Do you have entries in your credit report that you believe are erroneous? Do you think these entries should not be there at all but you are not sure what to do? The good news is that there is a way to have these inaccurate entries removed. More good news? You can do the process yourself! Yes, you don’t need to pay anyone or hire a credit repair company if you want to access and correct negative entries in your credit report. This article will give you a step-by step guide on how you can remove negative items from your credit report yourself.
Can I Dispute Entries in my Credit Report?
Your credit score is one of the most important aspects of your financial life. If you are planning to buy a house, get a new car, or acquire a personal loan, most creditors will refer to your credit history to see whether you are a good risk. It will also be used to determine what deals you’ll be offered and unfortunately, if you don’t have a good credit score, you could be denied the loan or credit altogether.
It is then critical that your credit report is as good as it can get. However, this is not always possible. There will be times when financial hardships or bad decisions will cause a dent in your credit history, which will lower your credit score. There are also many instances when credit report errors happen. In fact, according to a congressionally mandated study conducted by the Federal Trade Commission, one in five consumers had an error on at least one of their credit reports.
Many people are not aware that it is possible to dispute entries in credit reports so they just accept whatever is there without questioning if there are errors or not. If you are wondering whether you could dispute entries in your credit report, the answer is YES.
There is a federal law that gives you the right to dispute the inaccurate or incomplete information in your credit reports. This law is called the Fair Credit Reporting Act or FCRA which was passed in 1970. The FCRA regulates the collection and access to consumers’ credit reports to ensure that the personal data included in the credit reports are accurate, fair, and private.
As stated in the FCRA, you have the right to dispute information in your credit report if you believe that it is incomplete or inaccurate. Once you report it to the relevant credit bureaus, they would have to investigate. If they find that the information is indeed incorrect or unverifiable, they have to either delete or correct the entry.
If the negative entries in your credit report are outdated, meaning they are more than 7 to 10 years old, you can also ask the credit bureaus to remove these entries. The FCRA also mandates that credit reporting agencies may not report negative info that is already outdated.
Other rights included in the FCRA are your right to request for your credit score, right to have your file accessed only by valid parties or only with your consent, right to obtain a security freeze (a security freeze prohibits a credit reporting agency from releasing any information from your credit report if you do not authorize it), right to seek damages from violators of these rights under FCRA.
Steps on How to Remove Negative Items from Your Credit Report Yourself!
If you are wondering how to remove derogatory items from a credit report, you can follow our step by step process on how to file a dispute. By following this guide, you can have negative items in your credit report removed by yourself.
Please be reminded, however, that just because you filed a dispute does not mean that the credit bureaus will automatically remove the entry. There will be an ensuing investigation and if they find that your complaint is indeed valid, then the entry will be deleted or corrected.
Step 1: Request a Copy of Your Most Recent Credit Report and Check Carefully for Negative Entries
The first step that you need to do is to request a copy of your updated credit report. You do not need to pay for this credit report if you have not requested a copy in the last 12 months. As part of your rights under the Fair Credit Reporting Act, you are entitled to get one free copy of your credit report annually.
You can request a copy from the three major credit bureaus (TransUnion, Experian, and Equifax) free of charge by going to annualcreditreport.com or by calling 1-877-322-8228. Due to the Covid-19 crisis, these three credit reporting agencies are now offering weekly credit reports through April 2021 at no cost to the consumers.
Once you receive your credit report, carefully check each entry in your report to spot entries that are either incorrect, unverifiable, or incomplete. You have to check the reports from the different credit bureaus separately because some entries may not be present in all three reports. Once you spot the negative entries you want to dispute, make a copy of your credit report and highlight these entries.
Step 2: Look for Evidence to Justify Your Claim
When you file your dispute, you have to show proof that the entry that was included in your credit report is incorrect. What you need to do is look for any available evidence to support your claim.
For example, if you’re filing a dispute to remove a paid collection from your credit report, prepare proof that the account has been paid already. By preparing this evidence, it will be much easier for your claim to be quickly resolved.
Step 3: File your Dispute with the Relevant Credit Reporting Bureau
Your next step on how to remove negative items on your credit report is to file a dispute directly to the credit bureau. You can file a dispute either online or via registered mail. Below are the steps involved if you want to file a dispute using these methods.
How to file an online dispute to remove negative entries in your credit report
- Go to the dispute page of the credit bureau who issued you the credit report with the negative entry. You have to file a dispute separately to each of the credit bureaus if the errors appear on all your credit reports. However, if the error only appears on a credit report issued by one agency, only file a complaint to that credit bureau. So, if the error only appears on a TransUnion credit report, only file a dispute to TransUnion.
- Create an account as required by the dispute page in order to file and submit your dispute. This account is free of charge so you do not have to shell out money to file the dispute by yourself.
- Once you have completed creating an account, you should follow the steps provided by the credit bureau dispute pages. The procedures may differ slightly depending on the credit bureau but most of the information required will be similar.
- Specify the information relating to the negative entry that you are disputing and provide evidence if available. Once you have submitted your dispute, you should receive a confirmation that your dispute is in process.
- The dispute should take around 30 days to finish. You can follow up if the dispute is not resolved after a month. If you receive an affirmative response saying that the negative entry is removed, wait another month to ask a copy of your credit report again to see whether the information is updated.
- If the credit bureau tells you that the entry will not be removed as the entry is verified as correct, you can move on to Step 4 below.
How to File a Dispute by Mail to Remove Negative Entries in Your Credit Report
Filing a dispute via registered mail is also possible. This process may take longer but some people prefer the old-fashioned method as they want to have printed proof of their dispute. If you prefer to do it this way, you can use the sample dispute letter as provided by the federal Trade Commission. This letter is only a template and you can fill it in with the relevant details to specify your complaint. Do not forget to enclose any proof that you have to support your claim with the letter.
You can send the letter to the following addresses below. Note that you should write a separate letter to each of the credit reporting bureaus.
- TransUnion Consumer Solutions
P.O. Box 2000
Chester, PA 19016-2000
- Experian Dispute Department
P.O. Box 4500
Allen, TX 75013
- Equifax Information Services LLC
P.O. Box 740256
Atlanta, GA 30374-0256
Step 4: File Your Dispute with the Information Provider
What if you received a response from the credit bureau saying that they cannot remove the entry because it has been verified as correct? What will you do in case you are convinced that the negative entry should not be there because it is an error? If you are in this situation, the next step is to file a dispute with the information provider who placed the negative entry on your report. This could be the lender, the bank, the credit card company, etc.
To file a dispute with the information provider, you can use this template provided by the Federal Trade Commission.
Find the address of the information provider in their company website or call the office directly to confirm about the correct mailing address and which department you should address your dispute to.
Step 5: Check if Your Credit Report is Corrected
Even after getting a confirmation from the credit bureau or the information provider that your credit report has been corrected, do not take their word for it. You have to see it for yourself that the entry has been removed by requesting another credit report. It will take about a month for your credit report to be updated so wait a few weeks before requesting for a new credit report.
Can You Remove Negative Entries in Your Credit Report Before 7 Years?
If you are wondering how to remove negative items from a credit report before 7 years, you can follow the steps provided above but take note that this will only be possible if the negative entries have incorrect or unverifiable information. You cannot just have entries removed just because they are negative. The credit bureaus or information provider will have to check whether the complaint you file is valid.
For instance, if you want an unpaid collection removed from your credit report, you can only win the dispute if you are able to prove that the entry is incomplete, outdated, or unverifiable. Otherwise, the credit bureau will retain the entry if it is able to verify from the information provider that the entry is accurate.
Will my Credit Score Increase if a Negative Entry is Removed from my Credit Report?
Negative entries in your credit report can hurt your credit score. By having them removed, your credit score may improve. However, how much your score will improve will depend on the entry itself. For example, having a bankruptcy entry removed from your credit report often has more impact compared to removing a tax lien from your credit report.
Is it Advisable to Use a Credit Repair Agency?
If you do not have the time to really dig in and carefully recheck every entry on your credit report, you could try consulting with a credit report agency. Credit report agencies are experienced in spotting mistakes that you might not easily be able to spot. While it may cost you money to hire a credit repair agency, this fee could be worth it if you are planning on making a big purchase like getting a mortgage. This is also a good idea if you have tried disputing entries yourself without any success.
In choosing a credit repair agency, you should not instantly go for the cheapest option. Research online and look for a reputable credit repair agency or law firms offering such services.