You can remove bad items from your report and handle your own credit repair.
Mistakes to your credit report can happen. A creditor may report a late payment incorrectly, or you could be the victim of mistaken identity. But, any inaccurate item showing up on your credit report that’s damaging can be removed. The credit bureau and your creditor have to correct any incorrect or incomplete information in your report for free.
Here’s how to remove bad items from your credit report.
Get Your Report
The first step is to get a credit report from all three credit reporting agencies. You can get your report once a year for free from annualcreditreport.com.
Look through each and every one of your accounts carefully. Is there anything you don’t recognize? Anything that’s overstated or understated?
Highlight any suspicious accounts. Note the account numbers and descriptions.
Some bad items will appear on just one agency’s report, while other errors will appear on all your credit reports.
The Dispute Process
First, contact the bureaus and your creditor to have any mistakes corrected. You'll need to contact each credit bureau that has the error. The credit bureaus accept disputes online, by mail, and by phone. Follow the links below to handle disputes online.
- Equifax dispute site (866) 349-5191
- Experian dispute site (888) 397-3742
- TransUnion dispute site (800) 916-8800
Also, look at their expected response times and policies for removing items.
Usually, you can expect a response within 30 days. If you don’t get a response within 30 days, you may be eligible for a lawsuit, or the item may have to legally be dropped.
Second, explain the exact mistakes and provide copies of documents that support your dispute.
- The credit bureaus have 30 days to investigate disputes and you may have to provide evidence if you haven't already. They will send everything to your creditor. Once your creditor determines they reported inaccurately, they will need to notify all three credit bureaus to fix the information on your credit report.
- If the dispute is not resolved, you can request a statement of the dispute be included in future reports. You may also want to consult a professional credit repair service.
You can find sample letters and addresses to dispute by mail at the Federal Trade Commission's Consumer Advice Page.
Third, One of three things will happen once you’ve sent in your dispute letter:
- They respond and remove the item. In this case, no further action needs to be taken.
- They respond and say that the item is not an error. They need to also provide documentation stating why this is the case, including the actual credit filing by the creditor.
Look over the filing. Was this account opened by you? If not, you may have an identity theft issue on your hands. If it was but is being incorrectly reported, you need to contact the creditor directly to work out the issue.
- They don’t respond. In this case, you have certain rights, including at times the right to have the items removed or the right to a lawsuit. Consult a lawyer for specific rights in this case.
If you don’t have the time or desire to fix things on your own, you still have options.
- You can use one of the many credit monitoring services that have integrated tools like credit karma.
- You can partner with a trusted veteran in the credit repair space that know exactly what you need to do and can guide you through the credit repair process for a nominal fee.
The whole process of disputing a report item should take no more than three hours. Those three hours of credit repair could result in your ability to open credit cards, buy a home, or buy a car at much better rates.