If you ever want to buy a house, secure a better credit card, or just make sure you have more financial options in the future, it’s important to ensure your credit report is as clean as possible. The higher your credit score is, and the more impressive your credit report is overall, the better your financial position and future will be.

Filing for bankruptcy, taking on massive amounts of debt, and refusing to pay your bills are all detrimental marks on a credit report that are totally understandable. But what happens if you have a detrimental mark on your credit report that isn’t accurate or is no longer relevant?

Fortunately, there are processes in place to help you dispute such errors, so you can ensure your credit report is accurate and up to date.

Your Options

Credit report errors come in many shapes and sizes. There could be a misreported date of payment for a bill payment you made, false attribution of someone else’s debt, or loans associated with you that you never took out.

No matter what types of errors you face, you have three options for removing them, and you should pursue these options in the following order:

  • Credit reporting agencies. First, you should attempt to reach out to credit reporting agencies directly, including any credit reporting companies that feature the error. If you have evidence proving that the error is, in fact, an error, these credit reporting companies will likely resolve the issue quickly and easily.
  • Reporting companies. If the credit reporting company does not take action on the error, consider reaching out to the company or individual who reported the issue. You may be able to resolve the matter with them separately and get them to withdraw the mark.
  • Legal action. If you aren’t able to resolve the error in a reasonable amount of time, it may be prudent to hire a Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) lawyer. An FCRA lawyer can help you understand your rights as a consumer and advocate for you to ensure your credit reports are updated accurately.

Once you contact a credit reporting company and/or a reporting company, you’ll likely see the following process unfold:

  • The investigation. Credit reporting companies, and sometimes companies that report matters to them, will conduct a thorough investigation, reviewing all materials available to them, reaching out to relevant parties, and eventually coming to a conclusion about the error in question.
  • The results. When the investigation is complete, the investigating party should reach out to you to notify you of the results. This process can take many weeks and up to a few months.
  • Corrections and resolution. If the error is validated as an error, it will be removed from your credit report and the information will be sent to other credit reporting agencies. If the error is found to be accurate, it will remain on your credit report and you’ll likely receive an explanation for why it’s remaining.

Disputing Information With Credit Reporting Agencies

When disputing information with credit reporting agencies:

  • Contact directly. Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion all have dedicated webpages for people to flag and dispute specific errors. Contact these agencies directly for the fastest possible results, and don’t go through a third party unless you’re working with a lawyer.
  • Provide all relevant details. Try to provide as many relevant details as possible. The more specific your dispute is and the more evidence you have, the better.
  • Clearly explain the situation. Clearly explain the situation to the best of your ability. Feel free to add historical information, context, and anything else you think would be relevant in resolving the dispute quickly. Just make sure all these statements are relevant to the matter at hand.
  • Include documents that support your position. Definitely include copies of documents that support your position, such as receipts or bank statements that prove that a payment was made at a different date.
  • Send via certified mail. If you’re mailing in your dispute via traditional mail, send via certified mail so you have a record of the receipt.

Disputing Information With Reporting Companies

Disputing with companies and individuals who have reported the information is similarly simple. Reach out to these parties directly and provide as many details as possible, as well as any hard evidence you have, with a request to rescind the report in question.

Contacting an Attorney

Under the law, credit reporting must be fair, accurate, and perhaps most importantly, transparent. In an era of rapidly advancing technologies and entrenched bureaucracies, that transparency is more difficult than ever to attain. Errors are surprisingly common, and not all credit agencies are enthusiastic about helping consumers resolve those errors.

That’s why credit attorneys exist. Most attorneys will provide a free consultation initially, so don’t hesitate to reach out to an attorney if you have any questions about disputing a credit report error or if you’re unable to make progress on your own. Your attorney will provide you with legal counsel, so you understand your position and the best strategic paths forward.

Nobody wants to find an error on their credit report, but it’s something that happens to millions of people. What’s important is that you’re attentive enough to discover these errors and diligent enough to resolve them, even if it means hiring a lawyer to get the results you need.