Your credit score is one of the most important aspects of your financial life. If you’re 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’s 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.
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. The 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 history yourself.
STEP 1: File a Dispute With Credit Bureaus
You can file a dispute with credit bureaus online or via registered mail. Below are the steps involved if you want to dispute derogatory items 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 that issued you the report with the negative entry. You have to file a dispute separately to each of the three credit bureaus if the errors appear on all your credit reports. However, if the credit report errors only appear on a 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 for 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 credit reporting bureau.
- 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 2: 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’re in this situation, the next step is to dispute errors 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 the correct mailing address and which department you should address your dispute to.
STEP 3: Consider Pay For Delete Offer To Your Original Creditor
You need a different approach if the negative information on your credit report was accurately reported. Always remember that credit bureaus won’t remove the correct and verifiable derogatory marks on your credit report even if you dispute it.
You may consider a pay-for-delete offer to try to remove past due or delinquent accounts from your credit report. But not all creditors will accept this offer. The pay for delete technique involves offering to pay the account in full and in return, the creditor will have the negative details removed from your credit report.
STEP 4: Request a Goodwill Deletion
Unlike the pay for delete offer where you use money as your bargaining chip to get something removed, requesting a goodwill deletion involves asking the creditor for mercy. If you’ve already paid the money you owe but the negative mark still appears on your credit report, you can ask the creditor to report the account status more favorably to the credit reporting bureaus.
In your goodwill letter, you can explain the reason behind the late payments. Some creditors may accommodate your request but others won’t. There’s no guarantee that the derogatory marks will be removed.
STEP 5: Wait For the Negative Items to Fall Off Your Credit Report
Waiting for the negative item to reach its credit reporting limit is your last resort. Derogatory items will appear on your report for seven years, with the exception of bankruptcy, which lasts for 10 years.
Credit bureaus will delete the negative information after the 7-year period. But you need to check your credit report to make sure that it’s been removed after the time limit.
What Steps Won’t Remove Negative Items From Your Credit Report?
There are steps that don’t work when removing negative marks from your credit report. Filing for bankruptcy can’t help. Your debts may be discharged but the accounts will remain on your credit report.
Closing an account doesn’t work either. It won’t remove the delinquency reporting, especially if the account had a past due balance that you failed to pay. Even if you pay a delinquent balance, it still won’t be removed from your credit report. Furthermore, charge-offs and collection accounts will continue to appear on our credit report even after you’ve paid off your balance.
When Can Credit Bureaus Remove Negative Information?
As stated in the FCRA, you have the right to dispute incomplete or inaccurate information in your credit report if you believe so. 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 a credit reporting company may not report negative information 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 company 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.
Can You Remove Incorrectly Reported Negative Items From Your Credit Report?
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 credit report 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 incomplete or inaccurate 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.
Can You Remove Negative Entries In Your Credit Report Before Seven Years?
If you’re wondering how to remove negative items from a credit report before seven 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 three credit bureaus or information providers 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.
FAQs on How to Remove Negative Items From Credit Report
1. Can you get free credit reports?
Yes, you can. You have the right to get one free credit report every year from each of the three major credit bureaus (Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion). You can also submit a request at AnnualCreditReport.com.
2. How long do negative items stay on your credit report?
The time limit will depend on what kind of negative item your credit report has. Generally speaking, derogatory marks remain on your credit report for seven years. Bankruptcy stays longer since it will take 10 years before it falls off.
3. How much will your credit score improve if you remove negative items?
Negative information in your credit report can hurt credit scores. 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.
4. How do you remove closed accounts from your credit report?
A credit bureau will only remove closed accounts from your credit report if they’re inaccurate. Removing old items or outdated ones is required, too. If the closed accounts were correctly reported, you have no choice but to wait for them to be dropped off your credit report.
5. Is it advisable to use credit repair companies?
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.
You should request a credit report regularly so you can check if negative items were incorrectly reported to the major credit reporting bureaus. Keep in mind that you can file a dispute for derogatory marks that are erroneous. If the negative information is accurate, you have no choice but to wait it out until they reach the credit reporting time limit. A credit reporting agency generally removes negative marks after seven years. Don’t forget to practice good borrowing habits like paying bills on time to improve your credit score.