How Can I Correct Errors in My Credit Report?

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In today's society, complete strangers often make judgments about us on the basis of information contained in our credit reports. If you consider how often you obtain mail sent to someone else or how frequently your mail may contain a misstatement of your address, it should not be surprising that our credit reports are likely to contain errors about our credit history.

Due to the fact that strangers, including potential employers and insurance companies, make judgements about our reliability based upon this informaiton, it is very important to make sure it is accurate. For this reason, the federal Fair Credit Reporting Act gives you important rights to dispute and seek correction of an inaccurate credit report.

What should I do when I find an error in my credit report?
If you find an error in your credit report, you should send the credit reporting agencies a Request for Re-Investigation.

On your Request, include your full name and address, prior addresses (within 2 years), birth date, phone, last four digits of your social security number, current employer, and a complete description of the matter you dispute. Explain why you dispute the item,and request the credit reporting agencies either correct or delete it.

Where should I send my Request for Re-Investigation?
It is a good idea to send the Request to all three major credit reporting agencies, and a copy to the creditor or party who provided the inaccurate information. The three major credit reporting agencies are:

  • TransUnion
    Consumer Disclosure Center
    P.O. Box 1000
    Chester, PA 19022
    1-800-916-8800 or 1-800-888-4213

  • Equifax
    P.o. Box 105873
    Atlanta GA 30348

  • Experian
    P.O. Box 2104
    Allen TX
    1-888-685-3742 or 1-888-397-3742

If you mail the Request, enclose [1] a copy of your credit report with the disputed item circled,and [2] copies of any documents which support your side of the dispute.

What does the credit reporting agency do with my request?
Unless the credit reporting agency determines the request to be “frivolous,” it must investigate the matter and contact the creditor or party with whom you have the dispute. If it finds an error, the credit reporting agency must correct it. If the creditor does not respond, the credit reporting agency must delete the information altogether. The credit reporting agency must complete the investigation within 30 days (with one 30 day extension allowed), and notify you of the results within 5 business days.

You may request the credit reporting agency send a corrected credit report to anyone who has received your credit report within the past 6 months (or the last two years for employers).

What happens if the credit reporting agency does not agree to remove the item from my credit report?
If the credit reporting agency does not agree there has been an error, you may send a brief statement to the credit reporting agency describing the dispute. The statement should be 100 words or less. You should use this opportunity to clarify any inaccuracies, not to explain reasons for being behind in your payments or having something repossessed. Your statement must be noted in all future credit reports which contain the disputed information. You should also send the statement to anyone who requests your credit report.

Can a creditor re-send information that has previously been deleted?
If the Credit Reporting Agency deletes information, the creditor can later put it back in your report only if the creditor first certifies its accuracy to the credit reporting agency. The credit reporting agency must promptly notify you if it has re-inserted the information.

How long does information remain on my credit report?
After seven years, credit reporting agencies must delete information. There are some exceptions:

  • Bankruptcy and unpaid court judgments can remain for ten years.
  • Creditor inquiries must be deleted after one year.
  • Student loans have special rules; some may remain for a longer time.
  • Criminal convictions do not have to be deleted.
  • Some transactions for more than $150,000 do not have to be deleted.

If old information appears on your reports, take the steps described above to have the information deleted.

Should I check my credit report, even if I don’t have a dispute?
Yes – because errors are common, you should check your report annually.

Additionally, after a credit reporting agency has corrected your report, you should get another credit report in 3-6 months to be sure the inaccurate information has not re-appeared.

Can I sue the Credit Reporting Agency or creditor for reporting false information?
In certain cases, yes – but you should first take the steps described above before considering a lawsuit and have documentation that you have taken these steps. Contact an attorney for advice about your legal rights.

Reviewed August 2009