Should You Dispute Negative Items on Your Credit Report?

by Miranda Marquit · 37 comments

Credit repair services and credit monitoring services often make it a point to dispute negative items on your credit report. This is because negative information about your payment history, and inaccurate information about your credit habits, can damage your credit score. When you dispute these negative items, the creditor that reported them has 30 days to respond. If the reporting company does not, the credit bureau changes or removes the information, and you end up with a better credit score.

However, this credit tactic rarely works as planned. This is because disputing negative items is not a surefire way to have them removed from your credit report. When you dispute negative items, you are asking for a review of the item, checking it for accuracy. If the item is, in fact, accurate, then it will remain on your credit report. While the dispute will not lower your score further, it can represent wasted time and energy.

When and How to Dispute Negative Items on Your Credit Report

If your credit card company reported a late payment, and your payment was — in fact — late, disputing your report is likely to get you nowhere. Your creditor will simply check into it, say that your payment was late, and your report will remain the same. However, if your payment was not late, then you might want to dispute that information.

You should dispute negative items on your credit report when they are inaccurate. If something shows up as incorrect, whether it be your account balance, a duplicate account (this happened to me), a missed payment, or some other negative inaccuracy, you should dispute the item. Here are the steps to take when you dispute a negative item on your credit report:

  1. Gather documentation to support your claim, and make copies.
  2. Write a letter to the credit bureau, stating your name, address and Social Security Number, and explaining the reason for your dispute.
  3. Enclose your copies of your documentation with the letter. Make sure you keep a copy of the letter, and the originals of your documentation, in a safe place at home.
  4. Send the letter via registered mail so that you can be sure that the credit bureau received it.
  5. Contact your creditor directly. This can help speed things along. Let your creditor know (you can send the same letter and copies — never originals — of documentation via registered mail or by phone) what item you are disputing, and why. If you are right, your credit can change the reporting on it more quickly.
  6. Double check your credit report after 30 days. Credit bureaus must make their investigation with the time frame of a month. When 30 days have passed, you should double check your credit report to see that the negative item has been removed. Remember this 30 days does not start until the bureau receives your letter, so you give it a few extra days.

It is not always worth disputing negative items on your credit report — especially if they are accurate. However, if you find inaccurate information that is negatively impacting your credit score, it is in your best interest to dispute, and have the problem fixed as soon as possible.

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{ 37 comments… read them below or add one }

MoneyNing September 14, 2010 at 9:51 am

Without a question, you should dispute any negative items well before you ever need a loan. It’s a hassle, but any mistakes could cost you thousands, if not tens of thousands of dollars potentially so fix it or pay for it.

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vered September 14, 2010 at 12:16 pm

Agreed.

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Goal Jungle Girl September 14, 2010 at 10:51 am

Last year I found a claim on my report that was the result of a fraudulent check. I reported it, but they declined to remove it. The charge was well under $100, and going through all the hassle to file reports, get things notarized, fax papers, and make multiple phone calls…seemed like too much. I stuck my head in the sand.

This year I realized I might want a loan sometime late this fall, and decided I needed to take care of it. I added up the cost to do so, and it would be close to the charge itself. Include what I think my time is worth (hourly rate), and it made no sense to fight it head on. Instead, I called the creditor and paid the charge (I first made certain it would be removed if I did so, with no lasting negative effects). It took 5 minutes, and within a week the item was off my report and my credit shot up 30 points..

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BS February 19, 2013 at 6:26 am

This makes no sense, obviously posted by the credit collecting advocates.. do not pay for items that you dont owe. Ever…

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Pat G July 17, 2014 at 1:21 pm

Absolutely the best thing to do. I also had a problem of similar circumstances and did the same thing. It brought my credit up by over 40 points. Sometimes the cost is high but you don’t always have an option. I fought mine even with proof and nine months later I still had the negative.

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Jenna September 14, 2010 at 10:55 am

Thanks for the great tips on how to dispute charges. Really helpful information.

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John September 15, 2010 at 8:49 am

The blog post isn’t all that helpful when it comes to disputing credit reports… It doesn’t mention the easiest way to do it, the way I disputed mine many times in the past. From the free annual score (www.annualcreditreport.com), it allows you to electronically dispute any information with 2 of the credit bureaus (1 needs you to write in by hand). It’s quick and easy, and makes it really worth your time to dispute any and all negative information because, frankly, it won’t hurt you anymore if it comes back that it was accurate. You don’t need any supporting information (though you can choose to send some in if you want), and basically fill out a very short form, picking the reason for the dispute from pull-down menus.

Best of all, it’s 100% free to use direct from the particular credit agency, with no signups for any annoying services (just keep an eye out for anything that tries to sell you something and/or signup for additional garbage; you can opt out of any of the “free” trial anythings they offer, and you don’t have to buy your credit score or whatnot. You can if you want, but you don’t have to.)

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BobR June 6, 2013 at 9:36 pm

You sound like a professional copywriter who is trying to push annualcreditreport.com’s services. Other things I read (lawyer sites, for example) suggest that your approach isn’t very effective, especially if you have to file a suit.

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Sara July 18, 2013 at 7:02 pm

Hi Bob,
The simple truth is that annualcredit report is FREE! It is there as your RIGHT to use! So you CAN and SHOULD use it for disputes. It costs you NOTHING to do so!

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Jason Reece November 10, 2010 at 1:36 am

If the creditor who reported negative information is no longer doing business, there will be no way to confirm it and it will be removed from your file. I’m not saying it’s right or wrong dispute such items, simply making an observation. =) And I have had three negative items removed in the last eight months because the companies are no longer in business or they didn’t care enough to respond to the credit bureaus within the allotted 30 day period.

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ev March 5, 2011 at 11:29 am

i disputed alot of negative items on my credit report and now I have alot of comments that say “consumer disputes account” or “consumer disputes account information” will these go away once the 30 day investigation is done or when the items are verified or will I have another set of problems to try and get off my credit report? Is this typical to have those comments on every item disputed?

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Lynn September 1, 2011 at 12:11 pm

I just spoke with Victoria at Equifax. She said disputing an item WILL lower your score while it is being disputed. It takes that account out of their numbers to figure your score and ends up lowering the score while you are trying to clean up your report.
Do not ever dispute anything close to the time you need to apply for a mortgage or car. According to Victoria it can drop your score as much as 20 points.
Also, student loans will lower your score until you graduate and start paying them back.

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Miranda September 1, 2011 at 12:18 pm

Thanks for the clarification, Lynn! Good to know.

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Shawna October 16, 2011 at 4:11 am

I disputed a few items on my husband’s credit report a couple of weeks ago and have noticed that his score dropped 15 points with no changes to his report other than the disputes.

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Jane September 24, 2012 at 11:29 am

I have disputed numerous things on my report because they were paid and the creditors weren’t reporting them, my score never changed at all.

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Dan March 7, 2012 at 2:41 pm

Don’t believe a credit bureau employee, of course they advise you not to dispute items. Remember they are not on your side, ever!

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Melanie January 3, 2012 at 10:57 pm

I recently started to clean my credit up and noticed two credit cards that were charged off. One was opened in 2005 and the other in 2006. They were sold to a collection agency. The original creditor last reported in 2009. I did not open these accounts. Would it hurt my score if I disputed these items and they come back verified?

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MoneyNing January 4, 2012 at 9:20 am

Getting any negative items on your credit report such as credit cards that no one has made payments to off your credit report can only help your credit score. I would contact all credit agencies right away to see what you can do to get them off your report.

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Anna May 22, 2012 at 7:25 am

I just sent certified letters to 3 collection agencies that have reported negative information on my credit report. I have no clue what they are for so hopefully they send me proof or remove the item. They are low balance items uner $200 each. I’ll keep you posted. Thanks for the tips.

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Todd Lloyd, DC April 4, 2013 at 5:57 pm

How did it go, Anna?

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Traice Williams June 13, 2012 at 3:21 pm

I disputed my credit balances on a few lines of credit. While waiting for a response to my dispute the creditors reported the correct balance during their routine monthly reportly. The creditor then responded to the dispute after the monthly reporting, with my prior months balance which I had just disputed. I then disputed my balance again with the same creditors for the second time. Well equifax then lower my score stating that I had too many disputes. I faxed to equifax supporting documentation from my creditors with the correct balance and proceeded with another dispute to verify the documentation from the creditor. Equifax stated that they lower my score because I have so many disputes and that I would more than likely miss a payment do to the disputing. All though my balance is zero and I haven’t missed a payment in the past to any of the creditors.

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molly July 18, 2012 at 10:08 pm

Please advise, i’m new to the credit thing. Ok my husband and I were renting an apartment and within the last month of our lease found a house. the apartment complex was known to have a lot of hootings, 5 within the last5 months of or being there. A month into being into our new place we got a notice that the complex charged us with all these bogus charges, $2000 worth including that we didn’t pay the last months rent. Which we did, with a cahiers check. We find out that an employee had scratched out our apartment number and written a different number on it. My question is how can their other charges be believable when this obviously was not? The thing is that we have proof for this but not for the other charges for the “heavy trash pick up”

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David L. Hawkins Jr. August 30, 2012 at 3:38 pm

My mother who is 85 went to replace her 1992 car ,was told that in 2008 , that someone bought a truck,(using her social#) that was repossessed in 2010, which now is on her credit report. What can I do to now to help her get her report straight. Can you give me a phone #.

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Kathy February 22, 2013 at 2:52 pm

Hi,
I have a second mortgage that has not been late in 14 years. It is all most paid off. A company purchased the paper about 7-8 years ago, a few years after we had to file bankruptcy. They pruchased the paper knowing this. Again, we have never been late on a payment. We receive all of our bills via mail. I am old and need that hard copy as a reminder; trust factor I think. Anyway, as of last October they decided to stop mailing bills without any notice. We have the same phone number, address, email, etc; no notification. Today we received notice from our credit card credit report activity alert that we are 30 days past due, as a result I start looking and realize I have not received a bill all year so no payments have been made. I am beside myself so I call them. They tell me that due to the backruptcy filed 12 years ago that we are under review and the billing has stopped. I am furios. They dont care that they have now reuined my perfect credit that I have worked so hard to repair, they will not notify the credit agencies that they chose to stop billing and not notify us, but they will start sending the bills again. Big deal my credit is ruined. Can I dispute? Can I hit back? It is almost paid off. Why would they do this at this point? I don’t understand this or people anymore. What hppened to good business principals? Help please….. Thanking in advance

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jack March 24, 2013 at 10:03 am

This article is giving bad advice. What kind of advice is, “don’t bother disputing accurate negative items because it’s a waste of time and energy?” I recently disputed a whole bunch of accurate negative items. Not only did HSBC remove 2 items from my report, but they sent me 2 letters in the mail telling me they were purging me from their system, reporting a correction to all 3 credit agencies, and then apologized for any inconvenience they caused. And those disputed items were accurate! TransUnion recently told me that 2 creditors verified the negative items as accurate. A week later they removed both from my credit report. And no, it does not hurt your credit score to dispute items. That doesn’t even make sense. My credit score didn’t go down 1 point while I was disputing everything. Why would you get penalized for a possible mistake on your report? From my experience, it is definitely worth disputing every negative item on your report. If a creditor doesn’t respond within 30 days, it’s removed(at least until they do respond, if they do at all). This article is giving bad advice. What kind of advice is, “don’t bother disputing accurate negative items because it’s a waste of time and energy?” I recently disputed a whole bunch of accurate negative items. Not only did HSBC remove 2 items from my report, but they sent me 2 letters in the mail telling me they were purging me from their system, reporting a correction to all 3 credit agencies, and then apologized for any inconvenience they caused. And those disputed items were accurate! TransUnion recently told me that 2 creditors verified the negative items as accurate. A week later they removed both from my credit report. My credit went up 61 points in one week from all this. And no, it does not hurt your credit score to dispute items. That doesn’t even make sense. My credit score didn’t go down 1 point while I was disputing everything. Why would you get penalized for a possible mistake on your report? My credit score went up 61 points last week from accurate negative items getting removed. I’ve just disputed a couple of more items — it is definitely worth the time and energy to do this.

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jack March 24, 2013 at 10:06 am

This article is giving bad advice. What kind of advice is, “don’t bother disputing accurate negative items because it’s a waste of time and energy?” I recently disputed a whole bunch of accurate negative items. Not only did HSBC remove 2 items from my report, but they sent me 2 letters in the mail telling me they were purging me from their system, reporting a correction to all 3 credit agencies, and then apologized for any inconvenience they caused. And those disputed items were accurate! TransUnion recently told me that 2 creditors verified the negative items as accurate. A week later they removed both from my credit report. And no, it does not hurt your credit score to dispute items. That doesn’t even make sense. My credit score didn’t go down 1 point while I was disputing everything. Why would you get penalized for a possible mistake on your report? From my experience, it is definitely worth disputing every negative item on your report. If a creditor doesn’t respond within 30 days, it’s removed(at least until they do respond, if they do at all). My credit score went up 61 points last week from accurate negative items getting removed. I’ve just disputed a couple of more items — it is definitely worth the time and energy to do this.

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brooke April 24, 2013 at 2:07 pm

jack please help! What reason do you use to dispute information you know to be true? What do you say and what reason do you use in your letters?

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Angelic Face June 10, 2013 at 1:41 pm

I agree with you Jack. Disputing only helps not hinders or drops. I did the same thing with all 3 bureaus and 80% of the accounts were removed. Charge-offs are a little more difficult but it is worth the try. During the dispute time my score did not drop. It dropped immediately after everything was completely removed but hiked back up in a day or so. I would recommend disputing even items that you have already paid because they unfortunately still show as negative accounts. For items that are paid if they are less than 3 years old say that the company agreed to remove them once they were paid. For items that are not paid you can say this is not the correct amount or no longer my obligation. 9 times out of 10 the company that has your information only bought standard information so they do not have the specifics on your original account and they more than likely will not respond within 30 days and if they do it will not be accurate so the credit agency will remove it. Keep in mind that it does take exactly 30 days with Transunion, Equifax and Experian do it rather quickly. Good Luck. You can also dispute addresses, phone numbers, etc… off your report…..If the company cannot confirm or verify an address they have no way to confirm it was you….

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Alexis March 18, 2014 at 8:08 pm

Did you dispute all 3 of your credit reports at the same time, b/c a website suggested that I dispute then wait to check the other 2 credit reports.

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ziggy December 28, 2013 at 1:24 pm

It said it negatively effects your score because the account being disputed is not counted in the score calculation. Depending on the item it may not effect the score but it could also greatly effect it.

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Joe May 7, 2013 at 1:22 pm

A lot of conflicting discussions going on in this thread…only thing I can add, is that I recently disputed several items online through Experian…two days later a paid judgement was deleted from my report, a few accounts were changed from “charge offs” to “paid closed”, and one item is still pending…my credit score went down 20 points…677 to 657 on Experian…remained unchanged with Trans Union…is this a result of Experian handling the investigation? I’m not sure? But the times of the decrease and the initiation of the dispute coincided perfectly…no other reason my score should have changed…heck, I believed that the deleted account and status changes of the other accounts would help my credit…maybe it will take a month or so for things to catch up? But definitely, initiating those disputes played a direct role in my score being lowered though Experian…maybe the activity factored in, I’m not sure?

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Angelic Face June 10, 2013 at 1:45 pm

Hi Joe:
It will drop immediately after things are removed but should hike back up. It also depends on how many negative versus positive you have on your report. If you do not have anything positive it has nothing to go against. Mine dropped but hiked back up. So I would just say give it another month or so and if you have any credit cards pay them down to less than half. Also, another way to get better credit or more credit go to a Credit Union and ask for a 3 month CD and put like 500 – 1000 in the CD if you can afford too…Pay on it steadily for 3 months and the Credit Union will post to all 3 credit bureaus and it will register as a open account in good standing. Also do not apply for a car loan because that will make your scores drop even more. Good Luck with your credit scores increasing :)

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Melisy June 22, 2013 at 6:16 am

Hi, I have a question about a judgment. I had an old unpaid medical bill that went to collections. They threatened a judgment so I took out a loan to pay off the 1800 dollars at the hospital, who was the original creditor. They called the collection agency and told them I had paid everything in full. I have proof of the date I paid and the amount. A judgment was still issued a week later, even though the amount had already been paid. Can I dispute this on my credit report? Thanks for any advice.

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Josh August 4, 2013 at 10:32 am

Yes you absolutely can dispute the items. However, this hospital is in violation of the HIPA act. Not only does this act apply toward privacy for yourself, it applies for credit as well. Unless you signed a paper stating that you agree to let the hospital/doctors give your information out to a 3rd party to try to collect or report this debt. You can request for ALL medical records from the hospital and see if that HIPA form is in the packet that you agreed to and signed. If you need any help you can contact me and I will try and guide you in the right direction.

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jantese July 11, 2013 at 4:35 pm

I recently disputed several things on my credit report also closed accounts also an account that I have paid on for several months that was taken by an law office or collection that never reported I paid anything in which the credit company was still reporting the old balance,I disputed it stating that the balance was in correct,what now.also several others stating a medical bill credit inquiries that i have no knowledge.

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Josh August 4, 2013 at 10:49 am

If i were you I would dispute these accounts (everything) on all three levels. What I mean by all three levels is I would dispute at the creditors, collection agencies, and the reporting bureaus. All 3 are required to provide original documentation of a detailed billing history along with a signed contracts. They are also required to respond within 45 days. (30 working days) per federal law. Most of the time these companies are so overloaded and do not know how to respond to these audits they miss the deadline or don’t even have the documents to provide. Once your account goes into a “charge off” status, what do you think happens with the paperwork? Yes, sometimes the accounts do get validated and you will end up having to pay these accounts off to help your scores, but most of the time these companies like I said are unable to provided this information. Hope this helps….and makes sense! lol

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Daughter in law April 17, 2014 at 1:24 pm

ok, so question…..
If I paid off some collections last year to 0 and then dispute them now, they will go away?? Thats kind of what I gathered with all the comments lol.
I got my score will drop, but then the 30 days will pass and then hike back up because I have a lot of good standings on my credit report.
Also i have this other question:
I have a medical Bill, $1500 (insurer billing ordeal) The original Debt was from 2008, my credit report reads “date opened 3-2012″ (because i tried to dispute, and tried to settle and collection agency said ‘its against our policy to settle’ ) and they report every month with a C since July 2012. BUT the same report states that “this account is scheduled to continue on record until 7-2015″. But other forums i have read said the 7 year start begins from the 2012 year. Im so confused
will it “go away” in July 2015? or will it still be there because the “open date” and “reported Date” both have 2012 dates?

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