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A Step-By-Step Guide to Disputing Credit Report Mistakes

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The information in your credit reports is what’s used to create your credit scores, so you don’t want to let mistakes on your credit reports potentially throw your credit scores out of whack.

An FTC study released today shows that one in five consumers have errors on their credit reports and 5% of consumers have errors serious enough that they could result in less favorable loan terms.

“These are eye-opening numbers for American consumers,” said Howard Shelanski, Director of the FTC’s Bureau of Economics, in a statement.  “The results of this first-of-its-kind study make it clear that consumers should check their credit reports regularly.  If they don’t, they are potentially putting their pocketbooks at risk.”

Here’s how to dispute credit report mistakes, step-by-step:

1. Order Current Copies of Your Credit Reports

Make sure you have fairly current copies (ideally, less than 60 days old) of your credit reports from all three major credit reporting agencies (CRAs), Equifax, Experian and TransUnion. Since these agencies don’t share information with one another, you can’t assume that the same mistakes — or lack of them — appear on all your reports.

2. Dispute the Mistake

Sounds straightforward, right? But you have a couple of choices to make here. The first is whether to dispute the item with the credit reporting agency (or agencies) whose report(s) shows the error, or with the company that is furnishing that information to the CRA (the “furnisher.”)

Dispute the mistake with each of the credit reporting agencies that are reporting the inaccurate information if:

  • It’s something not supplied by a furnisher that you can contact; for example, a wrong address, or incorrect public record information such as a judgment would require you to work with the CRA.
  • The information reported doesn’t belong to you.

Dispute the mistake with the furnisher if:

  • You have documentation that will show the furnisher that they are making a mistake in how they report the information to the credit reporting agencies; for example, copies of correspondence documenting a billing error.
  • You’ve already disputed the item with the CRA and it has confirmed the information is “correct” and you want to go to the source.

Note, though, that you always must dispute the item with the credit reporting agencies that are reporting it before you can sue for credit damage. For that reason, some consumer law attorneys recommend sending a dispute to the CRAs and filing a copy of that dispute with the furnisher.

Your second choice is whether to dispute the item online or by mail. Filing online is fast and easy, and you don’t have to spring for a stamp, but you’ll want to make the extra effort to mail your complaint if:

  • It doesn’t fall neatly into one of the CRA’s dispute categories. If you dispute it online, you’ll likely have to choose a reason for the dispute from a menu that gives you a few standard choices. If you need to provide a more detailed explanation, a letter may be your best bet.
  • You’re giving up your rights online. Before you dispute a credit report mistake online, read the website terms and conditions to make sure you aren’t agreeing to mandatory binding arbitration, which means you forfeit your right to have your day in court if it is not resolved.
  • You have proof of your side of the story. If you have documentation that the information is wrong, you’ll want to include it in your written dispute.
  • This is your second attempt to get it right. If you received a response from the credit reporting agency that says the data is correct, but you know it’s not, you may want to follow up with a letter.

Always send written disputes by certified mail, return receipt requested, and keep a copy for your records. You may even want to get your letter notarized if you want the CRA’s attention.

3. Wait For a Response

The CRA or furnisher has 30 days to get back to you with a response. If the information is corrected or deleted, skip to step six. If not, go to the next step.

4. Escalate Your Dispute

If you are told the information is correct, but you know it’s wrong, you’ll need to escalate your dispute. Send a letter to the CRA and/or furnisher stating why you believe the conclusion is wrong, and CC: the Better Business Bureau, your state attorney general and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. Send copies of your dispute to those agencies.

5. Talk with a Consumer Law Attorney

If your attempts to fix the problem don’t work, then you may want to talk with a consumer law attorney with experience in consumer credit disputes. The website of the National Association of Consumer Advocates is a good place to start.

6. Keep Records of Your Dispute

Put all your records of your dispute (copies if your credit reports, letters of correspondence, printed copies of emails or online responses, etc.) into a file and put it in a place where you can get to it if the same data appears on your file again.

7. Monitor Your Credit Reports

At a minimum, you can order your credit reports for free once a year, and use a credit monitoring tool (our Credit Report Card gives you two free credit scores and is a good way to keep tabs on things). If you monitor your credit reports and scores closely, you’ll be alerted quickly to any problems. Credit reporting agencies are not supposed to reinsert items that were deleted as the result of a dispute without notifying you first, but it can happen.

For more Credit 101, check out these posts:

Image: eyeliam, via Flickr

Please note that our comments are moderated, so it may take a little time before you see them on the page. Thanks for your patience.

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  • Patrick J DeFore

    What happened to step 8 ???

    • Gerri Detweiler

      Did I mention eight steps? I’m confused…!?

  • Ron DeFore

    #8 is always pay your bills on time!

    • Gerri Detweiler

      True – except it won’t necessarily prevent mistakes!

  • Mrs.A

    I would like to know how to turn over any unclaimed debts back over to my ex-husband, who I was married to at the time and had to take care of the overall expenses and accumulated student loans to help me while trying to go to college & had to provide,support his children during that time? (Apologize for the the lengthy sentence structure, but it frustrating..) I discovered he falsified financial documents when the majistrate asked him at the time, as well,, he didnt inform his divorce attorney of any in the process financial gained amount, due to me not having the proof they granted him a divorce,leaving me the bills and ect. and Texas is a Community State and I believed, due to what I been through and him falling to maintain his support for his children and responsibilities for them needs until our Finalization and The Judge acknowledges all TRUTH …he needs to be sent back,due to falsiying any decree that should be Voided or he should be held liable including Contempt for falsifying financial gains at that time..Currently, he will be getting SSI & He is a Veteran as well, but they are always covering up for ex-soldiers like him( he a mishap of representation of the service, but they do have them affliated and protected as If failing to maintain any part of his responsiblities of taking care of his family,children,or needs for them can be ignored then and now he is in the Rears of 59k, the childsupport judge cut him half once before and he still didnt pay…between the military and some childsupport courts..hmm? This is how part of my credit became in shock or hindered, can You Plz
    help this one …

  • Mrs.A

    You have my email, and I am blessed to say…I will be focus on assisting others who may or maynot have children that have concerns in which direction to take, but I believe I can not be any assistance to anyone, unless I am their TRUE testimonial example in “All things are Possible”, Due to a male was the 90.9% percental cause within the amount of years I was tied up to him within marriage and trying to take care of his children within the means that was limited and locked by limitations of him not being responsible or financially concerned in how it will affect his children financial growth. I really needs to move forward with more secured blessed advice that through monitoring and financial management within being financial aware with discipline and financial sense there is a TRUE way in being more secured and protected towards building a Established- Financial Portfolio for my life currently, while I am assiting others who may have fallen as well……..your welcome to email me directly as well…..I am no longer a Military Wife or apart of any Assistance for or with my children…I do know that I may not be the only one, but its many who have got lost and twisted into blindness that should know that their is Help and Assistance and Positive Possiblities that Proven that “All THINGS Are Possible”…Also, Is there a Such thing as Credit Monitoring or Lock with a Fee? I never asked anyone to Monitor My Credit or Have never seen such created agencies give people a hard time & charge other people for their own information that their compnay or agency have..In which, most of these same companies Sell, Trades, or Bargins “OUR” TRACKED Data…but yet many say for employed or verifiable reasons we need you to sign a consent form …..

  • Kyla


    I have a collection account on two of my reports that are not mine. I am going to send letters disputing this account all together. However, I have noticed that the same account has been reported on two of my credit reports, with two different account numbers. The account numbers are exact except there are two numbers within the account number that are transposed. Is this a “simpler” bases for or reason I can point out to the bureaus, that will remove this wrongful account from my credit report or do I still need to just go through disputing the entire account? Or is this something I should point out in the dispute letter as well?

    • Gerri

      Kyla – If the same account is showing up twice on the same credit report with just a number transposed, then you are likely correct that this is a clerical error. You can simply dispute the accounts as duplicates and see what happens, unless you have another reason for disputing them.

  • Lorena

    I have a hard inquiry from T-mobile that I believe should be a soft one, where it wouldn’t go against my credit as a soft one. I was accepted for employment, which normally is a soft inquiry. However they seemed to do a hard one, and it’s listed as “fuel and utlities”. I know I did not look into a cellphone with them, and this is really a disheartening fact on my credit report as I only worked there two days! Should I dispute this, and if so do I call T-mobile?

    • Gerri Detweiler

      Lorena – a company that has permissible purpose to obtain credit reports for one reason but then obtains them for another reason may be breaking the law. They may also be in violation of their contractual agreement with the credit reporting agencies.

      If it were me, I would dispute this inquiry, in writing, with the credit reporting agency (or agencies) that has it listed on the report. This is essential to protect your rights.

      If you do dispute it, let us know what they say.

  • monette crump

    question..a bank sold my bad debt to a collection agency. The debt was written off in 2006 by the lender but has recently been sold to a ca. The ca is listing the date opened as 11/01/2012 (the date the ca purchased the debt) and showing the full amount as passed due. I have ask the cra to investigate and they say it is correct! Can they show the debt as past due when it has been written off? And is the “past due” lowering my credit score even more?I know l owe the debt and the wright off lowers my score, but does the “past due” lower it even more?
    Thank you for any help you can give this poor retiree in texas

    • Gerri Detweiler

      Monette – Lenders are often required under banking regulations to charge off (or “write off”) bad debts after a certain period of time. This helps ensure the lender is accurately represents its financial health. However, this doesn’t mean they can’t try to collect the debt or sell it to a collector who may try to collect it.

      Collection accounts may be reported for 7 years and 180 days from the date you first fell behind with the original creditor. In practical terms, that means this collection account probably may no longer be reported 7 years from when it was charged off by the original lender. Based on what you are saying, that sounds like about a year from now. After that time it can’t be reported, even if it remains unpaid. The only instance where it may affect your credit longer than that is if they sue you and get a judgment, which would have its own reporting period.

      I don’t know what you mean by this comment: “Can they show the debt as past due when it has been written off? And is the “past due” lowering my credit score even more?” If this is the collection agency you are talking about, then it’s negative no matter what. But collection accounts are usually reported as collection accounts so I am not sure where the past due remark is involved here.

      Perhaps you can clarify. The more specific the better.

      PS: My understanding is that the statute of limitations for most consumer debts in Texas is four years. So if you haven’t made any payments or payment agreements in that time, then there’s probably not a lot they can do to collect. That’s a separate issue and you should read our articles on debt collection to understand your rights when dealing with these debt collectors.


        What I mean is the ca is listing under Status–Collection Account–$5100.00 past due as of 02-13-2013 (the date I filed a despute with the cra) so I guess my credit score reflects a collection and past due account, right? Looking at my Credit Card in I have a “F” under late payments….there are no late payments on my report except for the collection accounts that list the full amount owed as past due. I have disputed the Date Opened because it showes the date the CA bought the account, not the date of the original debt, the CRA wrights back and says “we contacted the CA and they said it was correct”….are you kidding me, what else would they say! I truly believe the CRA is a joke and they could care less what the truth is…their answer… “Post a dispute” and a lot of good that does….

        • Gerri Detweiler

          It sounds like someone, somewhere keeps this account in collections even though it shouldn’t be. I’d suggest you go to the next step and talk with a consumer law attorney with experience in credit damage cases. (You can search for one at Most of these attorneys will work with you on contingency or with no cost to you if you have a good case, as the other party will have to pay legal fees if they are breaking the law. Let us know what happens!

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  • joypeter

    What a amazing post you have posted,really very impressive content.Thank you

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  • Nicole

    I have a different dispute address for Experian. I sent my letter and documentation to PO Box 9701 Allen, TX 75013. Does this mean Experian won’t accept my dispute or it could take longer than 30 days? Thanks!

    • Gerri Detweiler

      I wouldn’t worry about it – they have several different addresses.

  • RoseyCheeks

    I think I understand Monette’s inquiry as “Can credit reports double up on the SAME delinquent debt?

    Based on the information, will her credit score reflect negatively from both places until the purge date?

    Purge date = 7yrs+180days from the date first fell behind from original lender.
    For illustration purposes, purge date is “July 16, 2014″ (1yr, 4months from now – a long time)

    Original Lender: “debt written off” (lowering credit score)
    Collection Agency: “Past Due” (lowering credit score even further)
    for the SAME debt UNTIL July 16, 2014??!!

    That just seems crazy!

    Also, what if the collection agency turns around and sells debt to another collection agency – would the debt be reported negatively through THREE companies for the same debt?


    Also, regarding “beginning date when first fell behind with original lender”; how does that work?

    If I stopped paying for 6 months, then started paying again for 2 months and then stopped all together, what would be the beginning date (clock starts)?
    The first month of the 6th month nonpayment
    The first month when I stopped paying all together?


    How many months of nonpayment = write off?


    I’ve also read/heard that if a collection agency contacts you about a debt they bought from your original lender and you acknowledge it then the clock starts again; is this true?


    If I am trying to clear up my credit and I have old unpaid balances – should I pay them off? Why? Why not?

    Thank you so much for your help!

    • Gerri Detweiler

      Yes, both the original debt and the collection account will have the same purge date. If the account is sold to another collector the same purge date will apply but she should be able to dispute the first collection account as a duplicate.

      Regarding the original delinquency date it’s for the delinquency that led immediately up to the account being placed for collection or charged off. So in your example, it would be the first month the accountholder stopped paying all together.

      Most creditors charge off (write off) accounts at 180 days of nonpayment due to banking regulations but it can vary from lender to lender.

      It’s possible that acknowledging the debt could restart the statute of limitations but usually a payment is required for that to happen. And that affects how long they can successfully sue to collect the debt, but doesn’t change the reporting period.

      As for your old debts, paying collection accounts won’t currently help your credit scores. You may want to pay them for other reasons (you owe the debt and want to make good on it, or you want to avoid being sued) but improving your credit is not one of those reasons.

  • monette crump

    I just descovered a collection aggency has listed a bad debt on my credit report. The same thing happened last year with a different CA, same debt. I called Direct Energy and faxed a copy of my check and they agreed with me, the account had been paid in full…the reporting agency removed it from my credit report and I though that was the end of it…Wrong…today I find a new CA has listed the same debt on my CR. Can they continue to place inacurate information on my CR and suffer no consequences. and how did this CA get this bogus debt unless it was sold to them by Direct Energy. Any advise is appreciated… : )

    • Gerri Detweiler

      Monette –

      You raise some good questions. The utility company may have sold the debt to another collection agency when it went “unpaid.” It’s also possible that the first collection agency sold it to the second one, but that shouldn’t happen for a disputed debt.

      I’d suggest you complain to your state public utilities commission and also to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. I suggest you name both the original creditor and the collection agencies in your complaint.

      Let me know what happens.

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  • DonnaMarie

    How long is a bankruptcy allowed to show on your credit report? I completed mine in New York FOURTEEN YEARS AGO & checked my Experian for the first time in years when denied a $300.00 store credit card (to receive a 10% discount on my order!) – otherwise, I never would’ve known. I rec’d the proper letter in the mail explaining why I wasn’t getting the card, then checked my report – yup, there it was! When I filed, my attorney asked everyone in the (necessary “pre-court” class) if they were SURE this was the only option as this would stay with you for XX # of years. I THOUGHT it was seven, I KNOW it’s not FOURTEEN! Could you post the answer so that everyone/anyone considering this difficult option understands the YEARS of bad ramifications. I had to do it for medical expenses:

    $177,000.00 in medical debt – $22k/yr income, 29 yrs old/single/disabled – yup, only option!

    Thank you Miss Gerri, I look forward to your response.
    ps – things are ok now financially – totally disabled/living w Mom/but scraping by!

    • Gerri Detweiler

      A bankruptcy can only be reported ten years from the date you filed. I see no reason why it should be on your reports 14 years later. What does it list for the date of filing??



    • Gerri Detweiler

      Isabel –

      I assume that you already tried disputing this through the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau? If not, then please do so. If you already did that, then you are going to have to continue to fight it. I’d suggest contacting a local consumer law attorney with experience in credit damage cases. ( If you can’t afford an attorney, your local legal aid office may be able to help.

  • James Douglas

    Last year my ex and I went back to court over our normal 3 year review for child support, I knew my child support would go up as I am making more money now than I was three years ago, after the precedings my child support went up as expected , I wasn’t worried at all about it because the child support always comes directly out of my paycheck each week, ( been employeed at the same job for years). This year i went to the bank to get a loan and they said my credit wasn’t good enough , shockingly I asked what was on it, they said late child support payments dropped my score over 100 points, I think that this is crazy because the attorney general tells my employer how much to take out each week. Even though money had still been coming out each week ,the attorney general failed to tell my employer the new, correct amount for 3 months after the procedings, so they reported it to the credit bureu as deliquent payments . Can I dispute this as wrong, because I paid each week and have never been behind on my child support. Any and all info is greatly needed and appreciated. Thanks a concerned dad

    • Gerri Detweiler

      James – What a mess! You can try disputing it but it’s going to be extremely difficult. The credit reporting agency is going to rely on what the child support enforcement agency is reporting, and if they confirm it as delinquent then it continues to be reported.

      Your best bet is to try to work with the child support enforcement agency (your attorney general?) to get it corrected. If they aren’t willing to do so, then I would suggest you contact your local state elected official (your state Senator and/or Rep) and ask them for help. Most have ombudsmen staff who help constituents solve issues with state governmental agencies.

  • Gayle

    I would like to know how to get to fix inaccuracies with the information they are reporting for me. They are reporting more loans and higher amounts then I actually have. I have already viewed my reports and the multiple accounts are not on there, so I don’t see how can come up with the information they are reporting.

    • Credit Experts

      Hi Gayle – Apologies for missing this comment when you initially posted. To clarify, it sounds like you may be confusing with the three major credit reporting agencies. To explain, unfortunately, doesn’t have access to your credit report data, nor do we actually “report” to the credit reporting agencies — we’re not lenders, you see, but rather an online educational resource. We understand your frustration, however, and while we can’t actually fix your errors, we can definitely point you in the right direction and explain the process so that you can get those inaccuracies corrected.

      To explain the process, your lenders and creditors report your account information directly to the credit reporting agencies and that’s how information ends up in your credit report. As to why some accounts are missing, just to clarify, some lenders will report to one or two of the credit reporting agencies, while others may report to all three — Equifax, Experian and TransUnion — and some lenders may not report at all. The act of credit reporting in and of itself is actually voluntary. This means lenders are under no legal obligation to report, even though most lenders do. This article will give you a more in-depth look at this issue: Can You Force a Bank to Report to Credit Reporting Agencies?

      As far as the inaccurate accounts and balances, the Fair Credit Reporting Act gives everyone the legal right to dispute inaccurate information in your credit reports. Keep in mind, though, the three credit reporting agencies are three independent companies, which means they do not share their data. This is important to note because this also means that if you have errors on your credit report, you’ll need to file a dispute directly with the credit reporting agency where the errors are being reported. If you’re seeing the errors based on the’s free Credit Report Card, this data is actually from Experian so you’d need to file a dispute directly with Experian to have the information corrected.

      To help you through the dispute process, offers two excellent resources that outline everything you need to know in order to dispute the errors and have them corrected:

      A Step-by-Step Guide to Disputing Credit Report Errors
      How to Write an Effective Credit Report Dispute Letter

      Good luck with the dispute process and please do keep us posted on how things turn out.

  • Josh Johnson

    I live in Texas, and all my debt is in Texas. I have found that our statute of limitations is four years. Many Items on my credit report are from 2009 and 2010. So we are coming close to the four year mark. My question, Is it possible for me to dispute these items after they roll over the limit, and they will fall off? I am wanting to start cleaning up my score. It has slowly risen, I have noticed over the years, but I am nowhere near buying a house or anything. Is my idea possible, od how would I go about getting these things off of my report so I can start to build my score back up. Thanks for your response.

  • Kyle

    What can be done for victims of natural disasters? I was living in southern Louisiana in 2008 and had to evacuate for Hurricanes Gustav and Ike, which both occured back to back. During that time I had a bill from Progressive Insurance that I either never got or was lost in the chaos and it went to collections (NCO Financial). I noticed this on my credit report in 2010 (I was deployed to Iraq throughout 2009) and paid the bill immediately. Is there anything that I can do to try to get this off of my report now? I tried to contact NCO about the issue and they are very rude and offer no assistance.


      Because the incident occurred more than two years ago, the likelihood of the creditor working with you to change the late payment is next to nil. The key is to act quickly as this article explains:

      “…it is in your best interest to contact your creditors as soon as possible to inform them of your situation. Don’t assume they know that you don’t have power or have not received mail for several days due to the storm and that is the reason for your late payment.

      Most banks and credit unions will have special processes and procedures in place to work with you through this difficult period which will help you maintain your good credit status. However, communicating with them is the first step toward getting the help you need, and protecting your credit in the midst of disaster.”

      For more help with natural disaster preparedness and credit related issues, these resources may help:

    • Gerri Detweiler

      Kyle –

      That is truly a shame. Have you tried contacting Progressive? If the placed the account for collection, they have the ability to pull it back from collections. If that doesn’t work, I’d suggest you file a complaint with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and see if that resolves it.


    I have two items on my credit report that say “no status”. It is the Experian Report. I have constantly disputed the item. I called the two places and they claimed the bills are not supposed to be listed as such. They said they would have Experian change it. I also contacted Experian and proved the last time I paid on the items. This has been ongoing the past three years. By now at least one of the bills should be off my report but the “no status” is preventing it. Somehow it is being investigated under the fair billing act and I’ve never had a bill being investigated that long. I did not even put it up for investigation. So what do I need to do?

    • Gerri Detweiler

      I am sorry but I am a little confused by your question. Can you explain exactly what the account in question is, and all the information that is reported for that account? Is this a collection account? A credit card? What is the negative information that you hope to have removed? “No status” shouldn’t affect how long an account is reported.

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  • Deondrick Woodard


    I need a copy of sample 2nd Dispute letter with a one, two punch showing me what information I need to include, regarding a denial from Experian. (They stated that the information was verified, but did not send me proof or how they even came up with their facts). Your assistance would be greatly appreciated.




      Hi Deon – To explain the process, when you file a dispute with a credit bureau they have 30 days to investigate and resolve your dispute. When they open an investigation their first step is to contact the data furnisher responsible for reporting the information that you’re disputing. This could be a lender, creditor, collector, or any entity that is able to report credit data to the bureaus. If the data furnisher confirms that the information being reported is accurate the bureau will mark the dispute as verified and close the investigation—–and the information will remain and continue to be reported. The bureaus are not required to provide any documentation or explanation of how they came up with their facts. This is because their facts are based on what the lender reporting the information tells them. If it’s your word over a lender’s, the credit reporting agency is going to go with the lender unless you have proof to back up your dispute.

      Can you provide a little more detail about what you’re disputing?

      When filing a dispute it’s always a good idea to provide any proof or documentation that would help the bureau with the investigation. If the information is inaccurate and the data furnisher refuses to correct it, they’re breaking the law under the Fair Credit Reporting Act. If you have proof that the information is inaccurate and the creditor/data furnisher refuses to correct the error, your next line of defense would be to speak to a consumer law attorney that’s familiar with handling FCRA lawsuits – is a good place to start.

  • Tim

    I know that the negative item will stay on a credit report for 7 years.

    Here is my question.

    If a payment was 90 days late how much will it hurt my credit score?
    If it was two years old how much will it hurt my credit score?
    If it was four years old how much will it hurt my credit score?

    the reason for this question is because of the dates that are almost always wrong in a credit report,


    • Gerri Detweiler

      There is no set number of points that a specific late payment will hurt your credit scores. It depends on everything else in your credit report.

      Generally, the older negative information is, the less it impacts your credit scores provided you have current, positive credit references reporting.

      However, if the dates on your credit report are wrong you have the right by law to dispute them.

  • Lexis

    I wanted to get an opinion on what to do about an issue I just was made aware of. I received a phone call this morning from a collections agency about my Chase credit card balance. I was unaware of any due balance since I rarely use this credit card and used it only for establishing credit when I was in college. I have a credit score of 796 with only my student loans and car as my debt. The billing statements were being sent to an old address according to both Chase and the collections agency. The collections agency connected me with a Chase manager to figure out what the charges were and on what date. Apparently, I had a $101.92 balance on a card from a Sept. 7, 2012 rental car charge that had gone to collections as of April 30,2013 at $310.40 due to late fees and interest. Having never made a late payment, minimum payment, or anything of the sort I was completely shocked that this had occurred. If I was aware of ANY charges they would have been paid in full at or before the due date as I ALWAYS DO. Well, the Chase manager was kind enough to take off the interest and late fees making my balance due $101.92 which I paid today. I then called the collections representative I had been dealing with to let him know that he should be seeing the letter from Chase regarding my account within a few days. I don’t want any blip on my credit report. How can I go about correcting this issue besides paying my balance due? The woman at Chase said that it’s out of her hands once it goes to collections. Is there anything I can do like write a letter to Experian, Transunion, and Equifax asking to delete the charged off credit card? I realize that this isn’t a large charge amount, but I’m very concerned about my credit being negatively affected. Any suggestions would be great!

    Thank you for your time.

    • Gerri Detweiler

      Lexis – First, check your credit reports to see if this was reported. It may not have been in which case you don’t have to worry. If it has been, then come back here and we’ll try to figure out a strategy.

  • Jayne

    Hi Gerri,

    Phew, glad you took the time to detail all of this. Never thought I would need to go through the whole list, but might have to. Thanks Chase Mortgage for misreporting 99.9% details of my short sale! I’d like to thank Equifax for being equally neglectful. :) lol Ugh. Sigh.

    Thanks again Gerri. Very helpful list. J

    • Gerri Detweiler

      You’re welcome Jayne. What happened with your short sale? Have you been able to get it resolved?

  • Credit Experts

    Hi Brooke –

    The three credit reporting agencies (CRAs) are three independent companies, which means they do not share their data. This also means you’ll need to file a dispute directly with the CRA where the error is being reported. You can include copies of the other two reports, certainly, but they won’t use them as confirmation/validation to correct the error. Instead, they’ll open an investigation and contact the data furnisher directly to get validation. Most likely, it’s an error on the lender’s end and they’ll update it accordingly.

    Here are two resources that will help walk you through the dispute process:

    A Step-by-Step Guide to Disputing Credit Report Errors
    How to Write an Effective Credit Report Dispute Letter

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  • hong ying

    CITI puts me on paperless this April 2013 without my knowledge. Since I did not receive any statement in mail and sometimes my balance on CITI card was zero, I was not alarmed for not receiving statements and thought I had no balance with CITI. By accident on July 17 2013, I clicked on one email from CITI and I was surprised to know there is an overdue $600. I paid it off right away. However it was already 63 days late. My credit score got hit and I am shopping for a mortgage.

    I filed dispute with 3 credit report agents online. I called CITI and was told there is no error from bank since it is a fact that I did not pay the balance. I was told it has nothing to do with paper statement. However, I was receiving the paper statement for more than 7 years, and I already had a habit of relying on paper statement to pay off the bill.

    How should I proceeds? Any recommendation is appreciated! Thank you,

    • Gerri Detweiler

      You’re going to have to try to find someone higher up there to help you. They can make a “goodwill” adjustment and it doesn’t sound like you are out of line to ask.

      You can try reaching out to their customer service team on Twitter or Facebook if you have accounts there. If that doesn’t work, you can file a complaint with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. That might be enough to get someone there who can help you to respond favorably.

      If that doesn’t work, come back and we’ll talk about other strategies.

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  • Credit Experts

    Hi Stephanie – If the house was sold in a short sale and the lender refuses to correct the error, they’re violating the laws under the FCRA (Fair Credit Reporting Act). We’d encourage you to try disputing the error again and when you do, consider using this guide to help you with the dispute letter so that there’s no misunderstandings on what you’re disputing: 8 Rules of an Effective Credit Report Dispute Letter

    After you’ve filed the dispute, another option is to file a complaint directly with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau here:
    They’ll help mediate the dispute to make sure it’s addressed properly.

    If you still aren’t getting anywhere, you may wish to consult with a consumer law attorney that’s familiar with FDCPA cases. To locate a consumer law attorney in your area, is a good place to start.

    One last word regarding short-sales vs. Foreclosures. From a credit standpoint, there is no difference between a short-sale and a foreclosure — both are just as damaging. However, from a lender’s perspective, mortgage lenders are much more likely to favor a short sale over a foreclosure as it shows you didn’t completely walk away from the agreement and did the best you could to try and meet the terms of the original agreement. (You can read more about this topic here: Foreclosure vs. Short Sale: What’s Worse for Your Credit?)

  • Credit Experts

    Hi JLynn — We just checked the link and it appears to be working correctly. To try again, I’m reposting the full URL for you:

    Hope this helps!

  • logik

    I disputed through Experian and won my dispute. How do I get them to provide me with free reports from all three bureau’s? I also read that I am entitled to them sending out new reports to everyone who has ran my credit in the last six months. How do I get them to do that?

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  • Gerri Detweiler

    Hi Aline – I am having a hard time following your story, but if I understand it correctly there is an old utility bill for $1700 that is appearing on your credit reports. First question: when you say old, how old? When did you last pay on this bill?

    Secondly, what is the name of the utility company and what kind of utility service is it? There can be a big difference between how water, electric are regulated.

    And finally, what state did all this occur in?

    I need this information before I can answer your question completely.

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  • milbla

    How can you make the credit reporting agency live up to state
    requirements? i.e. deleting claimed debt after 7 years?

    • Credit Experts

      The debt should automatically fall off the report after seven years (with bankruptcy, it’s 10 years). If that doesn’t happen, you should ask that it be deleted, using the dispute process. These resources may be helpful: How to Fix a Credit Report Mistake Fast and 8 Rules of an Effective Credit Dispute Letter.

    • Gerri Detweiler

      New York state law doesn’t require that all negative information be removed after 5 years. It only applies specifically to satisfied judgments (5 years from the date file) and paid collections (5 years from date of last activity/date paid). In the case of collection accounts, since federal law only allows them to be reported for 7.5 years from the date you first fell behind with the original creditor, you don’t get a lot of extra time except in situations where you pay them off immediately. Hope that helps!

  • SCH

    Here is my issue, I disputed items on my credit report that were near the 7 year mark, and that were going to fall off. Now they are telling me that this reopens them, and that I have to wait an additional 7 years for them to fall off? Is this accurate? Is there nothing that I can do about this?

    • Credit Experts

      Who is telling you this? Disputing an item should not reopen it. You may find useful information in this post: How Long Does Negative Information Stay on My Credit Report?

      • SCH

        Oh wow,really? That is actually the note that was on my actual report with Experian. I’m going to pull my report again today. Do I dispute it again? What do I say? Thank you!

  • Gerri Detweiler

    I would suggest you file a complaint with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. Be specific about the name of the collection agency, the hospital and the credit reporting agencies reporting it. I would also suggest you find the name of the CEO of the hospital and send a certified letter to them as well. Copy your Better Business Bureau and anyone else you can think of.

    Explain that you are willing to pay it but you are not willing to live with a collection account on your credit report for 7 years, and I don’t think you should have to either!

    Will you let me know if this works?

    • directore

      I will.

      BTW your reply was the first substantive advice (thanks!) from anybody and I have looked for advice everywhere since I discovered the problem 2 weeks ago. At this point I’m still waiting for the formal reply from the creditor to my written request to reinvestigate the case (phone request was rejected out of hand).

      I have one more humble request for comment Gerri. When reviewing my credit report I noticed that somebody re-reported recently my 10 year old address (address that both the creditor and the collector told they used when trying to contact me). All previous address reports (seven last years) are correct they reflect my present address and the one provided to the agent in the ER. Again, ER visit 3/13, sent to collections 08/13, 10 year old address reported again out of the blue 12/13. I discover the problem 01/14 How is that possible or legal to provide false address to the agencies?

  • Credit Experts

    As the article above says, in some situations, a written complaint is better, but filing online doesn’t mean you can’t follow up with a letter.

    It’s a good idea to keep copies of all correspondence (emails and letters), plus a log of any phone calls, noting dates and to whom you spoke. You should not send original documents, and be sure to send by certified mail, return receipt requested.

    Good luck with getting the dispute resolved.

  • Gerri Detweiler

    Steve – It’s a valid question and one that others have asked. FICO says that paying a collection account should not “refresh” the date that impacts your score. But that doesn’t mean there isn’t something going on here. How do you know that happened? Have you seen a difference in how those accounts are reported?

  • Neil

    I had one car payment late in 2012.It was late by less than 30 days. The operator had called me to inform about my car payment to be late and we agreed I would pay along with next payment. I aslo confirmed they would not report to any credit bereau. But unfortunately they did and when I saw the report I called them and they agreed to remove from my report as I had already made my payment. I checked my report again no change. Called again and disputed again with no luck

    • Gerri Detweiler

      How about filing a complaint with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau?

    • Heidi

      Just write a goodwill letter. If you have never been late before the bank would be much more receptive of that. I had the same situation and it worked.

  • Gerri Detweiler

    First of all, I know it doesn’t feel good to throw good money after bad, but the long-term cost of your credit score dropping by 100 points or more could be significant. So you may want to rethink that. However, unfortunately you may be caught in the middle here. Your brother was a co-lessor and had the opportunity to try to resolve the problem when he moved out. The lawyer would be better able to explain your rights and their responsibilities here, but your options are as I see it to: a. retain the attorney. (The collection agency probably doesn’t want to get in the middle of a legal battle over what’s a relatively small amount. They may drop it if they are challenged legally. Can’t say for sure, but it’s certainly a possibility.) b. Contact the apartment complex, note the problems you’ve had in a very clear factual way and ask them to pull it back from collections so you can deal with them directly. (If they do that then you should be able to get the collection account removed.) c. File a complaint with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.

  • Gerri Detweiler

    You can certainly talk to a consumer law attorney but it’s my understanding that if they followed the proper procedures to correct the error when you brought it to the attention you won’t have a credit damage case. I am not an attorney, though, so it certainly doesn’t hurt to talk with one. Visit for a referral.

  • Gerri Detweiler

    You have two choices. One is to complain to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. The other is to talk with a consumer law attorney with experience in credit reporting. You may have a case against the credit reporting agency and/or the creditor and may be able entitled to damages. Visit to find one in your area.

    • bocajim

      thanks, fond a lawyer on that site and have a meeting tomorrow.

      • Gerri Detweiler

        Let us know how this turns out for you!

  • Gerri Detweiler

    I know this is frustrating. Collection accounts can be reported for 7 years + 180 days from the date you first fell behind with the original lender leading up to when it was placed for collection. Unfortunately, when an account goes unpaid it often gets sold to another agency and when they report it, it will appear as if it is more recent. That’s just how it works. I’d suggest you find out if this debt is outside the statute of limitations. If it is, then you may just want to leave it alone. It sounds like it should come off his reports sometime next year depending on when it was charged off. (About 7 years from the date of charge off will be about the time it should be removed.) Just because the agency picked it up recently doesn’t mean that it starts a new 7-year reporting period. It doesn’t.

  • Credit Experts

    Virtually all small business credit card applications require applicants to provide a personal guarantee, which means they are on the hook personally if they default on the debt. And if they are personally liable, it also means that debt can appear on their personal credit reports. Most small business cards do not appear on the owner’s personal credit unless they default, with the exception of Capital One which reports all activity.’s Director of Consumer Education wrote about in Capital One Credit Reporting Causes New Problems for Small Businesses.

  • Gerri Detweiler

    Yuck. Do you have any documentation from your insurance company that it was their mistake? Have you tried talking to the collection agency to see if they will remove it given the circumstances?

    • bocajim

      Well, all but have one has cleared my balance, and one is still reviewing the case. One issue I have with even the ones that cleared my balance is It still shows I was in collections but listed a Paid with 0$ balance. I would prefer they we never listed there at all. I’ve been told they don’t really effect my credit?

  • Gerri Detweiler

    Generally my understanding is that it is difficult to sue furnishers – the companies that supply credit report data. If they were aware of the mistake, however, and did not fix it as required by law. you may have a case, depending on the facts and circumstances. If you want to pursue it, I would recommend you talk with a consumer law attorney who can help you understand your options. If you think their procedures for reporting information are sloppy you may want to file a complaint against them with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau instead.

  • Gerri Detweiler

    That’s a great question! You can put all three in your letter if you are very clear in that letter. What kinds of mistakes did you find?

  • Lori

    Long story short…. I short sold my home 2 1/2 years ago. My lenders changed from First Horizon to Metlife then Nationstar. On my credit report it states that I have a foreclosure from First Horizon. And a paid foreclosure from Nationstar. Come to find out MetLife bought all First Horixon loans and put forclosures on all their customers credit report. MetLife is no longer in business. How do I get this off my credit report?

    • Credit Experts contributor Michael Bovee wrote about a similar issue in this post (the most similar scenario is toward the bottom). Please let us know what happens.

      Credit Report Double Jeopardy Means Double Damage

  • Gerri Detweiler

    What do you mean by a U.D.? An unlawful detainer? It is true that you have the right to dispute any item that is incorrect or incomplete. I’d recommend you do so in writing to fully protect your rights. Follow the steps in this article and if it is not corrected you can. file a complaint with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.

  • Gerri Detweiler

    Ryan – so sorry I didn’t see your question when you submitted it. This is a tough one. Your best bet would be to get the hospital to pull it back from collections and let them pay you directly. If you can do that it should be removed from your credit reports. Reader Stops Mysterious Medical Bill From Damaging Her Credit

    Perhaps you can send them a certified letter explaining what happened and asking them politely to pull it back from collections. If they won’t, you could complain to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, the BBB and your state consumer protection office. (I think you’ll have a tough time trying to get the collection agency to fix it. All they know is that you owe this bill and they need to collect it.)


    I have question i have dispued some negatives itmes on my credit with experian they have completed the investigation in jan 2014 experian removed two items from my credit report but others still on my credit report and when i tried to dispute again experian says they have investigated this item previously they will not investigate again i told them itsm on my credit they are not accurate like ( balance, date open, date of last payment, date of first delinquency) but they did not help me for dispute my question is how can i dispute the items or anything else i can do to remove them ……….. THANKS

    • Gerri Detweiler

      If the items are wrong and were not corrected, you have two options – escalate or talk with a consumer law attorney. See points 5 & 6 in my article above.

  • Gerri Detweiler

    We’ve written about several of your questions in other articles: Will Paying an Old Debt Hurt My Credit Scores? and this one: Debt Collectors Killing Your Credit? Here’s What to Do. I’d suggest you start there, and if you still have additional questions we will do our best to try to point you in the right direction.

  • Tramiane

    Hi Gerri,

    I have a question regarding inquiries. I noticed I have a few inquiries on my credit report from experian that I did not request on my behalf when seeking credit. I have no idea where they are coming from and it is getting ffrustrating trying to dispute them. Can you offer any advice on how I can dispute these items and get them off all of my credit reports expeditiously. Thanks.

    • Gerri Detweiler

      Are they listed as promotional inquiries? If so then those are for prescreened offers and they don’t affect your credit scores. This article may help: Should You Be Worried About Credit Report Inquiries?

      If that’s not the case, feel free to clarify.

  • Gerri Detweiler

    What do you mean you disputed a debt from 9 years ago? Is it on your credit reports or are they trying to collect from you? Were you contacted by the original creditor or a third party collection agency?

  • cindy

    Hi, some has gone by, was this resolved in your favor? I hope so, Thank you.

  • Gerda

    Good Morning, I’m wondering if you could help with an issue on my husbands credit report. We tried to apply for a farm loan and were told they could only pull my Equifax report and that his does not show any entries for at least 7 years and it does not show a FICO score. We thought there was a problem on the lenders end and tried it at our own bank. We were sitting with the bank manager and she tried to pull the credit record, no entries nor a score there either. We ended up ordering a report and found that all newer entries, as car payments, mortgage, student loan, and credit cards come up in the “dispute” section but not in the actual credit history. This is very damaging for us and attempts to resolve it with Equifax have not lead to any luck, they don’t understand what our problem is.

    • Gerri Detweiler

      Gerda – Has your husband disputed those accounts? If not, then I would suggest you file a complaint with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.

  • Dave

    I have disputed an AT&T collection account on my credit report. I haven’t had an AT&T account since 2006. The collection was open in 2009. Once I disputed it, the collection agency itself contacted me to help verify the collection. Why would they do that and should I respond? Is this normal? I thought they had to confirm all details to the credit bureau. Any help is greatly appreciated.

    • Gerri Detweiler

      If you haven’t had an account since 2006 then I have a hard time imagining how this could legally be reported now. Collection accounts may be reported for 7.5 years from the date you first fell behind with the original creditor leading up to it being placed for collection. When the collection agency acquired it is not relevant. In addition it is likely outside the state statute of limitations (but you’ll want to check).

      The collection agency may have been checking to see if they had the right person – or maybe they want to try to collect. I’d say talk to them but don’t hand out a lot of details. Just tell them you want them to send you written verification of the debt, including when this debt supposedly was incurred. It’s your right under federal law to get that information.

      Will you let us know what happens next?

      • Dave

        Sure thing and thank you for your quick response.

      • Dave

        Great news, just received confirmation from TransUnion that the collection account was removed from my credit report. I had not had the chance to respond to collection agency either.

  • Greg

    Quick question: If a debt is being reported as a “charge off” and the bank acknowledges that it is not collectible under state law, can it be reported with a balance due or must it be reported with a zero balance?

    • Gerri Detweiler

      I consulted with attorney Robert Brennan at Socal Credit Damage and here’s what he said:

      There is no law that requires the bank to report it as “zero balance”. As a practical matter, some people, either voluntarily or involuntarily, make payments on stale debts, which payments then re-start the statute of limitations for the debt. So, the bank is within its rights to report the balance even if the debt is past the statute of limitations. My advice to the consumer would be NOT to make any payments because that would re-start the statute of limitations on the entire debt.

  • Gerri Detweiler

    Glad we could help and sorry it wasn’t the answer you were hoping for! However, do keep in mind that as negative information gets older it has less impact on your score provided everything is then paid on time.

  • Gerri Detweiler

    Have you tried calling TransUnion to discuss with someone there? If you do, be sure to take good notes of your conversation. Let us know what they say.

  • Gerri Detweiler

    That’s crazy!

  • Gerri Detweiler

    Chapter 7 bankruptcies are reported for ten years from the date of filing, not the date of discharge. You can certainly dispute the incorrect information. If it is not confirmed it will be removed. More likely, it will be updated but you never know. Make sure you keep good records of your dispute.

  • Gerri Detweiler

    Charge-offs can remain for 7 years from the date they were charged off. i agree it’s not clear from what you sent. Contact Equifax and ask them to clarify it then let us know what they say.

  • Gerri Detweiler

    It’s not uncommon for a credit card issuer to refuse to open an account for someone who has defaulted previously. If they won’t work with you, perhaps you need to consider another secured card.

  • Gerri Detweiler

    It’s very tough to get charge offs that are accurate removed. It would be entirely at the good will of the issuer, and I can’t personally recall an instance where that has happened. You can certainly try, but if you aren’t successful, you may be better off focusing on rebuilding your credit, which you can do even though this is on your credit report.

  • Credit Experts

    No, they should not be reporting this. Have you tried sending them copies of documents (such as your birth certificate) to verify your age? If not, consider sending letters by registered mail to all three credit reporting agencies explaining that you were not yet 18 when the debt was incurred, and enclosing documentation that supports what you are telling them.

    And then check to make sure the changes were made. If they were not, you can file a report with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau or, if need be, talk with a consumer law attorney.

    You may also find the information in this post useful:
    Medical Bills and Minors: What You Need to Know

  • Gerri Detweiler

    CT – you can either talk with a consumer law attorney (visit as you may have a credit damage case, or you can file a complaint with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.

  • Credit Experts

    It shouldn’t happen, but it’s not as uncommon as we wish it were. We addressed the problem (and what to do) here:
    Credit Report Double Jeopardy Means Double Damage

  • Gerri Detweiler

    They should be! I’d recommend you check your credit report in a month or so to make sure. I also recommend you keep track of your credit scores just to make sure one of these deleted accounts doesn’t reappear. Here’s how to monitor your credit score for free.

  • Gerri Detweiler

    Wow. That is a situation I have never encountered. I’m going to have to ask my contacts at the bureaus about it.

  • Gerri Detweiler

    Are you asking how to rebuild your credit after bankruptcy? If so, this article should help:
    How to Rebuild Your Credit After Bankruptcy

  • Gerri Detweiler

    I don’t understand what the error is, but if it is wrong and you can’t get it removed then you can either file a complaint with the CFPB or talk with a consumer law attorney who is familiar with credit report disputes. You may have a case for credit damage.

  • Credit Experts

    Kathi —
    How long ago was this? It’s possible that the bill is no longer collectable or reportable. You can find more information in these posts:
    Does Your Old Debt Have an Expiration Date?
    Statute of Limitations On Debt Collection by State

  • Amanda

    Would providing my bank statement that I paid my debt with Powell Rodgers & speaks be enough proof?
    They aren’t responding to me at all.
    Or would paying someone to sort all this out for me be the better route?

    • Credit Experts

      Who is they? You can get your credit reports corrected by going to the credit bureaus.

  • Credit Experts

    Amanda —
    If your goal is to get the credit reports corrected, you can dispute the error in your credit report and show the credit reporting bureaus your bank statement or canceled check. Once you have filed a dispute, they must do an investigation and resolve it..

  • Amanda

    I reported the problem on my credit report.
    Now it shows as the account is open and now that I owe the balance.
    What should I do now
    Did I just screwed myself over?
    Did my money that I paid just disappear?

    • Gerri Detweiler

      Amanda – If you have proof you paid the debt and they are reporting it as unpaid you may have a case for credit damage. You can talk with a consumer law attorney, or if you don’t want to go that route, file a complaint with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.

  • Credit Experts

    The statement of dispute should be removed automatically when the dispute process is done. You can also contact the credit bureau in question and ask that the dispute statement be removed once the dispute process was completed.

  • legw

    I had a financial hardship after having my first son, I fell behind on all my credit cards which resulted in one collector taking me to court. The collector didnt show and the court ruled in my favor and dismissed the debt. After trying to get it removed to improve my credit score they reopened the case. I filled out hardship forms and we was to return to court in one year a month later they charge ofg the acct. Can the original judgement from the court stand?

    • Michael Bovee

      I am not sure I fully understand what happened here. If I have it correct, you were sued, but that case was dismissed. You were then sued again for the same debt, showed up on court, but had no money to pay, and the court said lets look at your case in a year?

      Look in the court record at that second case. See if a summary judgment was entered. Also look in the records to see what the last entry was for the first case. Does it show a dismissal?

      If your courts records are not free on line, you can often get a helpful clerk on the phone to help you get the details you need.

  • Gerri Detweiler

    I don’t think it’s necessary.

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