Warybuyer Guide to Correcting Credit Report Errors

Credit reporting errors are very common. They can have a serious impact on your credit rating. An incorrect negative item on your credit report can keep you from being approved for credit, or if you are approved, can result in a higher interest rate. On a significant purchase, like a house or a car, this can cost you thousands of dollars. It is time consuming to try to correct credit report errors, but the investment of time is be well worth it.

When you find an error in your credit report, it may be hard to tell who made the error. It could be caused by the creditor who owns the account or by a credit reporting agency. Because some credit reporting agencies share data, an error in one agency’s file can spread to other agencies. In order to root out the problem, you may need to contact several people.

The number one mistake that consumers make when trying to correct a reporting error is to contact only the creditor who owns the account. While this seems logical, after all, the creditor is the most likely source of the problem, it does not protect your legal rights. Under federal law, you cannot sue a creditor for making a false report about you. You also cannot sue a creditor for failing to correct a false report after you point it out to them. You can only sue a creditor under the Fair Credit Reporting Act for failing to correct a false report after you have complained to the credit reporting bureau about the error and the credit reporting agency has requested the creditor to investigate the account. This doesn’t make much sense, but it is the law for now.

This means that when you try to correct your credit report, you have to make your complaint to the credit reporting agency issuing the report, even if you know that the error is the creditor’s fault.

Of course, not all errors are caused by creditors. Credit reporting agencies make errors too. If they fail to correct an error after you point it out to them, you can sue them without having to go through any additional steps.

It is important to follow the steps required by the Fair Credit Reporting Act for filing suit against a creditor or credit reporting agency because in some cases, that is the only way to force them to correct your report and because if you don’t follow the procedures and you are denied credit or receive a higher interest rate, you can’t sue for the damages that you would otherwise be entitled to recover.

Step by Step Guide

1. Get copies of your credit reports. Write to each of the Big 3 credit reporting agencies: Experian, Trans Union, and Equifax. I’ve listed their addresses on my Credit Reporting Agency Addresses page. If you found the error on a report from another credit reporting agency, write them as well. Ask each agency for a copy of your report. If you have been turned down for credit, you are entitled to a free report from the agency that supplied the report to your creditor. Otherwise, you will have to pay about $9 for each report. When you ask for the report, provide only the minimum amount of identifying information necessary. If possible, provide no more than your name, social security number and current address.

2. Decide who to contact. Check each report for the error. You will want to send a letter to each agency reporting the error.

3. Identify yourself. Prepare a sheet with all of your identifying information. The sheet should include:

a. Your full name, social security number, and date of birth.

b. Your current address and each address at which you have lived during the last 7 years, along with the dates you lived at each address.

c. Any other names you have used during the last 7 years and the dates you used those names.

d. A photocopy of your current drivers license.

You should make several copies of this sheet and include it with every letter you send to a credit reporting agency. You don’t need to include this sheet with letters to creditors. This is particularly important if your problem involves identity theft or someone else’s accounts on your report. Here is an example of a Identifying Information Sheet.

4. Write the letter. Write a letter to each credit bureau asking for correction of the error. In your letter you should:

a. Identify the error. Give the name of the creditor and the account number and explain why the report is wrong.

b. Attach any documents you have that support your position. Your goal is to make your case so clearly that no one can reasonably disagree with you.

c. Ask the credit bureau to investigate the dispute as required by the Fair Credit Reporting Act and to provide you with copies of whatever information they receive during their investigation.

d. Ask the credit bureau to remove the incorrect information and to provide you with a corrected copy of your report.

e. Make sure the credit bureau understands the consequences of failing to act. If you have been denied credit tell them about the denial in detail. If you are planning to apply for credit, tell them about that as well.

Here is an Example of a Dispute Letter to a Credit Reporting Agency.

5. Do not make a frivolous or false dispute. Unscrupulous and ill-informed credit repair companies are advising consumers to game the system. They claim that by disputing every negative item, even the correct items, you can play the percentages and substantially improve your credit. Don’t do it. Imagine being cross-examined in court about everything you put in your letter. If you have to sue, you can be sure that you will be. If you have gamed the system or lied to get information off of your report, the jury will not believe what you have to say about the real errors.

6. Send the letters by certified mail. You need proof your letter was received. A certified letter has a postcard attached to it that is signed by the recipient and mailed to you so that you will have proof that your letter was actually received. If you don’t know how to fill out the certified mail forms, any postal clerk can help you.

7. Send a copy to the creditor making the false report. Sometimes the credit reporting agencies don’t send everything you send to them along to the creditor. They may just send a summary or even nothing at all. You want the creditor to have everything it needs to understand your dispute. The only way to be sure this happens is to send it yourself. If you do, they won’t be able to blame the credit reporting agency for not giving them enough information to investigate the dispute.

8. Follow up promptly. If the credit reporting agency contacts you requesting more information about your dispute, provide it as quickly as you can. Again, you should use certified mail to prove that you responded. The agency may use any delay in your response as a reason for closing your dispute without investigating it. Don’t give them the opportunity to do that.


You should receive a response within 30 days. If the credit bureau is unable to confirm that the entry is correct, they must remove if from your report.