Guidance From The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau For Consumers Who Want To Dispute Errors On Their Credit Report
What is a credit report?
A credit report is a statement that has information about your credit activity and current credit situation, such as loan paying history and the status of your credit accounts.
Most people have more than one credit report. Credit reporting companies, also known as credit bureaus or consumer reporting agencies, collect and store financial data about you that is submitted to them by creditors, such as lenders, credit card companies, and other financial companies. Creditors are not required to report to every credit reporting company.
Lenders use these reports to help them decide if they will loan you money or what interest rates they will offer you.
Lenders also use your credit report to determine whether you continue to meet the terms of an existing credit account.
Other businesses might use your credit reports to determine whether to offer you insurance; rent a house or apartment to you; provide you with cable TV, internet, utility, or cell phone service. If you agree to let an employer look at your credit report, it may also be used to make employment decisions about you.
Credit reports often contain the following information:
Personal information (e.g., Your name and any name you may have used in the past in connection with a credit account, including nicknames; current and former addresses; birth date; Social Security Account Number; telephone numbers)
Credit accounts (e.g., Current and historical credit accounts, including the type of account – mortgage, installment, revolving, etc.; credit limit or amount; account balance; account payment history; date the account was opened and closed; name of the creditor)
A credit report may include information on overdue child support provided by a state or local child support agency or verified by any local, state, or federal government agency.
Inquiries – Companies that have accessed your credit report.
When reviewing your credit report, check that it contains only items about you. Make sure you look for information that is inaccurate or incomplete.
What are common credit report errors that I should look for on my credit report?
Identity errors (e.g., Errors made to your identity information, such as wrong name, phone number, address; accounts belonging to another person with the same or a similar name as yours; incorrect accounts resulting from identity theft)
Incorrect reporting of account status (e.g.,Closed accounts reported as open; you are reported as the owner of the account, when you are actually just an authorized user; accounts that are incorrectly reported as late or delinquent; incorrect date of last payment, date opened, or date of first delinquency; same debt listed more than once, possibly with different names)
Data management errors (e.g., Reinsertion of incorrect information after it was corrected; accounts that appear multiple times with different creditors listed, especially in the case of delinquent accounts or accounts in collections)
Balance Errors (e.g., Accounts with an incorrect current balance; accounts with an incorrect credit limit)
If you find errors, you should contact the credit reporting company who sent you the report, and the creditor or company that provided the information (known as the “furnisher” of the information).
How do I dispute an error on my credit report?
To dispute an error on your credit report, contact the credit reporting company AND the company that provided the information.
If you identify an error on your credit report, you should start by disputing that information with the credit reporting company (Experian, Equifax, and/or Transunion). You should explain in writing what you think is wrong, why, and include copies of documents that support your dispute. You can also use the CFPB’s instructions and template letter as a guide.
If you mail a dispute, your dispute letter should include:
- Contact information for you including complete name, address, and telephone number
- Report confirmation number, if available
- Clearly identify each mistake, such as an account number for any account you may be disputing
- Explain why you are disputing the information
- Request that the information be removed or corrected
- Enclose a copy of the portion of your credit report that contains the disputed items and circle or highlight the disputed items. You should include copies (not originals) of documents that support your position.
You may choose to send your letter of dispute to credit reporting companies by certified mail and ask for a return receipt, so that you will have a record that your letter was received.
Contact the nationwide credit reporting companies online, by mail, or by phone
Equifax: Online at www.equifax.com/personal/credit-report-services/credit-dispute/; mail the dispute form with your letter to Equifax Information Services LLC, P.O. Box 740256, Atlanta, GA 30348; or contact the telephone number provided on the credit report or (866) 349-5191.
Experian: Online at www.experian.com/disputes/main.html; mail to the address provided on your credit report or mail your letter to Experian, P.O. Box 4500, Allen, TX 75013; or contact the phone number provided on the credit report or (888) 397-3742.
TransUnion: Online at https://dispute.transunion.com; mail the dispute form with your letter to TransUnion LLC, Consumer Dispute Center, P.O. Box 2000, Chester, PA 19016; or contact telephone (800) 916-8800.
Be sure to keep copies of your dispute letter and enclosures.
Dispute the information with the company who provided the information (also known as the furnisher)
If you would like to submit a dispute regarding the information a company provided to the credit reporting company, use our instructions, along with a template letter as a guide (examples of information furnishers are your bank, your apartment landlord, or your credit card company).
What happens after you dispute information on your credit report?
Credit reporting companies must investigate your dispute, forward all documents to the furnisher, and report the results back to you unless they determine your claim is frivolous. If the consumer reporting company or furnisher determines that your dispute is frivolous, it can choose not to investigate the dispute so long as it sends you a notice within five days saying that it has made such a determination.
If the furnisher corrects your information after your dispute, it must notify all of the credit reporting companies it sent the inaccurate information to, so they can update their reports with the correct information.
If the furnisher determines that the information is accurate and does not update or remove the information, you can request the credit reporting company to include a statement explaining the dispute in your credit file. This statement will be included in future reports and provided to whoever requests your credit report.
What if my dispute is ignored or I disagree with the results of a credit report dispute?
Consumers sometimes file multiple disputes, and even bring lawsuits, to get inaccurate information corrected in their credit reports. When consumers make a dispute, they often fail to get an adequate answer, or any answer at all, from the credit reporting company. You have rights under federal law if this happens to you.
The Fair Credit Reporting Act (“FCRA”) is the federal law that, among other rights, gives you the right to dispute incomplete or inaccurate information. The credit reporting company must take certain steps when you notify them of an error. Once notified of an error, FCRA requires the credit reporting companies to do a reinvestigation after you dispute the accuracy or completeness of the information, unless your dispute is “frivolous.”
If a credit reporting company does not respond to your dispute or does not respond adequately, you have certain rights.
You have the right to add a statement to your credit file. If an investigation does not resolve your dispute with the credit reporting company, you can ask that a brief statement of the dispute be included in your file and included or summarized in future credit reports. Your right to include a statement in your file only applies to disputes you have submitted to a credit reporting company, not to disputes that you have submitted directly to companies that provided the wrong information to the credit reporting company.
You have the right to bring a lawsuit. If the credit reporting company violates the FCRA, they can be held liable for actual damages and attorney fees. In the case of a willful failure to comply with FCRA requirements, the company can be liable for actual or statutory damages and punitive damages. There are time limits on when you would have to bring a lawsuit, so make sure you are aware of any deadlines by discussing your circumstances with a licensed attorney.
You can also submit a complaint with the CFPB online or by calling (855) 411-CFPB (2372). A complaint can also be submitted to your state attorney general . Your state may have additional protections for consumers beyond the FCRA.
Many companies promise to “repair” or “fix” your credit for an upfront fee. Importantly, however, no one can remove negative information, such as late payments, from a credit report if it is accurate. You can only get your credit report fixed if it contains errors, and you can do that on your own at no cost.
How do I get a copy of my credit reports?
You are entitled to a free credit report every 12 months from each of the three major consumer reporting companies (Equifax, Experian and TransUnion).
You can request and review your free report through one of the following ways:
Phone: Call (877) 322-8228
Mail: Download and complete the Annual Credit Report Request form . Mail the completed form to Annual Credit Report Request Service, P.O. Box 105281, Atlanta, GA 30348-5281
You can request all three reports at once or you can order one report at a time. By requesting the reports separately (for example, one every four months) you can monitor your credit report throughout the year. Once you have received your annual free credit report, you can still request additional reports. By law, a credit reporting company can charge no more than $13.50 for a credit report.
You are also eligible for reports from specialty consumer reporting companies. We put together a list of several of these companies, so you can see which ones might be important to you. You have to request the reports individually from each of these companies. Many of the companies in this list will provide a report for free every 12 months. Other companies may charge you a fee for your report.
You can get additional free reports, if any of the following apply to you:
- You received a notice that you were denied credit, insurance, or employment or experienced another “adverse action” based on a credit report, you have a right to a free report from the credit reporting company identified in the notice. To get the free report you must request it within 60 days after you receive the notice. Other types of “adverse action” notices you might receive include notice of an unfavorable change in the terms or amount of your credit or insurance coverage, or unfavorable changes in the terms of your employment or of a license or other government benefit.
- You believe your file is inaccurate due to fraud.
- You have requested a credit report from a nationwide credit reporting company in connection with the placing of an initial fraud alert (you may request two free copies for an extended fraud alert).
- You are unemployed and intend to apply for employment within 60 days from the date of your request.
- You are a recipient of public welfare assistance.
- Your state law provides for a free credit report.
Be cautious of websites that claim to offer free credit reports. Some of these websites will only give you a free report if you buy other products or services. Other websites give you a free report and then bill you for services you have to cancel. To get the free credit report authorized by law, go to AnnualCreditReport.com or call (877) 322-8228.
Will requesting my credit report hurt my credit score?
No, requesting your credit report will not hurt your credit score.
Checking your own credit report is not an inquiry about new credit, so it has no effect on your score. In fact, reviewing your credit report regularly can help you to ensure that the information the credit reporting companies share with lenders is accurate and up-to-date.
How long does negative information remain on my credit report?
A credit reporting company generally can report most negative information for seven years.
Information about a lawsuit or a judgment against you can be reported for seven years or until the statute of limitations runs out, whichever is longer. Bankruptcies can stay on your report for up to ten years.
Even though the credit reporting companies usually won’t report this negative information after the seven year limit, they still may keep your information on file.
There are certain instances where they will report it. These time limits on reporting negative information do not apply if the credit report will be used in connection with:
- Your application for a job that pays more than $75,000 a year
- Your application for more than $150,000 worth of credit or life insurance
Source: Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, Consumerfinance.gov (Accessed 01.31.2022)
Have You Been A Victim Of Fair Credit Reporting Act Violations?
Individuals who believe they have been harmed by violations of the Fair Credit Reporting Act are encouraged to contact Kehoe Law Firm, P.C. for a free, no-obligation evaluation of potential legal claims by completing the form above on the right or via e-mail to [email protected]