How to dispute information in your credit report
Among the most common questions people ask about their credit reports is, “How do I dispute information I believe is being reported inaccurately?” Disputing information is actually very straightforward and simple as long as you follow this step-by-step process.
Step 1: Get your credit report directly from Experian
The first step is critical, and it’s the step that causes most people to stumble. You must get your personal credit report directly from Experian before starting the dispute process. A credit report from a lender or other business is not a personal credit report.
There are four reasons Experian requires you to get a personal credit report before entering a dispute.
Your personal report:
A. Provides information you need but that lenders don’t get. Your personal credit report includes a report number you will be asked to provide, instructions for submitting a dispute, and contact information including a web site, toll-free telephone number and mailing address.
B. Ensures you are looking at information from Experian and not one of the other national credit reporting companies. While lenders receive the same credit report information, the report they receive is typically coded for computer review and may be merged with information from the other national credit reporting companies and other sources, such as your credit application. That sometimes leads to confusion and misunderstanding about which credit reporting company provided the information.
C. Ensures you have a current credit report. I often hear from people who are trying to improve their credit history but are working with a credit report that is months or even years old. In just a few months the information in your report can change tremendously. Getting a fresh report ensures you and Experian are looking current information.
D. Enables you to easily understand the credit report. Your personal credit report is in an easy-to-read format that frequently resolves confusion and frustration caused by a report formatted for business review. No special training or knowledge is needed to read and understand your personal credit report.
Here are the ways you can get your personal report:
A. You can get your Experian report free once every 12 months at AnnualCreditReport.com
B. You can also get it free from the credit reporting company used by your lender if you have adverse action taken, such as having an application declined, receive welfare assistance, are unemployed and seeking employment, or live in a state the provides one or more free reports annually at www.experian.com/reportaccess.
If you believe you are a victim of fraud or identity theft, you can add a security alert and request a free report at www.experian.com/fraud. For more information visit www.experian.com and follow the applicable links.
C. For a nominal fee, if you do not qualify for a free copy under one of the circumstances described above, you can request your personal report online by visiting www.experian.com/reportaccess
D. By subscribing to a credit monitoring service, such as Experian Credit Tracker, which provides unlimited credit report access, credit scores, monitoring and resources.
Step 2: Follow the dispute instructions provided with your personal credit report.
You can submit disputes online, by telephone or by mail.
It is very important to be specific with your dispute. State exactly what the issue is with an account. Experian’s online dispute system simplifies the process by providing choices for the most common dispute reasons.
Upon receiving your dispute, Experian will contact the source of the information, such as a lender, on your behalf. The source of the information is required by the federal Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) to review its records and respond to the dispute.
Step 3: Allow 30-45 days for your dispute to be completed
The dispute should be completed within 30 - 45 days after it is received by Experian. That time-frame allows documentation to be mailed if necessary. However, most disputes can be conducted through automated processes. As a result, many disputes are completed well in advance of the 30-45 day period.
The source of the information will respond in one of three ways:
A. The information should be updated in response to the dispute
B. The information should be deleted from the credit report
C. The information should remain as reported
Once a dispute is completed you will receive a notice from Experian with the results of the dispute. If you do not agree with the history as reported by the source and cannot reach agreement, you may add a “Statement of dispute.” A statement of dispute enables you to explain why you disagree with how the information is being reported.
Businesses are notified that the statement is part of your report every time you apply for credit or other services. Lenders and other businesses can take the statement into account and may ask you for more details or documentation as part of their application review process.
Three steps is all there is to it. Just make sure the first step you take is getting a new, personal credit report directly from Experian and the dispute process should go smoothly.