Correcting Erroneous Items on a Credit Report

Credit reports are requested by prospective lenders, credit card companies, and even employers to determine the financial stability of applicants. Whether you’re trying to apply for a profitable job position, obtain financing for your dream home, start a new business endeavor, or simply apply for new credit card, you’ll need to ensure that your credit report is free of negative items and accurately reflects your financial history. Although credit reporting agencies like Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion typically do an excellent job of maintaining the accuracy of their reports, there are some instances in which erroneous items may be filed. Luckily, it is relatively easy to dispute inaccurate information, provided you have the proper documentation and understanding.

Items That Can Be Disputed on a Credit Report

While it is not possible to dispute the credit score itself, you may be able to have negative items removed from your credit report if it can be shown that they are an accurate in any way. After the items are removed your credit score should improve within 30 to 90 days, depending on how long after a new score is issued. The following are items that may be able to be disputed:

  • Outdated Information

It is not uncommon for outdated items pertaining to delinquencies and defaults to be found on a credit report, even after the debt has been fully repaid. In addition, any debts that are older than seven years should not remain on the credit report, and can be removed if brought to the attention of the reporting agency.

  • Inaccurate Late Payments

Many times credit card companies or financial institutions will issue a negative item on a cardholder’s credit report even though the payment was submitted on time. It may be possible to have these notations related to late payments removed if you can prove that they are an accurate. Thus, it’s best to make credit card payments with automated bank transfers or checks that can be recorded and documented in the event that proof is needed during the dispute.

  • Items Caused by Fraudulent Activity

Unfortunately, credit card fraud is becoming increasingly common as fraudsters invent new ways to obtain credit card details over the Internet. Nowadays it is possible for fraudulent activity to go unnoticed for months or even years at a time if you do not closely scrutinize your credit report. Some credit reporting agencies will make the mistake of filing a negative item on your report because someone with a similar name defaulted on one of their loans. Luckily, after being brought to the attention of credit reporting agencies most cases of fraud are removed from the credit report and the credit score returns to normal shortly thereafter.

Filing a Dispute

To maximize your chances of success when filing a dispute with a credit reporting agency it is important to include the proper documentation along with your dispute letter. Although it is possible to file a dispute via e-mail or phone, for the best results it would be advisable to write a formal letter that describes the erroneous/inaccurate item, and why you believe it should be removed from your credit report.  Ideally, you should attach a copy of any statements that relate to the negative item (if applicable), and include a copy of the erroneous credit report with the questionable information highlighted or circled to simplify the job of the person responsible for reviewing your dispute. By filing a dispute in writing with the appropriate documentation attached you can prove that steps were taken to dispute a negative item in the event of a legal suit.