Errors on your credit report can be disconcerting. Not only could they be unduly weighing down your credit scores, they could be a sign of a deeper issue — identity theft. Given these and other potential pitfalls, it’s understandable that a person dealing with errors would want to see their credit report disputes addressed as quickly as possible.
Of course, these disputes can take some time to go through the proper channels. Recently we’ve heard from a few commenters who were wondering how long they should expect to wait for their results and what they could do if those results never seemed to materialize. Here’s a comment from one of them, lightly edited for grammar and clarity.
“I submitted a dispute. The creditor responded to the bureau ‘dispute, consumer disagrees,’ yet I’m still waiting to hear the results of their investigation. They sent a letter indicating I would hear from them by 08/01/2016, but I’ve received nothing. What are my options to address this?”
The Timeline of a Dispute
Federal law generally gives credit reporting agencies 30 days to investigate a customer’s formal claim that something is wrong on their credit reports. There are some instances where that timeframe can be extended to 45 days — for instance, if you file a dispute after receiving your free annual credit report at AnnualCreditReport.com. But in either event, the bureau has five business days to respond once that investigation is complete. Creditors are subject to the same timeline when you contact them and formally dispute something.
Both parties will provide written notification regarding their decision — but by what channel this notice arrives can vary slightly depending on how you filed your dispute and who you’re dealing with.
For instance, per a representative from Equifax, if the dispute was initiated by phone or by mail, it will mail a hard copy of the results to the consumer. This paperwork typically “consists of a multiple-page letter, explaining the results of the dispute investigation,” they wrote in an email. “If the dispute was initiated online, the consumer will receive an email with a link to view an electronic copy of the results of the investigation.”
TransUnion follows a similar modus operandi. They provide results via snail mail to people who file disputes the same way or over the phone. And they send email notifications to consumers who initiated disputes via its online form, once their results are available. These consumers can also log in online to check the status along the way, a representative for the credit bureau said in an email.
A representative for Experian said customers can track and view their dispute results on www.experian.com/dispute.
Creditors’ methods for providing written notification can similarly vary by company.
What to Do If You Don’t Receive Your Results
Of course, even the best laid plans can go awry sometimes — things get lost in the mail, emails get eaten by spam filters, life gets in the way and someone simply doesn’t follow up on their inquiry. (As another commenter wrote, “I have a dispute … from the beginning of the year, and the time expired for me to view the results. How do I get the result? I have the dispute confirmation number but can’t access on the website. My husband had a kidney transplant, and that took precedence over everything!”)
If you’re dealing with a credit bureau, you should try contacting them directly. You can reach Equifax via phone at (866) 349-5191; and call TransUnion at 1-800-916-8800. Per its website, Experian can be reached at the number on your credit report.
You can contact a creditor directly, too, in an attempt to troubleshoot. You can also get a copy of your credit report to see if the item has been removed or not, said Nessa Feddis, senior vice president and deputy chief counsel at the American Bankers Association. (You can pull your credit reports for free each year on AnnualCreditReport.com and see your credit scores, along with a credit report summary, for free each month on Credit.com.) And, if you went through digital channels but haven’t heard back, it may be worth sending your creditor a written letter by mail about the dispute. (You can go here to learn what that dispute letter should entail.)
“If you’re afraid you didn’t get a response, check your fraud filters or find an alternative channel,” Feddis said.