You can dispute mistakes with the credit bureaus by mail or telephone, but you’ll get the fastest results if you initiate a dispute online. Here are the websites and phone numbers you should use for the credit bureaus when you contact them to dispute errors:
It’s best to dispute errors one at a time – because contesting a slew of alleged mistakes all at once may cause your dispute(s) to be thrown out. By law, the credit bureaus can opt to not investigate your claims if they deem your dispute(s) to be “frivolous” or “irrelevant.” This is one reason why many people using certain “credit repair” services find that they don’t work as well as intended. When the credit bureaus get whiff of a “credit repair” agency being involved, they will sometimes (legally) ignore multiple disputes on the grounds that they are “frivolous.”
What To Expect From the Credit Bureaus
Generally speaking, all three credit bureaus allow you to dispute errors related to the “Ownership” of an account or the “Account Information”/“Status” of an account. For example, when you fill out the dispute investigation forms supplied by the bureaus to mail them in, or when you file an online dispute, the bureaus will ask you to check off boxes that specify what information you are contesting.
Disputing Ownership of an Account
If you dispute “Ownership” of an account, you will check one of these boxes:
I have no knowledge of this account.
This account does not belong to me.
This is not my account; it belongs to a relative or another person with same/similar name.
This account belongs to my ex-spouse.
This is a fraudulent account; account opened by someone who stole my identity.
Fraudulent charges were made on my account.
Creditor agreed to remove my liability on this account.
I am no longer liable for this account.
I did not authorize this inquiry.
This is a fraudulent inquiry.
Disputing “Account Information or “Status”
If you dispute the “Account Information” or “Status” of an item, you will check one of these boxes:
This account is included in my bankruptcy.
My credit limit and/or high credit amount is incorrect.
My account balance is incorrect.
Please verify date of last payment, date opened, date closed, or date of delinquency.
Please verify the account descriptions shown on my account.
I have never paid late.
This account is closed.
This account is not closed.
My account is closed per my request to the creditor.
This account is paid.
I have paid this account in full.
I paid this account before it went to collection or before it was charged off.
Too old to be on file, please remove.
Terms are incorrect.
Creditor agreed to remove charges and/or fees.
Creditor agreed to remove this account from my file.
This account is transferred to another lender
I am a victim of a natural or declared disaster.
I have Active Military Duty status.
Account is deferred.
This account is settled.
There may be variations in some of the wording. But as of this writing, these are all the possible reasons for disputes at Equifax, Experian and TransUnion.
The Differences Between Equifax, TransUnion and Experian
At Equifax and TransUnion, you can only choose from either the “Ownership” dispute category or the “Account Information” category that best describes your dispute. You can not make selections from both categories. Equifax’s online dispute system also allows you to add a “Dispute Account Statement.” There you can type up to 250 characters to provide additional information to support your dispute.
At Experian, you can enter up to 120 characters about your reason for disputing something in your credit file. Experian alerts consumers that it will send your statement to the creditor. For example, assume you check the reason for your dispute as “I have never paid late.” If you then want to explain your position, you might add a statement such as: “The creditor said they misapplied my payment,” or “I moved but my creditor acknowledged that they erroneously sent the bill to my old address.” Such statements will be sent by Experian to your creditor to help them understand why you are disputing certain reported information. (Under federal law, all creditor bureaus are supposed to forward your explanation statements or supporting information to creditors/furnishers when you have a dispute. But critics say the credit bureaus routinely violate this requirement just to cut costs and save money).
At TransUnion, the online dispute service specifies that you can make only one submission that includes all of your requests for investigation or changes of information. If you need to make additional requests after your online dispute, you must call or write the bureau. TransUnion’s mail-in form, called a “Request for Investigation,” also includes a section for you to write in additional comments related to your dispute.
Proving That a Mistake Exists is Up To You
Remember: In the event of a mistake, the burden is on you to notify the credit agencies about that error. And it’s not enough to simply say something is “incorrect.” You have to state why certain information is erroneous or outdated. Once you do, your claim will be investigated. In an ideal world, inaccurate or outdated information would simply be removed from your credit reports when you dispute such data and supply independent proof of your claim. However, the world of credit is far from ideal. Perhaps that’s why less than 2% of consumer dispute requests with the credit bureaus result in a deletion due to errors, according to The Consumer Data Industry Association.
What to Do When a Dispute Is Not Resolved Satisfactorily
I’ve already explained to you that Equifax, Experian and TransUnion rely almost exclusively on the information supplied to them by your creditors. Therefore, if a credit bureau contacts one of your creditors about an alleged mistake, and that creditor verifies the information that you dispute, the information will remain on your credit file. The bureaus will then write you a letter (or notify you via email, if you’ve filed an online dispute) notifying you of their decision and letting you know that the information stands. If the information you dispute gets deleted or changed, the credit bureaus will also notify you – and will give you an updated, free credit report as required by law. Either way, whether your report is changed or not, the credit bureaus will also tell you that you have two options if your dispute has not been resolved to your satisfaction:
1) You can add a 100-word Consumer Statement to your credit file; or
2) You can contact the creditor directly regarding the dispute
Just Say No to Adding a Consumer Statement to Your Credit Files
You don’t want to add a Consumer Statement to your file because, as previously explained, it is completely ineffective in today’s credit environment and may actually be viewed negatively by future creditor grantors and others who will see your credit files. Also, forcing you to go to the creditor with whom you have a dispute seriously disadvantages you. The credit bureaus essentially require that you ask your adversary to serve as the judge and jury in your case. Of course, this doesn’t preclude you from going to your creditors and negotiating with them or trying to prove your claim. But my point is simply this: whenever you are unsatisfied with the results of a credit bureau investigation, neither of the options supplied by the credit agencies gives you much leverage.
All information on this blog is for educational purposes only. Lynnette Khalfani-Cox, The Money Coach, is not a certified financial planner, registered investment adviser, or attorney. If you need specialty financial, investment or legal advice, please consult the appropriate professional. Advertising Disclosure: This site may accept advertising, affiliate payments or other forms of compensation from companies mentioned in articles. This compensation may impact how and where products and companies appear on this site. AskTheMoneyCoach™ and Lynnette Khalfani-Cox, The Money Coach® are trademarks of TheMoneyCoach.net, LLC.