So, you should pay attention to credit inquiries on your FICO report. It can impact your financial health. You certainly don’t want inaccurate hard credit checks affecting your score.
Before we discuss how to remove credit inquiries from your credit report, let’s distinguish between authorized and unauthorized hard credit checks.
Authorized hard credit inquiries, such as those made during your mortgage application, will remain on your credit report for up to two years. They’re legit and you approved them.
Unsolicited or unauthorized hard credit inquiries could signal one of two scenarios:
- You didn’t approve the credit inquiry with the lender and they ran a credit check anyway.
- You didn’t apply for a new credit line but someone else did. For instance, a fraudster could’ve tried to open a credit line in your name.
With either of those situations, you should take steps to remove the inquiry from your credit report. Let’s discuss how you can do that.
Hard and soft credit inquiries: What’s the difference?
When it comes to unsolicited credit inquiries that affect your credit, you only have to worry about hard credit checks. Here’s why:
- Soft credit inquiries don’t affect your credit. They serve as a background check tool. It enables lenders and creditors to see if you qualify for credit offers or loans (and make you an offer). Also, when you look up your credit score, you’re doing a soft credit inquiry on yourself. Soft credit inquiries aren’t made to open a line of credit for you.
- Hard credit inquiries affect your credit. Because they occur when you apply for a loan or credit line. Lenders pull your credit to see if they can approve. Because you want to open a new line of credit, it counts to your credit score.
Want more details? Read our related post: Soft Credit Checks and Hard Credit Checks: What You Need to Know.
To sum it up, don’t worry about those random credit card or personal loan offers you get in the mail. Most likely, the bank, lender, or credit card issuer has run a soft credit inquiry to determine you qualify for a certain credit product. That won’t affect your score.
But you do need to worry about unsolicited hard credit inquiries. Let’s talk about why.
How to know if a hard credit inquiry is unsolicited
Hard credit inquiries require your authorization or knowledge. For example, if you apply for a credit card, the company will ask to run a credit check as you submit the application.
Unsolicited credit inquiries occur without your knowledge. As a guide in Experian notes, this could be one of three reasons:
- Someone is using your identity to take out a loan or line of credit. This could be identity theft.
- You shopped around for a mortgage, auto loan, or another type of credit. To get you the best rates and terms, the lender sent your information to multiple companies. This resulted in multiple inquiries within a short time. Thankfully, the major credit bureaus recognize this and count multiple inquiries as one (as long as it’s within 14 days).
- You applied for credit, but a different company ran the credit check. This is common in the retail industry, as banks handle their accounts. To be certain, contact the company to verify.
Remember: You can only remove an unsolicited hard credit inquiry from your credit report. If you determine that a credit check was unauthorized, it could indicate fraud or identity theft.
Tips for removing unauthorized inquiries from your credit report
First, take the following actions:
- Contact the creditor who made the inquiry. This could remind you that you actually did apply for credit with them. Or, it could provide details about the unauthorized inquiry. Take notes during the call or record it.
- Check your credit reports with Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion. Through AnnualCreditReport.com, you can review your credit reports with the major credit bureaus for free once per year. There, you can see detailed information on your hard credit inquiries.
- Dispute the hard inquiry with each credit bureau. When you do this, the credit bureau will request verification from the creditor. You can send a letter or call. Call the credit bureaus directly (see numbers below).
- Equifax: 866-349-5191
- Experian: 888-397-3742
- TransUnion: 800-916-8800
If you determine you’ve been a victim of identity theft (i.e., someone trying to open a credit account in your name), consider placing a security freeze on your credit report. This doesn’t keep existing creditors or government agencies from accessing your credit report. However, a security freeze will prevent most parties, including new creditors, from viewing your report.
You can also issue a fraud alert with TransUnion. They’ll have a legal obligation to notify the two other credit bureaus, Equifax and Experian.
Additionally, to cover all your bases, you can submit an identity theft complaint to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). You can find more information about that on the FTC’s website. Once you’ve done that, take your FTC Identity Theft Affidavit to your local police department, along with personal identification. There, you can file an official police report.
Once unauthorized inquires have been removed from your credit report, you may notice an improved credit score. This improvement may make you eligible for lower loan rates. If this is the case and you have multiple debts outstanding, you may consider a debt consolidation loan to simplify your finances and potentially lower your payments.
How to send a credit inquiry removal letter
The creditor who made the unauthorized inquiry may not be helpful when you first call them. But having an FTC affidavit and police report could get their attention.
Once you have those documents, write them a credit inquiry removal letter. The letter you send should identify each inquiry in dispute. State the facts and detail why the inquiry was unauthorized. Attach your credit report with the credit inquiry in question highlighted. Keep it courteous, succinct, and professional. Ask them to correct or remove the inquiry.
The FTC provides a credit inquiry removal letter template for people in this situation. See their example for guidance:
As you can see, begin by writing your name, address, and the date. Then write the company name, their address, and location.
In the first paragraph of the credit inquiry removal letter, state immediately what you’re disputing. Direct them to your attached credit report for reference.
In the second paragraph, explain why the credit inquiry is unauthorized. And request that the inquiry be removed.
Third, present evidence. Direct the creditor to the FTC affidavit, police report, credit report, and other documents.
End by asking the creditor to contact the credit bureaus to have the item removed from your credit report. Remember: The more information you attach, the better. Prove the inquiry was unauthorized, and the creditor will be more likely to take action.
Resolving your credit inquiry issue
Taking all the steps listed here, especially writing a credit inquiry removal letter, should get inaccurate items removed from your credit report. And that should help your credit score.
More importantly, learning how to remove credit inquiries from your credit report should teach you how to ensure unauthorized inquiries never happen again. It will also motivate you to stay on top of your finances and regularly check your credit.
Going forward, you should take action to improve your financial security. From regularly changing passwords to not using public WiFi, you must safeguard your data.
By following these tips and enhancing your personal security, you can greatly reduce the chance of unauthorized inquiries happening again.
If you've completed these steps and were unable to remove inquiries from your report, discovered they were legitimate, or your work did not significantly impact your credit score, you may consider looking into debt relief programs to help manage and simplify your debt.