Key takeaways

  • Errors on your credit report can have serious consequences for your credit score.
  • These errors can come from various sources, including identity errors, account status errors, and data management errors.
  • It's important to understand the difference between negative information and legitimate errors on your credit report.
  • Disputing and correcting errors on your credit report can take time and patience.

Inaccuracies on your credit report can drag down your credit score, so it’s important to know what to do if you spot any errors. It could be something as simple as a misspelled name, a mistaken late payment or a wrong address, but errors on your credit report can have considerable consequences like making it harder to qualify for credit when you need it.

It helps to know the difference between negative information and errors. From there, you can take action to dispute and correct the errors on your credit score.

Causes of credit report errors

Credit report errors can originate from various sources. Knowing the cause of the error will enable you to dispute and correct it.

Common identity errors are:

  • Clerical errors by creditors (wrong name, phone number or address)
  • Mixed files (accounts belonging to another person with the same or a similar name)
  • Identity theft

Account status errors include:

  • Errors in account status (closed accounts reported as open)
  • Incorrect balance or credit limit information
  • Duplications of debts

Data management errors could be:

  • Incorrect current balance of an account
  • Incorrect credit limit of an account

When you’re looking at your credit report, consider these possibilities in mind.

Negative information vs. legitimate errors

Before you start the dispute process, read your credit report to assess whether the issue you want to dispute constitutes negative information or a legitimate error.

Negative information — also known as a derogatory mark — is accurate information that reflects poorly on your borrowing and repayment habits in the eyes of lenders. Examples of negative information include:

  • Bankruptcy
  • Defaults
  • Foreclosure
  • Late payments

The credit bureaus are entitled to put that information in your report. It generally can’t be disputed as long as it’s legitimate. That negative information won’t follow you forever — it will generally come off your credit report within seven years (or 10 years in the case of bankruptcy). Be skeptical of companies that claim they can get rid of negative information on your credit report, as this is often a sign of a credit repair scam.

Legitimate errors, on the other hand, stem from inaccurate information or identity theft, as discussed above. These mistakes don’t accurately reflect your financial behavior, and you can dispute them with the relevant credit bureau.

To spot these errors, it’s important to review your credit report regularly. You can get a free copy from each of the three main credit bureaus (Equifax, Experian and TransUnion) at

Ways to dispute errors on your credit report

There are several ways to correct errors on your credit report. These include written letters, online forms or calling the credit bureaus. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has a sample letter you can adapt. Be sure to keep copies of all communications with the credit bureaus.

Written letter

When drafting a letter to the credit bureau, it’s important to include the following information:

  • Your full name, address and contact information
  • Details of the mistake that you want fixed
  • An explanation of why the mistake should be corrected
  • Copies of documents showing why it is an error
  • A copy of your report highlighting the mistakes

The FTC suggests sending the letter by certified mail and paying for a return receipt so you have proof that the credit bureau received your letter.

Each of the three main credit bureaus has instructions on their mail dispute process, which you can find here:

Online submission

Each of the main credit bureaus has an online dispute submission portal. The upside of this option is that you can track your dispute online. The online submission portals are available on the following pages:


You can also initiate a dispute with each of the main credit bureaus by phone at the following numbers:

  • Equifax: (866) 349-5191
  • Experian: (888) 397-3742
  • TransUnion: (800) 916-8800

Steps to correct credit report errors

Correcting errors on your credit report takes time and patience. Typically, you’ll need to take the following steps:

  1. Review your credit report. The first step is to obtain your credit report from each major bureau. Once you have your reports, carefully review them to find any errors.
  2. Gather evidence. In your dispute, you will need to back up your request. Provide copies of all relevant backing documents, such as billing statements and communications with creditors. The more evidence you have, the more likely your error will be corrected.
  3. Choose your dispute method. Decide whether you’ll make your best case by letter, online submission portal or over the phone.
  4. Initiate your dispute and wait for a response. Take care to follow the process stipulated by the relevant bureau when submitting your dispute. The investigation can take some time, as the bureau will contact the creditor to validate your complaint.
  5. Review the results. Once the investigation is complete, the credit bureau will notify you of the outcome in writing. If you were successful, you’ll also receive an amended copy of your credit report.
  6. Monitor your credit score. Set reminders to check your credit report regularly so that you can spot any new errors that might affect your credit score in the future.

How long does it take to fix errors on your credit report?

Several factors influence the timeframe for resolving credit report disputes, such as:

  • Availability of evidence
  • Complexity of discrepancies
  • Credit bureau processing time
  • Responsiveness of creditors and credit bureaus
  • Volume of disputes

Under the Fair Reporting Act, credit bureaus must respond to your dispute promptly. After the credit bureau receives your dispute, it has 30 days to finish its investigation and a further five days to furnish you with its findings. If you supply additional information during the 30 days, the credit bureau has another 15 days (45 days total) to finalize its investigation.

Rapid restoring options

Even if you are successful in your dispute, it can take some time for the changes to reflect on your credit score. If you need a boost to your credit score (like if you are applying for a mortgage), there is also the option of a rapid rescore.

Some lenders provide these rapid rescore services to expedite the updating of your credit score, taking into account changes sooner rather than later. Some rescores can be processed in three to five business days, depending on your circumstances.

When to work with a credit repair agency

If the process of repairing your credit score yourself is overwhelming, you can work with professionals who specialize in fixing your credit. There are pros and cons of working with credit repair agencies, but these services can take much of the burden of credit disputes off your shoulders.

However, be wary of credit repair scams. Warning signs include pressure to pay upfront fees, promises to remove negative (accurate) information from your credit score, warnings not to contact credit bureaus directly and refusals to explain your rights.

Credit repair agencies also charge fees for their services, so you’ll need to take these into account when deciding whether to do it yourself or get the professionals involved.

The bottom line

It’s important to regularly review and rectify errors on your credit report to maintain a good credit score. Understanding the possible causes of credit report errors and following the proper dispute procedures will help you clean up your credit report and take control of your credit scores.

Take proactive steps to review your credit score regularly and correct errors promptly or contact a specialist credit repair company to guide you through the process.

Frequently asked questions

  • No, under the Fair Credit Reporting Act, you have the right to dispute errors on your credit report without any impact on your credit. The credit bureaus will, however, investigate the dispute, and the outcome may improve your credit scores if the error is corrected.
  • If your dispute is rejected, you have several avenues open to you. If you think that additional information will strengthen your case, you can resubmit the dispute with the new evidence. If that doesn’t work, you can also contact the creditor directly to address the issue or reach out to consumer protection agencies like the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.