- How to Remove Negative Credit Report Items | Bankrate.com
- How long do negative items stay on your credit report?
- Is it possible to remove them before they fall off?
- How much will your score improve if you remove negative items?
- Filing a dispute online
- Filing a dispute via mail
- Bottom line
- How to remove negative items from your credit report
- How to remove negative credit report entries yourself
- A great way to improve your credit score
- How to Dispute Credit Report Errors
- Which credit report errors should you dispute?
- Which credit report errors aren't worth disputing?
- 2. Gather materials to dispute errors
- Documentation to provide for your dispute
- How to check with the data furnisher
- 4. Review the response to your dispute
- If the credit bureau agrees it's an error
- If the credit bureau disagrees
How to Remove Negative Credit Report Items | Bankrate.com
If your credit score is not where you want it to be, you probably already know that it is the negative items on your credit report that bring your score down the most.
These items will fall off eventually, but what is the best way to do this, and is there a way to speed up the process? Let’s dive in and see.
How long do negative items stay on your credit report?
It depends on what the item is, but most will fall off after seven years. Yes, I said seven years. I know that’s a long time. It’s even longer for a chapter 7 bankruptcy, which takes 10 years to fall off.
But before you hang your head in despair, you should know that the impact of negative items to your score will lessen before those seven (or even 10) years are up as long as you don’t mess up again. This lessening can start in a matter of months for a minor mishap a 30-day late notation to more than a year for a really serious issue a charge-off or a bankruptcy.
Is it possible to remove them before they fall off?
No matter what you may have heard or been told to the contrary, it is generally not possible to remove accurate and timely data from your credit report. If you really did default on a loan or a credit card and it hasn’t been seven years, that item is going to stay put.
This includes items that may be beyond your state’s statute of limitations (SOL). Items that are too old to be collected in court under the SOL that are less than seven years old are still going to show up on your credit report. It is also important to understand that until any legitimate debt is paid, you still owe it even if you can’t be sued or if it has fallen off of your credit report.
However, inaccuracies and date items on your credit report can be removed. We’ll discuss that further in just a bit.
How much will your score improve if you remove negative items?
It depends on two major factors: the length of your experience using credit and how serious the negative item was.
A long credit history will have less of an impact from a single negative item being reported.
But a serious negative event a charge-off will indicate that you are now a high-risk borrower and cause you to lose more points despite a long credit history.
For those with a short credit history, also called a “thin file,” almost any negative item will cause a sizable drop in score. The higher the “thin” score to begin with, the bigger the drop.
But in credit scoring, sometimes just a few points are all you need to move into a higher tier. Those points could make a huge difference in real dollars on your next loan or whether or not you are approved for your next credit card. So, how can you remove items that shouldn’t be there?
Your first step will be to get copies of your credit reports from all three bureaus—Equifax, Experian and TransUnion—and go over them carefully.
You can get your reports for free at AnnualCreditReport.com. Look for accounts you don’t recognize. As you check your credit reports, you may be surprised by how many accounts there are.
Because your report lists negative information for seven years and positive information for much longer, you will probably see accounts, referred to as trade lines, that you’ve forgotten about, and perhaps even some that you didn’t realize you still had.
Verify account numbers, balances and dates opened and closed. If you find errors, you will need to document them carefully and communicate—in writing—those errors to the bureaus. Since the credit bureaus don’t always have exactly the same information about you in their credit reports, if you see an inaccuracy on one credit report, follow the dispute process and have it corrected.
But you may not be the woods. The other bureaus may have different inaccurate information. That is why you need to get all three reports to make sure all your information is accurate.
If the same error appears on two or all three reports, you need to dispute it only once. If the source of the information makes a change as a result of your dispute, that source has to tell the other bureaus about the change, too. But I recommend double-checking anyway.
Correcting all three reports is important because some lenders and businesses purchase a “three-in-one” report that includes a credit score and credit history information from each of the three bureaus. Each bureau has slightly different procedures for filing disputes, but all three allow you to dispute inaccurate or out-of-date information by phone, by mail, or online:
- Equifax: Call the phone number provided for disputes on your credit report, and be sure to have the 10-digit credit report confirmation number (on your report) available. You can also dispute by mail at Equifax Information Services LLC, P.O. Box 740256, Atlanta, GA 30374 (no confirmation number is required on written correspondence); or online.
- Experian: You can dispute by phone using the toll-free number on your credit report; by mail at Experian, P.O. Box 9701, Allen, TX 75013; or online.
- TransUnion: You can dispute information by phone at (800) 916-8800; by mail at TransUnion Consumer Solutions, P.O. Box 2000, Chester, PA 19022-2000 (be sure to include the completed request for investigation form found on the website); or online.
Filing a dispute online
I used to recommend that you write (on paper) to initiate a dispute so that you could maintain a paper trail. Today, when you dispute online, the bureaus provide confirmation throughout the process. Just save or print the documents along the way to establish a paper trail for future reference. Either way, be sure to document your interactions.
Disputing online is faster, easier and more secure than doing it via the mail, but you may need to be able to upload documents to support your dispute. Think about sending a letter with all your identification, credit information and other documents. How many people handle that letter and may be tempted to open it?
When you dispute online at Experian, for example, you choose the items you want to dispute with a click. You’re walked through the process one step at a time. When you’ve finished, you submit the disputes and any documents you upload to support them. You can create a paper trail by printing the report, the dispute “shopping cart,” your documents and confirmation for free.
Filing a dispute via mail
If you choose to dispute items on your credit report via mail, write a letter stating which item(s) you’re disputing. Include any facts that explain your case and include copies (not originals) of documents. Enclose a copy of your credit report with the items in question circled or highlighted.
Be sure to provide your complete name and address and tell the company what your desired action is (correction or deletion). Send your dispute letter by certified mail, return-receipt requested, so you can document the fact that the letter was mailed and received. Keep copies of your dispute letter and enclosures.
If there are changes as a result of your dispute, you can request that the bureau send notices of corrections to anyone who received your report in the past six months. If you’ve applied for a job, you can have a corrected copy of your report sent to anyone who received a copy during the past two years for employment purposes.
While working on the negative things that may be on your credit report, don’t forget about the positive things that you can do right now that will pay off in a higher score in time. If you pay your bills on time, keep your credit utilization low and apply for new credit only when you need it, you will see your score rise over time.
Remember that the negatives fall off after seven years, but positive information will remain much longer. The more positive action you can take, the better for your score. Good luck!
Have a credit scoring question for Steve? Drop him a line at the Ask Bankrate Experts page!
How to remove negative items from your credit report
M. Reese Everson, a Washington, D.C.-based attorney, knows a thing or two about getting negative items removed from a credit report.
“In 2012, I moved from Chicago to Washington, D.C. for a post-graduate Congressional Fellowship,” Everson said. “My student loans from law school were in deferment. When I moved, my mail for my loans kept going to my old address in Chicago. The loan deferral period ended, the loans went into repayment then were past due, because I never received a notice.”
When she applied for an apartment and was denied, Everson was shocked, because she believed her credit score was well over 700.
“I pulled my credit score and saw that, because of my student loans, my score had dropped 100 points because the loans were listed as 'in default,'” she said. “I quickly went to work calling the servicer who kept sending me from one customer service agent to another.
Finally, I was able to speak to someone at the CFPB (Consumer Financial Protection Bureau) who contacted the servicer and asked them to assist me.”
Within a few months of diligent work removing the negative student loan information, Everson’s good credit was restored. “I’ve had to dispute other negative items on my credit report, and each time I’ve done so, my credit score has either gone back to normal or even improved,” she said.
How to remove negative credit report entries yourself
If you want to emulate Everson's success, the best way to remove a negative credit report entry yourself is to file a dispute with the credit bureau, financial experts said.
“The credit bureau will investigate the accuracy of the negative credit entry with the business creditor,” said Dr. Bob Castaneda, program director for Walden University's MS in finance program.
“You can also ask the business to remove the negative credit entry by explaining a late payment or if you typically pay bills on time.
Negotiating with the business, by offering to pay off debt in exchange for having a negative credit report entry removed, is another option.”
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To dispute a credit report error, send a letter, either online or by mail, to the credit bureau that reported it and explain why it is a mistake, Castaneda said. “In addition to the status of the account, include supporting documentation. Keep a copy of all information sent to the credit bureau,” he noted.
“You can also contact the business that reported the negative credit report entry to try and get this resolved,” he added.
All three major credit bureaus — Experian, Equifax and TransUnion — have specific mailing or online links to submit disputes.
The steps to submit a dispute include:
- As soon as you notice an error on your credit report, verify which credit bureaus are reporting the error and immediately contact them to file a dispute, Castaneda said.
- Write a letter that includes the dispute, copies of documentation to support this claim and your contact information. “Most importantly, ask the credit bureau to delete or correct the error,” he noted.
- Submit your dispute letter to the credit bureau online or by mail. “If using a courier, send your dispute as certified mail with return receipt requested,” Castaneda said.
- If it’s not an identity-related mistake by the credit bureau, also contact the business reporting the error and ask them to correct it.
- Review the results of the investigation. “If the update doesn't appear on your credit reports within several months, contact the credit bureaus and the business to verify it's reporting your account information to the agencies,” Castaneda said.
- If the business insists the dispute is accurate, you can request that the credit bureau include a statement in your credit file, explaining the dispute. “Or, you can file a complaint with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau,” Castaneda added.
If you’re either in Chapter 7 bankruptcy or Chapter 13 bankruptcy, note that Chapter 13 bankruptcy is removed from a credit report seven years after the filing date while Chapter 7 bankruptcy is removed 10 years from the filing date because none of the debt is repaid.
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A great way to improve your credit score
Removing negative items from your credit report can improve your credit score – but be patient.
“From the time the dispute is reported to the time the correction is made, it would take approximately 60 days to see results on one's credit score,” Castaneda said.
The Federal Trade Commission also advises that if your dispute is not resolved to your satisfaction or found in your favor, you can ask that a statement of the dispute be included in your file and future reports, Castaneda added.
How to Dispute Credit Report Errors
Errors on your credit reports can cause your credit scores to be lower than they should be, which can affect your chances of getting a loan or credit card and how much interest you pay. Disputing credit report errors and getting those negative items removed can be a quick route to a better score.
Here's how to dispute credit report errors and have them removed in four steps.
Know what's happening with your free credit report and know when and why your score changes.
Through April 2022, you’re entitled to free weekly credit reports from the three major credit reporting bureaus: Experian, Equifax and TransUnion. Request them by using AnnualCreditReport.com.
There may be small differences among your reports, because some creditors don’t report your account activity to all three bureaus. But if negative information has popped up on one report, it’s wise to see whether it’s also on the other two.
There is no cost to dispute credit report errors, and you can dispute as many items as you . Filing a dispute does not hurt your credit score, but the result of the dispute may have an effect on your score.
Which credit report errors should you dispute?
The most concerning errors are those that could hurt your scores or suggest identity theft. Those include:
Wrong account status (such as a payment mistakenly reported late when you paid on time).
An ex-spouse incorrectly listed on a loan or credit card.
Wrong account numbers or accounts that aren’t yours.
Inaccurate credit limits or loan balances.
Accounts you don't recognize.
Addresses where you've never lived.
Which credit report errors aren't worth disputing?
Smaller errors that don’t affect your score — a misspelled former employer or an outdated phone number — don’t affect anyone’s assessment of your creditworthiness and aren't worth disputing.
A negative mark might surprise you, but that doesn’t mean it’s an error. If it’s accurate, try to resolve the problem directly with the creditor. For example, if you accidentally missed a payment, contact the creditor, arrange to pay up and ask if it will rescind the delinquency so it no longer appears on your reports.
The credit agencies are not obligated to investigate “frivolous” claims.
2. Gather materials to dispute errors
Your goal is to make it as easy and quick as possible for investigators to confirm that your complaint is valid. Depending on the error, the things you gather to support your case could include:
Copies of credit card statements or loan documents
Copies of bank statements
Copies of birth or death certificates, or a divorce decree
If you've reported identity theft, include a copy of your FTC complaint or police report.
Documentation to provide for your dispute
In addition to the above, you'll need to provide:
Your Social Security number and date of birth
A copy of government-issued identification (such as driver’s license or passport)
Your current address and past addresses going back two years
A copy of a utility bill or bank or insurance statement that includes your name and address
All three bureaus have an online dispute process, which is often the fastest way to fix a problem, or you can write a letter. You can also call, but you may not be able to complete your dispute over the phone. Here's information for each bureau:
How to check with the data furnisher
When you file a dispute, the Federal Trade Commission suggests also informing the company that provided the data to the credit bureaus, such as a bank, lender or card issuer, in writing.
These sources of information are known as furnishers.
Notifying the data furnisher may cause them to proactively stop reporting the inaccurate information to the credit bureau, although that's not guaranteed.
Send the letter to the company using the address it listed on your credit report. If there is no address listed, ask the company for one.
The FTC notes on its website: “If the provider continues to report the item you disputed to a credit reporting company, it must let the credit reporting company know about your dispute. And if you are correct — that is, if the information you dispute is found to be inaccurate or incomplete — the information provider must tell the credit reporting company to update or delete the item.”
Frequently asked questions
How do you dispute something on your credit report?
You can dispute credit report errors by gathering documentation about the error and sending a letter to the credit bureau that created the report. All three credit bureaus, Equifax, Experian and TransUnion, have an online dispute process, which is often the fastest way to fix a problem.
Can disputing hurt your credit?
Filing a dispute with the credit bureaus has no impact on your score. If the information on your credit reports changes as a result of the dispute, however, that could affect your score (either positively or negatively).
How do I dispute all three credit bureaus?
All three bureaus have an online dispute process, which is often the fastest way to fix a problem, or you can write a letter. You can also call, but you may not be able to complete your dispute over the phone.
4. Review the response to your dispute
The credit bureaus must investigate your dispute and then tell you the outcome in writing. Under most circumstances, the bureaus have to respond within 30 days.
If the credit bureau agrees it's an error
The bureau will remove the item and send you a new copy of your credit report. Review the new report to make sure it's right.
You can request that the bureau communicate the correction to anyone who received your report in the past six months. If anyone requested your credit for employment purposes in the last two years, you can ask for a corrected copy to be sent to them.
If the credit bureau disagrees
The bureau — or the furnisher — may disagree that the item is a mistake and refuse to remove it.
If you’re sure the item on your report is incorrect, it’s time to take it to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. Explain what you’re disputing and provide copies of your proof. The CFPB will look into it, and you can follow progress with the email updates it sends or by logging in to the website.