Dear Dr. Don,
I recently received my credit reports and found a negative account for an old car loan listed twice on one of them. I was told that if there is a mistake like this, I could have the entire negative account removed from all three credit agencies. Is this true?
— Adria Avow

Dear Adria,
When you dispute an item on your credit report, the consumer reporting agency responsible for that report has 30 days to review and investigate the matter. They contact the information provider, in your case the auto lender, as part of the process.

The CRA will let you know whether you’ve carried the day in the dispute. If so, the disputed item is corrected on your credit report and the CRA provides a corrected copy of the credit report. If you don’t win, you have the opportunity to write a short statement that is included with the account information on the credit report.

If you win the dispute, the information provider has an obligation to notify the other two major CRAs about the correction. The three major CRAs are Equifax, Experian and TransUnion. If the disputed information is on the other credit reports, the other two CRAs will correct these reports as well.

Your dispute is straightforward, so there shouldn’t be much of an issue in getting the second listing of the auto loan purged from your credit report.

For other more complicated disputes, I always encourage readers to provide any evidence they have that the item in dispute is not correct. You have to make your case. See the FTC Facts for Consumers publication “How to Dispute Credit Report Errors” for additional help in disputing an item in your credit report.

Your credit score is based on the information in your credit report. I asked Craig Watts, public relations director for Fair Isaac Corp. (the company that designs credit scoring models for the CRAs), if the credit scoring model would double count the negative information on your credit report.

He explained that if the two account listings were not exactly the same, the two negative reports would both impact the credit score. However, the second negative report would not have as great an impact on the credit score as the first.

He added that it is just this type of situation that makes it so important for consumers to review their credit reports on a regular basis and to dispute inaccurate information.