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Credit scores are based on the contents of your credit reports, so changes to those reports have the potential to alter your scores. Whether the outcome of a credit report dispute causes your score to increase, decrease or stay the same depends on the nature of the disputed information and how it's resolved.
How Do Report Disputes Affect Your Credit Scores?
Filing a dispute—the formal name for requesting a correction to your credit report—has no impact on credit scores in and of itself. But if a dispute changes certain types of data in your credit report, that outcome could influence your credit scores. For instance, because late payments can have a strong negative impact on credit scores, removing a misreported late payment from your credit report could result in a credit score increase.
A dispute only changes the contents of your credit report if the challenged information is inaccurate. Experian and the other national credit bureaus send the dispute to the source of the information to verify it before changing a credit report.
If, for instance, you request removal of an account charge-off you consider wrong, but it turns out the lender reported it accurately, the disputed entry will remain on your credit report. In this case, since the item remained unchanged, your credit score would not be impacted by the dispute.
Variations or typos of personal identification information (name, address, Social Security number and the like) have no impact on credit scores, so a dispute requesting an update or removal of personal information will not result in any change to your scores.
Note that credit reports list every variation of your name you've used to apply for or obtain credit, potentially including nicknames, unmarried names and previously married names. As long as you recognize them as your own, there's usually no need to file a dispute to update or correct them if you change your name. They will also list previous addresses and may include an address where a bill is received for an account you are on, even if you never lived there.
On the other hand, if your credit report contains variations of your name that you've never used, unfamiliar addresses or applications for credit that you didn't make—or if any of your personal info (accurate or otherwise) is connected to loans or credit card accounts you don't recognize—that may be a sign of identity theft or other criminal activity.
In that case, visit Experian's online fraud center and have an initial security alert added to your report. The alert lasts for one year or until you ask that it be removed. It warns creditors that you may be a victim of fraud and asks them to verify your identity before granting credit in your name. The alert will help protect you while you take the next steps.
Use the contact information on your credit report to reach out to the creditor(s) in question to see if unauthorized accounts have been opened in your name. Once you've determined what happened and, if necessary, reported illegal activity to the creditors and relevant law enforcement agencies, contact Experian to notify us which information is related to identity theft so we can help you remove fraudulent information from your credit report. If you find you are in fact a fraud victim and have filed a police report, you can add an extended fraud alert to your credit file.
If you dispute transaction-related information in your Experian credit report and the credit report is revised, you can get an updated FICO® Score☉ based on that data for free through Experian to see if it had any impact on your credit score.
How to File a Dispute
If you believe information in your Experian credit report is inaccurate, you can file a dispute with Experian in the following ways:
- Online: The Experian Dispute Center allows you to submit disputes anytime, day or night, from your smartphone or computer. This is the quickest and easiest way to dispute your credit report.
- Phone: To submit a dispute by phone, call the number displayed on your Experian credit report or 888-EXPERIAN to speak with an agent. To request mail delivery of a hard-copy credit report, call 866-200-6020.
- Postal mail: You can also file a dispute without a credit report by writing to Experian at P.O. Box 4500, Allen, TX 75013. Be sure to include all of your personal information so that Experian can access your report. (Printing out a dispute form and dispute by mail instructions can speed up the process; you can also scan the completed form and submit it electronically at Experian.com/upload.)
After you've submitted a dispute, Experian will contact the data furnisher (your lender or credit card issuer) and ask them to check their records and verify the information. Depending on their response, one of three things typically happens:
- Incorrect information is corrected.
- Information that cannot be verified is updated or deleted.
- Information verified as accurate remains on your credit report.
Experian will send you alerts via email whenever there is an update on your dispute. If you already have an account with Experian, you can also check dispute status in the Alerts section of your Experian account. Experian issues alerts at these steps in the dispute process:
- Open: This indicates the dispute process has begun.
- Update: The dispute investigation is finished and your credit report is being updated accordingly.
- Dispute results ready: Your credit report has been updated to reflect the dispute findings.
Be aware that filing a dispute with Experian does not initiate a dispute with the other national credit bureaus (TransUnion and Equifax) or notify them of the results. If the information you are disputing also appears on those reports, you will need to file disputes with them separately. Lenders are required to update information changed in response to a dispute with all consumer reporting agencies to which the information was reported. For that reason, updates should be made automatically at all the credit bureaus, but it is still a good idea to check.
What to Do if You Disagree With the Outcome of a Dispute
If you are unsatisfied with the results of a dispute investigation, you can take the following steps:
- Contact the data furnisher(s). If you have evidence that a lender, credit card issuer, collection agency or government agency has provided inaccurate information to one or more national credit bureaus, locate the contact information for that entity on your credit report or online and use it to ask them to correct their records—and to revise your credit files accordingly. The Fair and Accurate Credit Transactions (FACT) Act requires that the source initiate a dispute on your behalf if you ask them to.
- Add a statement of dispute to your credit report. A statement of dispute lets you explain why you believe the information in your credit report is incomplete or inaccurate. Your statement will appear on your Experian credit report whenever it's accessed or requested by a potential lender or creditor, and the lender may ask you for more details or documentation as part of their review or application process. To add a statement of dispute, go to the Experian Dispute Center webpage, choose the disputed item in question, and select Add a Statement from the menu of dispute reasons.
- Resubmit a dispute with additional information. If you have additional evidence to substantiate your claim, you can submit a new dispute. If you're filing the dispute online, follow the steps listed above for using the Dispute Center, and use the upload link to submit your supporting documentation.
How Long Does Negative Information Stay on Your Credit Report?
Negative information can remain on your credit report for seven years or more, potentially hurting your credit score to some extent the entire time it appears, so it's in your interest to dispute inaccurate negative credit information. It's a good idea to review your credit reports from all three national credit bureaus at least once each year, and to act quickly to correct any inaccuracies you discover. Doing so can prevent misreported data from harming your credit scores, and can also let you catch unauthorized credit activity associated with credit fraud and identity theft.