The three major credit reporting agencies, TransUnion, Equifax and Experian, handle the credit reports of nearly all American consumers. With hundreds of millions of reports to track, mistakes are bound to happen. Under the Fair Credit Reporting Act, credit card companies and other lenders, along with the credit bureaus, have a responsibility to correct errors and flesh out incomplete information.
Length of Time
The credit reporting agencies have 30 to 45 days to respond to your request after they receive a dispute letter from you. This response can be a mere acknowledgement of your case and a promise to investigate the matter. After this, the agencies generally have another 90 days to look into the dispute and take action. If the item is found accurate, they must send you evidence of that. If it isn't accurate, they must stop reporting the negative credit information.
You must follow a specific process when disputing an item on your credit report such as a missed payment or a lender-closed account. The first step is to reach out to the lender involved and the credit bureau that is reporting the incorrect item. To get a free copy of your credit report, you can use AnnualCreditReport.com, which the credit agencies maintain. Call the agency involved to get the dispute process going and follow up with a letter stating the item you are challenging. Include your credit report, with the incorrect debt marked, and supporting evidence such as copies of paid bills.
With the initial 45 days the credit bureaus have to acknowledge the request, the 90 days they are given to investigate it and the subsequent amount of time to stop reporting the inaccuracy, the information could remain on your report for up to six months. Remaining in contact with the lender and credit agency can help speed up this process.
If the negative information on your report is accurate, the item may remain on your report far longer. Bad debts, missed payments and lender-closed accounts will remain on your report for no more than seven years. It is possible to appeal the length of time these items remain by contacting the credit reporting agencies.
Based in Eugene, Ore., Duncan Jenkins has been writing finance-related articles since 2008. His specialties include personal finance advice, mortgage/equity loans and credit management. Jenkins obtained his bachelor's degree in English from Clark University.