Credit Report Disputes Credit Score

What Items Can I Dispute On My Credit Report?

Erica Sandberg
Written by Erica Sandberg

Something horrible is being reported about you and you want it gone. It’s holding you back from getting the things you want and deserve, including meeting your personal goal of joining or remaining in the esteemed 800 Club. No surprise it’s the most frequently asked question here. After all, to reach such a score, you’ll not only need a considerable amount of positive data listed on your credit reports, you can’t have anything on them that’s negative either.

When you spot a wart that’s marring the beauty of your rating, your initial instinct may be to slice it off by filing a dispute with the credit reporting agency. But can you? That depends on the kind of ugly information that’s showing up.

The fact is, you can only use the credit report dispute system under specific circumstances. I assure you, simply wanting something purged is not reason enough. Not by a long shot.

So here are the items that you can legitimately dispute and then have removed from your consumer credit report. Once deleted, your scores will escalate.

Erroneous information

According to the Fair Credit Reporting Act, a federal law, a person’s credit report can only list accurate and timely information. However it’s not uncommon for mistakes to show up, and some of them will shave vital points from your credit score. Read through your credit report carefully and make sure everything is as it should be. If you see anything that’s incorrect, you can (and should) dispute it. These may include:

  • Fraudulent accounts. If you’re a victim of identity theft, a crook could have taken out cards and loans in your name.
  • Inaccurate balances. This can also be a sign of fraudulent activity.
  • Satisfied accounts that are showing up as outstanding.
  • Payments noted as late when you paid on time.
  • Accounts that were falsely sent to collections.
  • Incorrect personal ID data. (Mind that identification is not a credit scoring factor, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t set the record straight.)
  • Inquiries you didn’t make. Hard pulls for credit products are scoring factors, so if it looks like someone has attempted to take out a loan or credit card in your name, even if they weren’t successful, it’s eligible for dispute.

Just think: did I do this? Is it correct? If not, go forth and dispute.

Accounts that should have aged off

Even if the negative information on your report is true, in most cases there is a set time frame where it can remain on your credit report.

Satisfied judgments can stay for five years from the date it was filed.

Most other information may remain for seven years, including:

  • Late payments
  • Charge-offs (a notation that the creditor remove the debt from its books), accounts that were sent to collection agencies
  • Chapter 13 bankruptcy (from the date of filing)
  • Monetary judgments from civil lawsuits that are showing up in the public records section of your report.

A Chapter 7 bankruptcy will remain for ten years from the filing date.

If these time frames have run and they’re still haunting your reports, you can use the dispute system to nudge them off.

Duplicate information

While this doesn’t happen very often, sometimes accurate accounts are listed more than once. When they are, it might appear that you owe double what you really do, and that will surely affect your score.

Student loans are the biggest culprit because they are sold and resold many times through their lifespan and mix-ups do happen. Collection accounts can be troublesome too. If it appears that your debt is listed twice, it’s eligible for a dispute.

Although you can petition to have the duplicate removed, the one that’s correct will stay until it must be removed by law.

The dispute process

Now that you know what you can dispute, you’re ready to jump in and do it. You have a couple of choices. The first is to go to one of the credit reporting agencies websites and use its online dispute form. It’s fast and easy, but you have to agree to an arbitration clause. That means you give up your option to argue your case in front of a jury if things don’t go your way. Which is why I recommend the second way. Dispute them by mail – as you do not have give up this right. It’s a little more laborious but for extra protection it’s a good idea.

Use the Federal Trade Commission’s letter as a guide. Send it to one of the credit reporting agencies: TransUnion, Experian, or Equifax

Oh, and you don’t have to notify all three credit reporting agencies. You can choose just one and it will alert the others:

P.O. Box 7404256
Atlanta, GA 30374-0256

Dispute Department
P.O. Box 9701
Allen, TX 75013

Consumer Solutions
P.O. Box 2000
Chester, PA 19022-2000

However you file the dispute, the agency has 30 days to investigate. After that you’ll receive notice of the outcome, and hopefully it will be in your favor. The more proof you have that you’re in the right, the better. Some will be easy. Dates don’t lie, so if an item should have aged off six months ago, you’ll probably have no trouble. But if it’s a matter of a collection agency that says you still owe, you may have to provide a lot of supporting documents and really press the matter.

Why go to all that trouble to be in the 800 Club?

Credit scores that are 800 all the way to 850 are the best in class. Achieve it and it shows the business world that you are a credit master. It indicates that you’re an extremely low credit risk. When you are, the very best financial products will be available to you. Want credit cards with the most premium of rewards and loans with incredibly low interest rates? Join the 800 Club. And if that means making the effort to dispute everything that you can, do it. Just don’t try to remove something that must, by law, be there. Either fix the problem or wait it out.

About the author

Erica Sandberg

Erica Sandberg

Erica Sandberg is a freelance editor at large, reporter, and advice columnist covering all things fundamental finance. She’s been KRON-TV’s on-air money and credit expert for over 15 years, and has appeared on virtually every national news show, from Fox to CNN. She hosts Making it with Erica, a video program highlighting ways to live adventurously on any budget.


  • I have been working on my credit report over 7 months now and I am so frustrated at the way its going. Before I started my score was over 620, after I started fixing problems the score dropped down 100 points,,,what’s up with that! I had collections on my report and recently made an agreement of payment with two of them for a payoff and supposed to be taken off my credit report. One account seems to be lost in space, after talking to at least 6 different people, no one can tell me where the account is or went but it still shows on my credit report. I have disputed some of the collections but the creditor does not agree, and I evidently still owe for a bogus charge, especially for a medical bill I do not owe. I have just reported a company to the CFPA for fraudulent charges and victimizing me while taking my rights as a citizen and a consumer, an investigation is going on for the company as well as Equifax and Experian, while Transunion should have also been investigated for allowing a false report on my credit. I am getting an attorney and hopefully someone is going to get sued for causing my integrity and rights to be damaged.
    I am 77 years old and trying to buy a house to live in, while my credit score given, is causing me to be unable to have a place to live. This is wrong and Unconstitutional in this country. My rights have become whatever the credit bureau decides and it does nothing but keep me down along with millions of other people. I will fight this problem as long as I am breathing, hopefully more people will do the same and someone with integrity will step forward.

    • Rule #1 Never talk to a collection agency on the phone. GET IT IN WRITING.
      Rule #2 All communications is written. This is proof of what is agreed too. Everything you want must be in writing. Just because they say their will remove something from a credit report does not mean they will unless you have it in writing. Make sure they agree to not use another classification to screw up your credit report. They say they will remove one thing but they will add another. They are tricky that way.
      Rule #3 Make sure you understand the law. FDCPA, FCRA, Statute of Limitations for the state the debt created in and don’t forget to check state laws for credit reporting, etc.

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