Your credit reports are filled with data about your credit obligations and how you manage them. What you might not realize is that your reports contain other important details as well, like records of when others access your credit information. These records are known in the credit world as inquiries and here’s how to remove hard inquiries from credit reports.
Some inquiries, called hard inquiries, have the potential to trigger a drop in your credit score. Read on for a breakdown of how inquiries work and whether it’s possible to remove them from your credit report.
Removing Inquiries from Your Report
Most hard inquiries stay on consumer credit reports for 24 months. Yet it’s sometimes possible to remove them sooner. The Fair Credit Reporting Act gives you the right to dispute questionable items on your credit reports — including unauthorized inquiries — with the three consumer credit reporting agencies. Unauthorized business inquiries can be disputed too, but it’s not always helpful. (Since anyone can check your business credit, it’s harder to make the case an inquiry was unauthorized.)
But keep in mind that inquiries generally have a small impact on credit scores—less than 5-10 points for each hard inquiry and often less. In addition, most credit scoring models ignore inquiries that are more than a year old, even if they still appear on credit reports.
How to Remove Hard Inquiries from Report
When you apply for new credit, the hard inquiry associated with your application stays on your personal credit report for 24 months. Federal law requires hard inquiries to stay on your report for a specific period of time so you know who has had access to your credit file.
You can’t force a credit bureau to remove a legitimate hard inquiry from your report early. But you can dispute any item on your credit report that’s incorrect or that you want a credit bureau to verify.
The credit bureaus have incentives to correct inaccurate information when you dispute it—although you shouldn’t expect mistakes to be fixed overnight. First, the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) requires the credit bureaus to investigate information you dispute and correct inaccuracies. The credit reporting agencies want to follow the FCRA so they don’t face potential consequences of non compliance, like lawsuits or fines.
Next, the credit bureaus are also motivated to correct credit reporting errors, like unauthorized hard inquiries, because having accurate information makes for a better product. The credit bureaus sell credit reports (among other products) to lenders. The more accurate the reports, the more valuable they are to the people who buy them.
Do you have unauthorized inquiries on your credit report? You may be able to get a credit bureau to remove them by following these steps.
1. Check your credit reports.
Just like you review your bank accounts and credit card statements every month, it’s critical to frequently check your credit reports for errors. (Note: Checking your personal credit never hurts your scores.)
To begin, you’ll need a copy of your credit reports. You can claim a free copy of your consumer reports from Equifax, TransUnion, and Experian once every 12 months at AnnualCreditReport.com. You may qualify for additional free reports in certain situations.
Not eligible for another federally-mandated free credit report right now? Here are another 138 places you can check your personal credit reports for free.
It’s also wise to review your business credit reports from time to time. Unfortunately, there’s no law that gives you free access to your business credit reports. Yet you can check your business credit score for free with Nav.
Nav is the only source where you can currently view your personal and business credit scores free of charge.
2. Search for unauthorized hard inquiries.
Once you have copies of your credit reports, review them for mistakes, errors, and fraud. Search for credit accounts you don’t recognize, incorrect credit reporting on valid accounts (e.g., late payments that don’t belong, inaccurate balances, etc.), and other mistakes. Finally, check your credit reports for unauthorized inquiries.
If you discover inquiries you don’t recognize on your credit report, it could be a sign of identity theft. Make a list of any suspicious inquiries you find. You’ll need this information to complete the next step.
3. Dispute unauthorized inquiries with the appropriate credit reporting agency.
Personal Credit Disputes
On the personal credit side, the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) gives you the right to dispute unauthorized inquiries with any consumer reporting agency. To submit a dispute, you can contact a consumer credit bureau via mail, phone, or online.
|Write||P.O. Box 4500
Allen, TX 75013
|P.O. Box 2000
Chester, PA 19016-2000
|P.O. Box 740256
|Online||Dispute Center||Dispute Center||Dispute Center|
*Note: The Federal Trade Commission recommends sending your dispute letter by certified mail with a return receipt requested.
Start your dispute letter by identifying the inquiries you don’t recognize. If you think you’re a victim of fraud, mention that as well. There’s no specific format you must follow for a credit inquiry removal letter: just be clear and to the point. The credit bureau will investigate your claim and send you the results of your dispute after 30 days (sometimes 45).
If a disputed inquiry is verified but you strongly disagree, you can always follow up with additional disputes. You can speak with an attorney that specializes in the FCRA as well, especially if a credit bureau fails to correct disputed inquiries that you identify as fraudulent.
Finally, you can add a 100-word statement to your credit report explaining that you disagree with some of the information on it. However, the statement may not benefit you. Many lenders don’t see these statements on the credit report versions they pull for application reviews. A 100-word statement also won’t have any impact on your credit score.
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Business Credit Disputes
Business credit bureaus don’t have to follow the FCRA. So, consumer dispute rules don’t apply here. Yet it is possible to dispute incorrect information on your business credit reports. Just like the consumer credit bureaus, the commercial credit bureaus are motivated to correct mistakes on your reports when you bring them to their attention. Selling accurate information is how the credit bureaus make money.
Find more information about how to submit business credit disputes below:
It’s also worth pointing out that unlike personal credit which requires “permissible purpose” before accessing a credit report, anyone can check your business credit. Someone else applying for small business loans or any type of account in your business’ name is off limits, of course. This is considered an unauthorized inquiry and business identity theft.
Types of Inquiries
A credit inquiry on your credit reports can come in one of two varieties — hard inquiry or soft inquiry. (Also known as “hard pull” or “soft pull.”) When it comes to your credit scores, a hard credit inquiry and soft credit inquiry can have different impacts.
The Difference Between Hard and Soft Inquiries
- Soft inquiries have zero impact on your personal credit score. They only show up on credit reports you check yourself. When a lender pulls your credit report, soft credit checks aren’t even included.
- Hard inquiries have the potential to impact your credit score in a negative way. But the impact of hard inquiries is typically minor or nearly nonexistent. Although inquiries may stay on your credit report for up to 24 months, they will only affect your FICO Score for 12 months. VantageScore credit scores may consider hard inquiries for even less time than FICO.
Examples of hard and soft credit inquiries
|Soft Inquiries||Hard Inquiries|
|Checking Your Own Reports||Loan Applications|
|Employment-Related Credit Checks||Credit Card Applications|
|Pre-Approved Offers of Credit or Insurance||Applications for Lines of Credit|
|Insurance-Related Credit Checks||Mortgage Applications|
|Account Reviews by Existing Creditors||Skip Tracing by Collection Agencies|
Applying for Business Credit — Hard Inquiries
When you apply for a business credit card or business loan, the potential lender will generally check your credit history as part of the application process. Depending upon the type of business financing you apply for, the creditor may want to review your business credit report, personal credit report, or both.
If a lender pulls your personal credit, a hard inquiry will be added to your consumer credit report with Experian, TransUnion, or Equifax. Business credit checks may also be recorded on your business credit reports, like those sold by Dun & Bradstreet, Experian, and Equifax.
Hard credit inquiries might impact your business credit score, depending on the business credit reporting agency and business credit score used. But a hard credit inquiry is typically less important when it comes to business credit scores than it is where your personal credit history is concerned. In fact, many business credit scoring models don’t even take inquiries into account.
Business Credit Reviews of Report — Soft Inquiries
Business lenders may also perform soft inquiries of credit reports. Two of the most common examples of soft business-related inquiries include pre-approved offers and reviews of your current accounts.
Have you ever received loan or credit card offers in the mail? These are known as pre-approved offers of credit.
Pre-approved offers don’t hurt your credit scores. But you can opt out and stop the consumer credit bureaus from selling your information for marketing purposes to a credit card company (or others), if you like. Simply visit OptOutPrescreen.com for details.
Some lenders offer pre-approval or soft credit checks as a perk to potential customers. Soft credit checks can make rate shopping easier by letting you know if you’re likely to qualify for a loan or credit card offer before you officially apply.
Account Maintenance Reviews
Current creditors may review your credit reports from time to time to make sure your credit risk level stays the same. These soft credit checks are known as account maintenance reviews.
Account maintenance reviews are common with credit cards and lines of credit — both business and personal. With both of these types of funding you’re not just issued money from a lender once, but rather over and over again. As a result, lenders want to keep an eye on the condition of your credit over time to make sure nothing changes for the negative. If your credit score was to suddenly drop, you risk losing the account or having your credit limit lowered.
How Credit Scores are Affected by Hard Inquiries
The way hard inquiries affect credit scores is a complex topic. Some inquiries may impact your credit scores for the negative. Other inquiries won’t affect your credit scores at all.
- Personal Credit Scores: Multiple hard inquiries do have the potential to lower personal credit scores. But score damage isn’t a given just because you apply for a loan. For example, if you shop around for the best interest rate on a mortgage, auto loan, or student loan within a 45-day window (sometimes less), several hard inquiries may only count as one when your FICO Score is calculated. VantageScore credit scores count all hard inquiries within a 14-day window as one, regardless of the type of application.
When hard inquiries do affect your credit scores, the impact is generally minor. Inquiries only influence 10% of your FICO Score. With VantageScore, hard inquiries are “less influential” than other credit score factors and may only affect your credit score for a few months.
- Business Credit Scores: Hard inquiries aren’t typically as important in business credit scoring as they are in personal credit scoring. Some business credit scores, like Dun & Bradstreet’s PAYDEX Score and Equifax business credit scores, don’t consider inquiries at all. Inquiries may have some influence, however, on your Experian Intelliscore Plus and your FICO SBSS Score — a hybrid score that considers both business and personal credit factors.
How to Prevent Unauthorized Credit Inquiries
It’s wise to practice good habits to protect your sensitive personal and business information from theft. Yet no matter how protective you are over your information, you can’t completely avoid the possibility of identity theft.
The Identity Theft Resource Center reports that in 2019 alone there were almost 1,500 data breaches in the United States. Once you share your information with someone else, there’s a chance it could be stolen by a third party. In the case of the Equifax data breach, hackers stole the information of some 147 million Americans directly from one of the major credit bureaus.
It’s impossible to keep your information 100% safe from thieves. You can, however, freeze your consumer credit reports to stop fraudsters from opening certain types of new accounts in your name. A credit freeze should also prevent an unauthorized inquiry from appearing on your credit reports.
When you place a security freeze on your personal credit reports, it prevents access to your credit reports by new lenders unless the credit report is thawed or unlocked first. Even if a thief has your information, he’ll be limited in what he can do with it. (Few lenders will approve an application if they can’t access your credit report.) In the future, if you want to apply for a legitimate new account, you’ll simply need to unfreeze your reports first. A fraud alert can add an extra layer of protection.
However, even if you do not place a freeze on your credit reports, you can and should dispute an unauthorized credit inquiry if one appears on your credit reports.
How to Monitor Your Business Credit and Personal Credit
It’s wise to claim your free credit reports once every 12 months from the consumer credit bureaus. But an annual credit check may not be enough to alert you if a problem arises (like someone accessing your credit information without permission). Instead, you’ll be better off checking your credit more frequently — perhaps on a quarterly or even monthly basis.
There’s also no law that currently gives you free access to your business credit reports. You can, however, keep a closer eye on your credit history—business and/or personal—if you sign up for a credit monitoring service.
Some credit monitoring services give you access to one or more of your personal credit reports. Others may allow you to access one or more of your business reports. With Nav, you can review business and personal credit information in one location.
Nav’s Final Word: Removing Inquiries from Your Report
The best way to prevent inquiries from hurting your credit scores is to apply very carefully, and only for loans or credit cards you think you are likely to get. If you are shopping for a vehicle, for example, get preapproved for a car loan ahead of time from a reputable lender. Don’t let the dealership shop your credit application to dozens of lenders unless you want the risk of multiple inquiries on your credit reports. (Technically auto loan inquiries in a short period of time should count as a single inquiry but some consumers have seen their credit scores drop from this kind of behavior.)
If you’re concerned about inquiries because you have bad credit, you may be interested in hiring a credit repair company for hard inquiry removal. Before you do, evaluate whether it’s worth it. As mentioned earlier, inquiries are not a major factor in most credit scoring models and they don’t remain on credit reports for very long compared to other types of potentially negative information. (Most credit scores ignore them once they are a year old.) Instead it can be helpful to evaluate whether there are other areas of your credit profile you need to address.
On the other hand, unauthorized inquiries can be a sign of a serious problem. If you suspect that someone has been applying for new credit in your name or your company’s name without your permission, it’s critical to take action right away.
Start by disputing inquiries you don’t recognize. You may also want to consider freezing your personal credit reports and placing fraud alerts to protect against further problems. If suspicious inquiries show up on your business credit reports, make sure to contact the business credit bureaus as well.