There are many reasons why you might need to call a credit bureau — to dispute an error on your credit report, to notify them of identity theft, to freeze your credit, etc. It may seem like a daunting (and frankly, impossible) task.
First, you have to hunt down the credit bureau’s contact information, then you have to make it through the dreaded automated customer service purgatory to reach an actual person, if it’s even possible to get a live person at all.
“A lot of people are afraid to call credit bureaus because they don’t want to get bogged down in bureaucracy or be on hold for hours,” says Zara Mohidin, co-founder of Fig Loans. In addition, there’s often confusion about what answers credit bureaus can provide and when it’s necessary to call a bureau.
To help you wade through all of the uncertainty, we asked finance industry and credit experts to provide some insight on these topics. We’re going to give you the contact information for the three biggest credit bureaus, explain how to talk to a credit bureau, how to freeze your credit with each, the pros and cons for freezing an account, and how best to improve your credit.
Read on and decide if freezing your credit is the best choice for your situation. If you want a company to monitor your credit report, you can work with one Credit.com’s trusted partners, CreditRepair.com. They offer credit monitoring, credit repair services, and text alerts so you don’t miss a thing.
Contact Information: Equifax, TransUnion, and Experian
To begin with, it’s important to understand that there are three major credit bureaus, and each is required by law to provide consumers with a toll-free number that’s staffed during regular business hours. The credit bureau phone numbers for each of the credit bureaus are listed below:
You might, however, need to contact them outside of the traditional business hours — or you might want to bypass the automated response — and you can. Here’s the contact information for each bureau, if you want to talk to an actual person:
- Equifax—Call 888-202-4025 and press number 6 (if you’re calling about a personal credit report) and this will connect you with a customer service representative.
- TransUnion—Call 800-916-8800, press 4, then press 2, and this will connect you with a live person. To freeze your account, you can call 888-909-8872. The TransUnion dispute customer service line is the same number as listed above (800-916-8800).
- Experian—Call 714-830-7000 and provide the 10-number digit on your Experian credit report. Once you’ve done this, you’ll be connected to an Experian customer service representative.
Another easy way to determine how long you’ll be waiting and the best time to call one of the bureaus is to visit GetHuman and search the company.
When to Call a Credit Bureau
It’s a good idea to contact a credit bureau whenever you notice any administrative inaccuracies on your credit report, such as misspelled names, incorrect address information, unreported salary changes, or erroneous employment information. Here are other reasons why you might need to call a credit bureau:
- If there are unrecognized credit cards, collections, missed payments, or anything else on your report that you don’t recognize. Note: if you are in credit disputes with your credit card issuer or financial institution, you can (and should) address this with the credit bureaus who are required to investigate.
- If you want to get a hard inquiry removed from your history, especially if it is an unauthorized inquiry (which can affect your credit score negatively).
- If an account is missing from your report.
- If you want to remove collection accounts from your report (keep in mind: if you can’t dispute this successfully, this can stay on your account for up to seven years).
- If you want to request a free annual credit report. However, you can only request a copy once every 12 months from each of the bureaus (unless you pay a fee for additional requests). You may want to compare the three reports to see which one(s) are accurate or stagger your requests to track your credit changes (an Equifax credit report, after all, isn’t the same as an Experian credit report, or a TransUnion credit report).
“Always call the bureaus if you notice a sign of fraud on your credit report,” urges Mohidin, who says one in four consumers have an error on their report that could be pulling their credit score down. “And getting your identifying information correct is important so that you are rewarded for on-time credit payments.”
Under the Fair Credit Reporting Act, credit bureaus must investigate any items you dispute and correct the information if it can’t be verified.
“If you disagree with the results of a credit bureau’s investigation, you can ask the bureau to include a consumer statement (to that effect) in your file and your future reports,” explains Freddie Huynh, vice president of credit risk analytics at Freedom Financial Network. These statements allow you to offer an additional explanation, such as why you missed a payment in the hopes that they will remove it.
Additional Reasons to Call
Keep in mind that correcting inaccuracies with one of the bureaus does not mean it will automatically be corrected by the others. It’s important to review the individual reports of all three credit agencies. We know, this is a pain, but it will be worth it in the long run.
Huynh, who was previously the lead data scientist at FICO, stresses that though information is largely similar across all the credit reporting agencies, there can be variations between the reports. This is true of your credit score, too. Though they will provide similar scores, all three may vary. You can view your credit score for free at Credit.com.
In addition, when disputing something on your report, the burden of proof is on you, says Greg Oray, president of Oray King Wealth Advisors. “Gather any documents that may help your case and have them available,” says Oray. “If you’re having trouble working with a representative or the reporting bureau to resolve your case, consider hiring a legal service that specializes in these matters.”
Before Calling, Here’s What You Need
You want to have the right information on hand when you get ahold of a credit bureau. It’s never fun to say, “hold on,” as you dig through your documents, only to come up empty-handed — and then be asked to call back when you’re ready. Prepare yourself, by collecting the following information, in advance of your call to a credit bureau number:
- Your name, address, Social Security number, and date of birth
- A copy of your annual credit report
- Evidence of the inaccuracies or errors, if relevant
- Personal financial information, such as your mortgage information, may be needed, depending on the reported issue
Knowing When to Freeze Your Credit
If you’d like to freeze your credit, you’ll have no choice but to speak to the credit bureaus. Understanding what it means to freeze your credit is critical, particularly in light of the recent Equifax security breach in 2017 that exposed the personal information of millions of consumers.
A credit freeze, also called a credit lock, or security freeze, is a tool that restricts access to your credit report. Taking this step makes it far more challenging for identity thieves to open new accounts in your name.
Why should you freeze your credit? Obviously there are many perks to freezing your credit, as mentioned, though there are many downsides as well (which we’ll explain later on). But what reasons would you have for requesting a freeze?
- Somebody has tried to access your Social Security number and/or personal accounts. Freezing your account can help prevent them from using your SSN to make financial moves.
- You want to do more than just put a “fraud alert” on your record (which you can do). Similar to notifying a credit card company that you’re going on a trip, putting a “fraud alert,” on your account will hopefully notify credit bureaus to look out for fraudulent activity on your credit history (but often, creditors ignore this). Unfortunately, this doesn’t actually prevent fraudulent behavior. A credit freeze ensures that nobody can access your credit report (with the exception of the financial institutions that you’re a customer of, as well as the agencies themselves, and collection agencies).
How to Freeze Your Credit
“Placing a credit freeze is similar to putting your credit cards in a bowl of water in the freezer — no one can use the credit until you ‘thaw’ it,” explains Andrew Housser, CEO of Freedom Financial Network. “With a credit freeze, creditors cannot see your credit history. If a scammer tries to open credit in your name, the creditor is unlikely to issue credit without knowing the history attached to your name and Social Security number.”
However, it’s important to note that freezing credit requires contacting each of the three credit bureaus separately (which is why we’ve provided credit bureau phone numbers above). Because each bureau has a slightly different credit history, you’ll have to contact all three, and when you want to unfreeze your credit, you’ll have to contact them all over again.
Freezing Credit with Equifax
Equifax provides detailed instructions about how to place, temporarily lift, or entirely remove a freeze on its site.
Consumers may request a freeze in writing or over the phone. You can request a security freeze by calling 800-685-1111 (NY residents call 800-349-9960) or submit your request in writing to the following address:
Equifax Security Freeze
PO Box 105788
Atlanta, GA 30348
Putting a freeze on your account, or lifting one, requires some personal information, including your Social Security number, address, and more.
It’s also important to note that as part of initiating an Equifax freeze, you will be provided with a PIN during the process. This PIN will not be emailed to you, so make sure you write it down.
Freezing Credit with TransUnion
You can freeze your credit with TransUnion via their website. TransUnion offers two different services on this front — locking your credit and freezing your credit.
Locking your credit via TransUnion is a process controlled by you, and there is no fee. You have instant, independent control over who accesses your credit information. This approach also means you have online, real-time ability to lock and unlock your account as often as you want.
Freezing your credit file with TransUnion means the credit agency controls who has access to your information. There are fees associated with both freezing and unfreezing your credit with TransUnion. The fees range, depending on where you live, if you’re a victim of identity theft or not, and if you’re older than 65 years old. In addition, there is a waiting period for a freeze to be either placed or lifted via this approach. If you’re not sure you want to talk a credit bureau over the phone, you can send your request by mail. Here’s the address:
P.O. Box 2000
Chester, PA 19016
Freezing Credit with Experian
Experian provides an online form to initiate a credit freeze on its website. You can also freeze your credit by calling the credit Experian phone number at 888-397-3742 or sending certified or overnight mail to this address:
Experian Security Freeze
P.O. Box 9554
Allen, TX 75013
While this bureau doesn’t charge victims of identity theft who’d like to initiate a freeze, there are fees for others seeking to take this step with their credit. The fees vary by state of residence and range from about $3–$10. If you don’t want to lift a freeze, you could provide a temporary single-use pin to a company.
Frequently Asked Questions: Credit Freezes and Credit Reports
- My credit score has changed and I’m worried about it. What do I do?
You have a few options. If you’ve contacted the credit bureau agencies, you can work on rebuilding (or increasing) your credit score. This takes time and persistent effort on your part, but you can start by:
- Setting up automatic payments
- Paying your credit card balances off in full
- Becoming an authorized user on another’s person’s account such as a spouse’s
- Getting credit for your monthly rent check (which you should be paying on time, as well)
- Opening a credit card that can help you build credit quickly
- Are there companies that can help me write a dispute and fix my credit score?
Yes, there are credit repair companies willing to assist with credit repair and finding/fixing issues or errors on your credit report. We recommend using CreditRepair.com, one of our trusted partners. They have more than 15 years of experience in credit repair and can work with you to increase your score and fix your report.
- What is the difference between a hard and soft inquiry?
Credit inquiries are separated into two categories: hard or soft inquiries. A hard inquiry can impact your credit score negatively (and involves more information), whereas soft inquiries cannot. Have you ever received pre-qualified credit card information in the mail? That company pulled a soft inquiry.
- How long do negative issues stay on my credit history?
It depends on the information, but if its a late payment or debt collection information, it will stay on your report for seven years. That being said, all other information will stay on your report for 10 years as well, unless the account is still active (i.e. checking account).
- What is the goal of the credit bureau agency?
Although contacting a credit bureau can be stressful, the agency itself just wants to help you maintain (and build) good credit. The agency’s job is to help you by investigating issues or disputes and fixing them, if possible.
- Why do errors occur on credit reports?
Although there isn’t a specific reason why, errors often occur because the wrong information is exchanged. This could mean that something was written incorrectly on an application or a mistake was made by a financial institution and that is reported to the credit bureau, before it was fixed or removed. It’s up to you to check your credit and ensure that all of the information is correct.
Everything You Need to Know About Credit Freezes
When initiating a freeze, keep in mind that lenders need credit reports to determine if you’re eligible for credit. So if you intend to apply for an auto loan, a credit card, or a personal loan, you will not be able to do so until after the freeze is lifted. After your credit is frozen, no one can pull your credit report. That means it won’t be possible to get approved for a loan or credit card in your name.
The good news: Credit freezes, however, do not affect your overall credit scores in any way and they will not prevent you from accessing an annual credit report.
The bad news: While a credit freeze can keep identity thieves from opening new accounts in your name, it does not prevent thieves from using your existing accounts. So it’s important to keep monitoring your credit and accounts to prevent identity theft.
An easy way to do this: set up notifications for changes in your account. Some financial institutions (including credit card companies) will notify you if there is unusual behavior on your account. Some automatically freeze your account, which is why it’s important to notify them if you are traveling somewhere, if they suspect something, but it’s always best to keep track yourself.
The Downsides to Freezing Your Credit
We’ve already mentioned the obvious downside: you can’t apply for a loan, a credit card, or anything else that requires a pull of your credit report, while under a credit freeze. However, there are other drawbacks to freezing your credit:
- Even if your credit is frozen, your existing accounts can be compromised. If you’ve lost a credit card, you should contact the credit card company (as well as the credit bureaus, if you’re concerned this has affected your score).
- If you want to lift a credit freeze, it takes time. You can’t expect your credit to be lifted right away, so if you are going to be applying for credit, request for a lift far in advance.
- Freezing and lifting a freeze can cost you money.
Alternatives to Calling Credit Bureaus
Not all experts think calling a credit bureau is the best approach. Don Petersen, an attorney at Howard Lewis & Peterson, PC in Utah, recommends calling a bureau for only basic administrative questions — such as updating an address or asking if you have been affected by a recent data breach.
So if you’re not calling, how do you contact credit bureaus? For most other issues (outside of administrative issues), Petersen advises his clients to write to credit bureaus or submit disputes online. Why?
“The consumer will not have a record of what was said when they called,” explains Petersen. “Most consumers struggle to understand the system and would be much better served by taking the time to memorialize their dispute in writing and, obviously, save a copy of their letter.”
If you do prefer to call a credit bureau to get to the bottom of a question or concern more quickly, Petersen urges consumers to follow up in writing after the telephone conversation, so make sure you take notes during the call. In your follow-up letter, you should include the name of the representative you spoke with in the letter as well as details of what transpired in your conversation.
And finally, send the letter via certified mail with a return receipt requested, Petersen instructs. Again, you want to make sure you have records of everything.
“Call with very simple questions,” Petersen says. “But if you’re trying to initiate a dispute, it’s best to do it in writing so that you have a record.”
Tracking Your Credit
Every now and then, pull your credit report and review it carefully to make sure it’s accurate and there aren’t signs of fraudulent behavior or unauthorized pulls. Look for any inaccuracies or other issues in the report, and if you spot something unusual, make a few calls using the contact information above to get in touch with the credit bureaus. Always investigate suspicious activity on your credit report, and if you’re worried about identity theft, mitigate the issue with a well-placed credit freeze.
Now that you have a better understanding of credit reports, how to talk to credit bureaus, and when to freeze your credit, go check your credit score and make sure everything looks right. It’s important to track your score, so you can improve your credit. The higher your credit, the better. If you’re struggling to keep your credit score up, consider contacting CreditRepair.com, our trusted partner* and get on the right track to achieving your financial goals.
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