How to Check Your Credit Report and File Disputes

Quick Answer

You can check all three of your credit reports for accuracy by reviewing each of your reports closely and comparing them to previous copies of your credit reports. If you find information you believe to be inaccurate, you have the right to easily file a dispute online.

A woman wearing wireless headphones and using a laptop outside to dispute credit report errors

You can check your credit reports for accuracy by closely reviewing each section of your reports and comparing them to your financial records and previous copies of your credit reports. When doing so, look for information you believe to be outdated or inaccurate. These occurrences aren't common, but they can happen. You have the right to dispute the items on your credit report, which could result in potential inaccuracies being updated, deleted or verified.

How to Check Your Credit Report

You can check your credit reports from each of the three major credit bureaus—Experian, TransUnion and Equifax—for free.

An easy way to check your Experian credit report is with a free account. You'll also receive a FICO® Score based on your credit report and explanations for what's impacting your credit score the most. You'll receive notifications whenever there's an important change to your credit report, and you can review an updated Experian credit report every 30 days when you log in to your account.

You can also get a free copy of your credit reports at There are additional circumstances when you can receive a free copy of your report, such as when you're denied credit or believe you're the victim of fraud.

What to Look for When You Review Your Credit Report

There are different sections in your credit reports, and you can look for changes or inaccuracies within each one.

  • Personal information: Look for incorrect information related to your name, aliases, addresses, phone numbers, employers and other personal information. For security reasons, Experian doesn't list your real Social Security number on your credit report, but you may see variations—which could be the result of typos.
  • Inquiries: A hard inquiry could appear whenever you apply for a new credit account. You might see inquiries from organizations that you don't recognize, as the companies' names are sometimes shortened, or they might use a parent company's name. But if you're certain you didn't apply for a new credit account or credit limit increase, the hard inquiry might be a sign of identity theft.
  • Accounts: Your open credit accounts include revolving and installment accounts, such as credit cards, loans and lines of credit. Make sure there aren't any accounts that you didn't open. And review your accounts to make sure the balance, credit limit or loan amount, payment history and other aspects of each account are accurate. However, because of when creditors send updates to the credit bureaus, it's common for there to be differences between your current balances and information on your credit reports.
  • Closed accounts: Closed credit accounts can stay on your credit report for up to 10 years if they were in good standing when they were closed. If an account was delinquent when closed, it will be removed seven years after the first late payment (the original delinquency date) in the series of late payments that led to the closure. Reviewing your closed accounts is important because they can still affect your credit scores.
  • Collections: Accounts that are sold to a collection agency appear as a separate account on your credit report. Unpaid collection accounts are removed from your credit report seven years after the account first went delinquent.
  • Public records: The public records section could include bankruptcy filing records. These can stay on your credit report for up to 10 years for a Chapter 7 bankruptcy or seven years for a Chapter 13 bankruptcy.

Look over the information within each section to see if there's anything that seems off. Keep an eye out for incorrect information that might be hurting your credit score or indicate fraud—such as payments you made that a creditor mistakenly reported as late or an account you didn't open.

You can also compare different credit reports from the same credit bureau to look for changes (such as an older and a current report). Or, if you have an Experian account, you can go to the "see what's changed" section. It shows recent changes and whether they might hurt or help your credit score.

Don't be surprised if there are differences in your credit reports from different credit bureaus. Creditors might only pull one of your credit reports when you apply for a new account, which can lead to a hard inquiry on one report, but not the other two. And some creditors only report open accounts to one or two of the bureaus but not all three.

How to Dispute Credit Report Information

You can generally send a dispute by mail, phone or online to the credit bureaus or the organizations that report to credit bureaus, which are called data furnishers. These can include credit card issuers, lenders and other financial institutions.

It might make sense to dispute information directly with the data furnisher, as the company can then send an update to any other bureau it reports to. Otherwise, you may need to file disputes with the credit bureaus separately.

Although you can review your credit reports for accuracy and have the right to dispute the items on your credit report, some information generally isn't disputable. For example, a credit inquiry is a record of your credit report being checked, which you might not be able to dispute unless someone fraudulently applied for credit in your name. You also might not be able to dispute your legal name or current address.

To dispute information in your Experian credit report, you can easily submit a dispute online:

  1. Go to the Dispute Center to start a new dispute
  2. Choose a reason for the disputes you're submitting
  3. Review your request before hitting submit
  4. Upload relevant documents that confirm the inaccuracy

When necessary, Experian contacts the data furnisher to verify what you're disputing. The entire process is often completed within 30 days, and Experian will send you updates during that time. You can also go to the Dispute Center or sign into your Experian account to check on the status of your open disputes.

Depending on the results of the investigation, the dispute can lead to the information being corrected, updated, deleted or confirmed as accurate.

Monitor Your Credit Reports for Accuracy

Although you can periodically closely review your three credit reports for accuracy, setting up credit monitoring can also be an easy way to spot any issues. For example, Experian's free credit report monitoring can automatically send you alerts if there are significant changes in your credit report, and you can easily submit and track disputes from your account.