How to Dispute Credit Inquiries
Credit inquiries are requests by legitimate businesses like rental car companies, cell phone providers, or property managers to check your credit history. Businesses make credit inquiries when you have applied for credit. They use the information obtained to determine your creditworthiness. Credit Inquiries show up on your credit report and they can impact your score. In some cases, individuals can successfully remove credit inquiries from their credit report.
Understanding Credit Inquiries
Understand “hard” versus “soft” inquiries.Credit inquiries fall into two categories, “hard” and “soft.” A “hard” inquiry occurs when a financial institution like a mortgage lender or credit card provider reviews your credit history in order to make a lending decision.Typically, you authorize the hard inquiry when you apply for credit.
- A “soft” inquiry, by contrast, occurs when a person or company checks your credit score for reasons other than lending credit. The person checking may be an employer or the owner of an apartment building who pulls the information as part of a background check. Soft inquiries sometimes occur without your permission.
Check if the inquiries impact your credit score.While both hard and soft credit inquiries may appear on your credit report, only hard inquiries (which are inquiries you authorize), may negatively impact your score. Multiple hard inquiries hurt your score because they may signal that you are unable to qualify for credit but desperate to receive it.
- The impact of a hard inquiry will depend on your credit history. Some people will not be affected by one hard credit inquiry.
Identify when to challenge an inquiry.If a hard inquiry occurred without your permission—e.g., because you were the victim of identity theft—then you may want to dispute the inquiry. This is especially true if you think it has lowered your score.
- Most hard inquiries cannot be removed and will remain on your report for two years.However, if you did not authorize the inquiry, then you should challenge it.
- Even if an unauthorized credit inquiry hasn’t hurt your score, it might in the future, especially if you are looking to take out credit soon.
Disputing the Credit Inquiry
Obtain a copy of your credit report.You should begin by pulling your credit report and checking to see if you have any inquiries. You can request a free annual credit report in the following manner:
- Call 1-877-322-8228 and request that a report be mailed to you.
- Visit annualcreditreport.com and request the report. You should get immediate access to it.
- Complete an Annual Credit Report Request Form and mail it to: Annual Credit Report Request Service, P.O. Box 105281, Atlanta, GA 30348-5281. A copy of the form is available at .
Review the report carefully.You should go over your report to see what hard inquiries have been made. Make a notation of any inquiry that you are unsure of or want to challenge.
Contact the entity that made the hard inquiry.You should try to gather as much information as possible about who made the credit inquiry and why. You can begin by calling the organization listed on your credit report as having made the inquiry.If the credit report does not list a phone number, then call the credit reporting agency to ask for it.
Dispute hard inquiries online.You can dispute any inquiry online by using each credit reporting agency’s online dispute mechanism. You should dispute with each agency individually. Keep a record of the day and time when each dispute is made.
- You can reach Equifax’s online dispute system by visiting its website and then clicking on the “Credit Report Assistance” tab at the top. Then select “Dispute info on credit report” from the drop-down menu.
- Experian’s online dispute system is available by going to the “Consumer Assistance” heading and then selecting “Disputes.”
- You can reach TransUnion’s online dispute system by clicking on the “Credit Reports, Disputes, Alerts & Freezes” tab, located at the top of the page.
Write a letter.If you do not want to file a dispute online, then you can write a letter. In your letter, you should state the facts and why you did not authorize the hard inquiry. Also specifically request that the entry be deleted. If you are the victim of identity theft, then make sure to mention that in your letter and provide a copy of the police report as well. Also explain what other legal action you have taken to secure your identity.
- A sample letter is available from the Federal Trade Commission at . You should revise it to suit your circumstances.
- Make several copies of the letter for your records.
Mail the letter.Make sure to mail the letter certified mail, return receipt requested. In this way, you will have proof that the credit reporting agency received it. The address for each major credit reporting agency is as follows:
- Experian’s National Consumer Assistance Center, P.O. Box 4500, Allen, TX 75013.
- Equifax Information Services, LLC, P.O. Box 740256, Atlanta, GA 30374.
- TransUnion LLC, Consumer Dispute Center, P.O. Box 2000, Chester, PA 19022.
Receive the results of the investigation.The credit reporting agency is required to investigate the dispute and must do so generally within 30 days.It will forward the information you provide to the organization that made the hard inquiry on your credit history.
- The organization that pulled your credit history must then investigate the disputed information. It will then report back to the credit reporting agency. If the organization decides that you were right and that it did not have authorization to make a hard inquiry, then it must notify all three national credit reporting agencies of that fact.
- The credit reporting agency must also send you the results of its investigation in writing. This written notice should contain the contact information of the entity that pulled your credit history.
Include a statement of dispute.If the resolution is not in your favor, then you can ask that a statement of dispute be included in your credit file. In the statement, you explain why the inquiry was not legitimate. This statement will then be included in all future credit reports.
- The statement should be no more than 100 words (maximum 200 words if you live in Maine).The credit reporting agency should provide guidelines.
- You should avoid “making excuses.”Do not write that you were busy and gave someone permission to do a hard pull on your credit report because you weren’t thinking clearly.
- You should also give serious thought to not including a statement at all. As financial experts point out, if you dispute anything on your credit report then someone reading the report will assume everything else on the report is accurate (since you haven’t disputed it).You might want to save any explanation for when you speak to a creditor face-to-face.
- If you’ve already pulled a free credit report within the past 12 months, then you may have to buy one. You can do so by contacting each credit reporting agency individually by visiting their websites.
- Even if you have already received one free credit report for the year, you may be entitled to another in certain situations, such as you have been the victim of identity theft or you are unemployed and plan to look for a job in the next 60 days.
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