. First, you have to know what you’re looking for when you review your credit reports. Then you’ll be able to more effectively know how to dispute errors on your credit report with each credit bureau.
What Information Is in Your Credit Report
There are three major credit bureaus, also called credit reporting companies, in the U.S.: Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion. Each credit bureau compiles your personal and credit information into a credit report.
Your credit report includes information broken down into several categories, including: personal information, credit account history, public records and collections, and inquiries.
This is information about you, the consumer. It includes your name, address, Social Security number, date of birth, other names used to refer to you (a maiden name, for example), and employment information.
Credit account history
In the credit account section of your report, you’ll find all open credit accounts that you’ve had in the past seven years, as well as any closed accounts within those same time periods. Each account should include such information as the creditor’s name, your current balance or loan amount, payment history, credit limits, interest rates, and the date that you opened or closed the account.
Public records and collections
Public records can include anything from bankruptcy filings to court judgments against you for missed child support payments. This information is public knowledge and can impact your scores in a negative way if it’s very recent or indicates that you have bad money management skills.
In this section, you can also find any outstanding debts that have been sent to collections.
When you apply for a loan, credit card, or other product or service, the company can request a copy of your credit report to get a sense of how you’ve handled credit in the past. This request can either be a soft inquiry or hard inquiry, depending on the company that is requesting. You can also inquire about a copy of your own credit report periodically to confirm that your information is correct and up-to-date.
If an individual inquires about your credit report, they must contact one of the three major credit bureaus; the request then shows up on your credit report as an inquiry. A hard inquiry is the only form of inquiry that will harm your credit score. While soft inquiries still appear on your report, they will not do any damage. Too many inquiries within a short time period may also hurt your score.
How Often Should You Check Your Credit Report
Under the Fair Credit Reporting Act, consumers in the U.S. always have legal access to one free credit report per year from each of the three major credit bureaus. However, consumers have access to one free credit report per week from each credit bureau through April 20, 2022, due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
You should request a copy of your credit report as often as possible to check that there are no errors or outdated information dragging down your score. The earlier that you can catch and report inaccuracies, the more likely that you will be able to get these mistakes amended and avoid severe impact to your credit score.
How to Check Your Credit Report
You can request your credit file at AnnualCreditReport.com. When you’re ordering your free copy, you should review your credit reports at each credit bureau all at once to compare the information. This will allow you to find any discrepancies between credit bureaus and ensure your credit scores are accurate.
Why Is it Important to Check Your Credit Report?
Checking your credit report gives you the opportunity to make sure that your information is correct and up-to-date. If there are credit report errors, they can lead to incorrect information being reported about you between credit bureaus and credit scoring agencies. Incorrect information could affect new loans or lines of credit, identity theft and fraud, and serious credit score damage.
If you request a copy of your credit report, you can also get a sense of what companies and individuals are inquiring about your credit history.
If you feel like you are struggling with credit, it’s important to get a baseline of where you currently stand. Your credit reports will give you a summary of your credit account history so that you can assess in what areas you are doing well, as well as what areas can be improved. After you’ve determined what areas you need to improve, you can begin working toward a healthier financial life.
Common Credit Report Errors
Personal information is a common section where consumers find a credit report error. This could take the form of an old or incorrect address, misspelled name, or wrong name entirely. While incorrect personal information will not likely impact your credit score, it’s important that you get the information updated as soon as possible so as to avoid issues in the future.
However, there is plenty of inaccurate information that can end up on your credit reports and cause your credit scores to drop a significant amount — even up to 100 points depending on when it occurred and which credit scoring model you are looking at.
Inaccurate information that you should keep an eye out for on your credit reports include:
- Unrecognized accounts, or accounts that do not appear to be yours
- Unrecognized accounts reported to collections
- Payments reported as late when you made the payment on time
- Payments reported as missing when you made the payment late or even on time
- Accounts wrongly labeled when they were supposed to be in forbearance
How to Dispute Credit Report Errors
If you find errors on your credit reports, it’s important that you dispute credit report information with both the creditor or company that reported the information and the appropriate credit bureau right away. Unfortunately, some errors may not be fixable, but there are a few steps you can take to maximize the chances that you will get it fixed.
First, contact the credit bureau directly with your concerns. You will need to let them know if there is inaccurate or incomplete information in your credit file, why you think it’s wrong, and proof of the information in question. For instance, if your credit report shows that you have several delinquent payments on a credit card, you will need proof that you made these payments on time.
If you don’t have proof, then it’s best to contact the creditor that reported this information to the credit bureau and ask them for assistance with your claim.
Credit Bureau Contact Information
You can dispute credit report errors with any of the three credit bureaus by phone, online, or mail. Access more information and resources on the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau website.
Phone: Call the number on your Equifax credit report, or use (866)349-5191
Mail: Print, fill out, and mail a Dispute Request Form
Equifax Information Services LLC
P.O. Box 740241
Atlanta, GA 30374
Read more about submitting a dispute request to Equifax here.
Phone: Call the number on your Experian credit report, or request a copy of your credit report by calling (866)200-6020
Mail: Fill out a Dispute Form and submit it electronically here or mail the printed form to:
P.O. Box 4500
Allen, TX 75013
Read more about submitting a dispute request to Experian here.
Phone: Call the TransUnion Consumer Relations Department at (800)916-8800
Mail: Provide a written letter with the required information found here, and mail it to
TransUnion Consumer Solutions
P.O. Box 2000
Chester, PA 19016-2000
Read more about submitting a dispute request to TransUnion here.