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If you file a dispute to correct what you believe is an inaccuracy on your credit report, the credit bureau you notify must complete an investigation within 30 days (or 45 days in certain circumstances), according to the U.S. Fair Credit Reporting Act. But most disputes are resolved more quickly than that.
The exact amount of time needed to resolve a dispute depends on the nature of the information in question, and how quickly the information furnisher—the lender or other company that supplied the data to the credit bureau—responds to requests to verify the disputed information.
- If the item you are disputing is not a credit item but rather a name or address misspelling, a typo in your Social Security number, or other identifying information you can document yourself, your credit report(s) may be updated within a week.
- If the information concerns your payment history and requires verification by a third-party information furnisher, the credit bureau must notify the furnisher within five days of receiving your dispute, and the furnisher must respond quickly enough to allow the credit bureau to meet the 30-day investigation requirement.
- If you submit additional back-up documentation to the credit bureau after your dispute has been submitted, the FCRA extends the investigation-completion deadline by 15 days, making the maximum turnaround 45 days, or about six weeks.
How Does the Dispute Process Work?
If you discover inaccurate information on your Experian credit report, you can file a dispute quickly and easily online or by mail. (The other national credit bureaus, TransUnion and Equifax, have comparable dispute procedures of their own.)
When you dispute credit report information by mail, you'll be asked to provide proof of identity, such as a copy of your photo ID and proof of address. Depending on the nature of the dispute, you may also wish to provide evidence of the inaccuracy, such as a copy of a statement or canceled check as evidence of an on-time payment. The Experian Dispute Center allows you to upload scanned documents electronically; you also can submit copies through the mail.
It's wise to dispute information that misstates your credit history, including but not limited to payments inaccurately reported as missed or late, or loans or other accounts reported as still open when you've paid them off or closed them.
It's also important to notify the credit bureaus (and the proper authorities) if you see listings for loans or credit card accounts you didn't request or open, which could be indications of credit fraud or identity theft. When reviewing your credit report, keep in mind that one or more of your creditors may go by a different name or acronym on your report than what you see on your account statement. Double-check to make sure the creditor listed is not one of your existing accounts.
Because credit scores are calculated using data from your credit reports, eliminating inaccuracies from your report can affect your credit scores. Eliminating inaccurate late or missing payments could mean a significant boost for your scores. It's always to your benefit in the long run to have your credit report accurately reflect your credit usage and activity.
Do I Need to Contact the Other Credit Bureaus?
If you discover an inaccuracy that appears on all your credit reports, you may want to contact each of the three credit reporting companies individually to dispute the information. If the lender determines that the information was in fact reported incorrectly, they are required to update or correct the information with each of the credit bureaus. So while you should only need to file a dispute with one credit bureau, it's best to contact each of them to ensure the information is updated correctly by the lender; you can submit a dispute if it is not. If a bureau's investigation confirms inaccurate reporting by an information furnisher, the furnisher must notify the other credit bureaus, which must update their files accordingly.
What to Do if You Disagree With the Outcome of Your Dispute
If you dispute an entry on your credit report and the lender or data furnisher verifies the information is correct as reported, Experian will notify you that the lender has verified that the item should remain unchanged.
Experian will update or remove an item in dispute if the lender or data furnisher does not respond within the time frame specified by the FCRA. However, if the data furnisher verifies the account information at a later date, it may be re-added to your credit history at that time.
If you disagree with the outcome of a dispute investigation, you have options, including:
- Communicate with the lender (or other data furnisher) directly to seek correction of any discrepancy in their records.
- Re-file a dispute with the credit bureau, along with additional information documenting the inaccuracy. (If you simply resubmit the same information you supplied with your original dispute, a different outcome is unlikely.)
- Add a statement of dispute to your credit report. This is a note that appears in your credit report when a creditor checks your credit, indicating that you disagree with an entry in the report. To add a statement of dispute to your Experian credit report, go to the Dispute Center, choose an item you've disputed, and select Add a Statement.
Contacting the credit bureaus is typically the quickest and easiest way to resolve an issue on your credit report. As a last resort, you can also consider filing a complaint with the U.S. Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) or your state's attorney general's office.
Check Your Report Before Applying for New Credit
Credit report disputes are typically concluded within a few weeks, but it may take a little longer for all of your credit reports to update, and for all of your credit scores to reflect the revised information. For that reason, it's always wise to check your credit reports and scores and submit any disputes three to six months before you apply for any major loans. This allows you to ensure the information being reported is accurate and gives you time to dispute any information you feel is incorrect or contact your lender directly to resolve any issues.
Your free credit score from Experian will come with a list of the top factors that are currently impacting your score. Knowing these factors in advance will give you time to make changes to your credit accounts, which could put you in a better position to qualify for new credit with the best rates and terms.