Have you received a copy of your credit report, only to find out it contains something you just don’t understand? There may be a simple answer to your question, but you have to ask. And many people don’t realize that one option is to simply pick up the phone and talk with someone at the credit reporting agency. In fact, federal law requires the credit reporting agencies to provide consumers with a toll-free number staffed during regular business hours.
We asked the three major credit reporting agencies — Equifax, Experian and TransUnion — each of which fields hundreds of thousands of calls a year from consumers, about the best way to talk to a credit reporting agency. Here are responses provided by Demitra L. Wilson, senior director of public relations for Equifax; Lee Lundy, who leads Experian’s National Consumer Assistance Center; and Clifton M. O’Neal, vice president, corporate communications, for TransUnion.
What kinds of questions can or cannot be handled on the phone?
Equifax: Consumers can choose the method of communication that they prefer – mail, email, phone. If additional information is needed from the consumer, they may be asked to fax and/or mail those items.
Experian: The most efficient way to work with Experian is through our simple online processes, which consumers can connect to at www.experian.com/help. This includes initiating a dispute, adding a security alert to your credit file (this only needs to be done at one of the three national credit reporting agencies – it will be electronically transmitted to the other two), and ordering a credit report or credit score report.
A consumer should call us if they notice signs of fraud, such as a new credit account that they did not open themselves. (Lundy also points out that Experian now can accept documentation related to a consumer dispute through its online dispute process rather than mailing them in.)
TransUnion: Every consumer’s situation can be different. The majority of requests can be handled online or through the mail, e.g. misspelled name or address, incorrect address, latest payment not reflected, etc … Some of the benefits with disputing an item online include the ability to track your dispute 24/7 online and the ability to upload supporting documentation that will accompany your dispute.
What hours are phone-based customer service representatives available?
Equifax: 8 a.m. – 8 p.m. EST Monday through Friday
Experian: 9 a.m. – 5 p.m. in every U.S. time zone Monday through Friday
TransUnion: 8 a.m. – 11 p.m. EST Monday through Friday
Any tips to make sure consumers are most likely to get their question/problem resolved?
Equifax: Obtain a copy of your Equifax credit report, and be prepared to provide your report confirmation number that can be found atop the report. The report confirmation number is a unique reference identifier assigned to each copy of your Equifax credit file you obtain. The confirmation number allows our customer service center to more easily access your credit file and helps expedite handling any online dispute.
Experian: The most important thing is that a consumer have their most current Experian credit report.
TransUnion: Though not required, it is helpful for consumers have a copy of their report in front of them when speaking to a customer service representative so they can be addressing or looking at the same information together. Consumers can get a free copy of their report every 12 months from Annualcreditreport.com.
What is the best phone number to call?
Equifax: To speak with an agent via telephone regarding your product related concerns, please log into your Equifax Member Center to ensure that you are routed to the correct department that can help you to address your concerns. To speak with an agent regarding credit report updates, corrections or dispute-related concerns, please review your most recent credit report. It will have a confirmation number, and a telephone number that will enable you to speak with an agent who can update, or request corrections on your credit report.
Languages spoken by your customer service reps?
Equifax: English and Spanish
Experian: English and Spanish
TransUnion: English and Spanish
What happens after the consumer calls?
Equifax: It depends on the nature of the call. For example, results of dispute investigations (e.g. file updated, account deleted) are mailed to you.
Experian: This really depends on the nature of the consumer’s call. Our (representatives) outline the steps a consumer needs to take as well as what they can expect.
TransUnion: Once a dispute is opened, the consumer will be notified of the outcome within 30 days.
Any other tips for consumers?
Equifax: More information about contacting Equifax can be found at Equifax.com.
Experian: Experian.com/help is a great resource to figure out the steps they need to take!
TransUnion: TransUnion has an entire educational section on its website to assist consumers in filing a credit dispute.
Where’s My Score?
Experian says that a common question consumers have after getting their credit reports is, “Where’s my credit score?” Credit scores aren’t automatically provided with credit reports, unless you have purchased a score or a monitoring product that includes a score.
And while a credit score is calculated using information from your credit report, it’s a separate product. So to understand your score you’ll need tools like those provided with Credit.com’s free Credit Report Card that will explain the main factors affecting your score and what you can do about them.
More on Credit Reports and Credit Scores:
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