Get Smart About Credit: Disputing Errors on Your Credit Report

Financial freedom begins with a simple yet powerful act: getting smart about credit.

As you may know from our Understanding Personal Credit Scores blog, credit scores are a crucial aspect of your finances. This three-digit number can impact everything from your eligibility to borrow money to how landlords (or potential employers) view you as a candidate. Sometimes, accidents happen, and credit reporting bureaus make a mistake in calculating your score. How can you clear things up while protecting your personal credit?

Origin Bank’s trusted advisors are here to help you understand how to dispute errors and pave the way for accurate credit reporting.


Accessing your credit report

From buying power to housing options, your credit score affects your financial status. And it’s all based on the content of your credit reports. That’s why it’s so important to make sure the information they contain is accurate. But what exactly are credit reports, and how can you access them?

These comprehensive records of your financial history encompass personal details and credit-related information such as payment history and bankruptcy filings. It’s all compiled and maintained by the three major credit bureaus: Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion.

According to the Federal Trade Commission, you have the right to free annual copies of your credit report from each of the three major credit bureaus. And until December 2023, anyone can get a free weekly credit report each week from the bureaus at


Reviewing your credit report

Experts recommend you review your credit reports at least once a year, especially before you apply for a loan, insurance, or a new job. This financial practice isn’t just about polishing your credit score – it can also help you spot signs of identity theft.

When thieves commit identity theft, they illegally use your name, address, credit card, or bank information to commit crimes. They may open fraudulent accounts in your name or make big-ticket purchases. And when they neglect to pay the bills, these activities are marked on your credit report as unpaid or delinquent. If you don’t catch these mistakes and report them as errors, they can damage your credit and your reputation.

So, what errors and red flags should you look out for?

1. Identity errors. From a misspelled name to an incorrect address or phone number, look out for identity errors. If unexpected accounts or retail credit cards appear on your report, it could signal identity theft or an administrative mistake. Occasionally, credit reports inaccurately blend data from individuals with similar or identical names.

2. Duplication errors. After a closer look, you may notice that a single debt appears multiple times in your report. This can happen when creditors or lenders merge or change names. It might be attributed to different names or creditors, so make sure to review all the details carefully.

3. Balance errors. Typical balance errors include incorrect amounts or credit limits. Your credit card's reported limit might be higher or lower than the actual limit.

4. Account errors. Accounts might be incorrectly marked as open or closed. Payment history inaccuracies could label on-time payments as late or delinquent, and date errors may affect account opening/closing dates and payment timelines. Additionally, your account role might be listed inaccurately, marking you as an authorized user instead of the primary account holder or vice versa.


Disputing your credit report

Found an error on your credit report? You can fix the mistake by filing a dispute with the credit bureau that recorded the error. While the reporting process is free, it can be time-consuming. Here’s how to get the ball rolling:

1. Identify the error: Review your credit report and identify any mistakes.

2. Dispute with the relevant credit bureau: Dispute the error with each credit bureau that contains the mistake. Write a letter explaining what you believe is incorrect and include any supporting documents. Use the credit bureau's dispute form if available.

● For Equifax, mail your letter to Equifax Information Services LLC / P.O. Box 740256 / Atlanta, GA 30374

● For Experian, mail the form with your letter to Experian / P.O. Box 4500 / Allen, TX 75013

● For TransUnion, mail your letter to TransUnion LLC Consumer Dispute Center / P.O. Box 2000 / Chester, PA 19016

3. Compose a detailed letter: In your letter, request that the credit bureau remove or correct the inaccurate or incomplete information. Make sure to include your complete name and address and a copy of your credit report with the errors highlighted. Clearly specify each mistake, explain why it should be corrected, and attach copies of supporting documents.

4. Send certified mail: Send your dispute letter by certified mail and request a "return receipt" to confirm receipt by the credit bureau.

5. Maintain careful records: Keep copies of everything you send, including your dispute letter, documents, and receipts.

6. Follow up online or by phone: If you are worried about mail fraud and don’t want to mail a physical letter, you can submit disputes online or by phone to the credit bureaus:

Experian: (888) 397-3742

TransUnion: (800) 916-8800

Equifax: (866) 349-5191

Note that the credit bureau has 30 days to investigate your dispute. If the credit bureau deems your request as "frivolous" or "irrelevant," they will stop investigating but must notify you and provide a reason. You may need to provide additional evidence.

If they move forward with an investigation of your case, the credit bureau will forward the evidence you provided to the business that reported the information. The business must in turn investigate and report the results to the credit bureau. If the business confirms the information is inaccurate, it must notify all three nationwide credit bureaus for correction.

Afterward, the credit bureau must mail you the investigation results in writing. If the dispute results in a change, you'll receive a free copy of your credit report. (This doesn't count as your free annual credit report.)

If you request it, the credit bureau must send correction notices to anyone who accessed your report in the past six months, or the past two years for employment purposes.

By keeping a close eye on your credit score and reports, you can prevent or resolve reporting errors and keep your credit healthy. Have more questions about credit scores and maintaining positive financial health? Contact a trusted advisor at Origin today.