5 Steps to Dispute a Negative Mark on Your Credit Report

One of the best ways to protect consumer credit worthiness is to regularly look over credit reports. However, there are instances when consumers might not like what they see on their credit reports. Negative marks like late payments on a credit report could bring down credit scores and reduce the chances of being approved for a new credit card or loan. Negative information is not always the consumer's fault. Identity theft could be to blame for some negative information or credit inquiries.

With the risk of having a negative mark that could blemish their credit reports, consumers should learn how they may dispute errors or inaccuracies.

1. Review the Credit Report for Errors

First, consumers should request their credit report from one of the three main credit reporting bureaus and verify the personal information on the report as well as the list of creditors. While they might have skimmed over past credit reports, it's important to thoroughly go through the information in this document and look for anything listed incorrectly. This could include credit accounts, judgments and other items that they have not seen before. While going through a credit report, carefully record each error and the reason for the error. If the consumer has documentation to prove the error, that documentation should be collected and attached to the section of the credit report that contains the inaccurate or missing information.

2. Know Who to Contact

After identifying inaccurate information, the next step is to reach out to the creditors and the credit bureau that may have made the mistake, according to the Federal Trade Commission. Negative items, such as an account in collection, may list the creditor in the report.

3. Dispute Online or by Mail

Consumers often report discrepancies with their credit reports online or by mail, Credit.com says. In either case, consumers must tell the creditor or credit bureau specifically what report information they are disputing and provide as much detail as they can to show the reason for the dispute. If the consumer is sending a written letter describing the error, be sure to include the following in the letter:

While credit bureaus have procedures for disputing credit information online, as Credit.com notes, one of the biggest disadvantages to online disputes is that the online form does not include enough space to write a detailed description of the error, and consumers may not be able to provide the documents that will help support their disputes.

4. Include As Much Detail as Possible

Failing to provide enough detail to prove the error is a big mistake. Because there is often inadequate space in online forms, this may prevent consumers from providing enough detail to properly identify evidence of the dispute and prove their right to a correction, according to creditcards.com. Some credit bureaus may reply to a dispute claiming the consumer did not send enough evidence to support their request for a correction. If the online form isn’t good enough for a consumer to explain the error they’ve caught, it may be better to submit the dispute on paper and through the mail.

5. Wait for Investigation

When consumers report a mistake on their credit report to a creditor, the creditor may perform an investigation into the matter, which usually takes between 30 and 45 days. Once it looks at the case and decides to update your credit report, the creditor will then remove or revise the item on your report.