Hard inquiries can damage your credit. The impact of a single hard inquiry is minor, but several close together can dent your score more seriously. Knowing how to remove hard inquiries from your credit report can help you optimize your credit score.

What Exactly Is a Hard Inquiry?

When you apply for credit, the lender will “pull your credit”. This is known as a “hard inquiry.” The lender obtains your credit report and reviews it to decide whether they want to do business with you.

No business can request your credit report without your permission, When you sign an application for a loan or credit card, you authorize the lender to check your credit and register a hard inquiry. Some other transactions – renting a car, for example – can also register a hard inquiry.

Learn more about hard and soft inquiries and the differences between them.

Why Should I Care about Hard Inquiries?

Hard inquiries are different from other inquiries listed on your report because they will affect your FICO score. Anytime you give a lender permission to pull your credit, it’ll be reported on your credit history.

You may be wondering what happens if you need to shop multiple lenders for a loan. After all, there are times you need to compare lenders when you need a mortgage or auto loan – and they all need to pull your credit. Thankfully, while you are shopping for your particular loan, you will be granted a time period to receive multiple rate quotes which will all count as only one hard inquiry. If you’re shopping for a loan or credit card, try to keep all your applications within a 15-day period.

So is there a way to dispute a hard inquiry and have it removed? A single hard inquiry can affect your score by as much as 5 points. Several hard inquiries close together can have a greater impact: they make you look like you’re desperate for credit.

A hard inquiry can stay on your report for up to two years, but its impact will diminish well before then.

Three Steps to Have Hard Inquiries Removed From Your Credit Report

Let’s talk about legitimate ways to remove hard inquiries from your credit report.

Quick tip: If you did not authorize the lender to make a hard inquiry of your records, then you can dispute it!

1. Review Your Credit Reports for Free

Your first step in reviewing hard inquiries is to pull your own credit reports. But don’t worry, you won’t be dinged for checking your credit because as a consumer you are entitled to a free report annually from each of the credit bureaus.

The three credit agencies are Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion.You can also visit MyFICO to obtain your reports and your credit score. It’s tempting to not look at your credit too often, but trust me, knowledge is power! You’re not only evaluating your current score, but you’re confirming that the hard inquiries listed are legitimate.

2. Locate the Hard Inquiries Listed on Your Report

Locate the section in your report containing the Hard Inquiry information. Equifax and Experian make it incredibly easy for you. You will see a header titled “Hard Inquiries.” With TransUnion, you will want to look for the “Regular Inquiries” section.

Take a close look at each inquiry listed. Did you authorize this lender to access your information? If you aren’t sure if this is worth your time to review your report. There are over 1.3 billion transactions monthly being reported to credit bureaus, and mistakes happen. If an inquiry is not legitimate, then you have recourse.

3. Verify the Inquiries

An inquiry that you don’t recognize may still be legitimate. Some companies report under a name different from the name you remember doing business with. Some lending platforms pass your information to other lenders.

If you don’t recognize a hard inquiry, call the phone number listed on your credit report. Ask them why they are on your credit report. If they can’t explain it, you are probably dealing with an inaccurate record.

4. Dispute an Unauthorized or Inaccurate Hard Inquiry

Remember, if you did request the credit inquiry because you were applying for a loan, then you can’t dispute it with the agencies. But if the lender can’t verify that you authorized the inquiry, you can get it removed.

An unauthorized inquiry means one of two things has happened.

  • A mistake. Many errors on credit reports are simple mistakes. A record for another person with a name or Social Security number similar to yours may have been assigned to you by accident. In this case, all you need to do is dispute the record.
  • Identity theft. If a signed application for credit was submitted by someone other than you, you are dealing with a case of identity theft.

If you are dealing with identity theft, then you will need to report the theft to the FTC and to your local police. You will need the information from your police report to help you dispute the unauthorized inquiry. The FTC will provide further information and a recovery plan to help you protect yourself.

File A Dispute with Each Credit Bureau

Since you receive three different credit reports, you’ll need to dispute the inquiry with each corresponding bureau.

As a consumer, you have the right to send a letter of dispute to each agency. The agencies have step-by-step instructions for submitting the dispute online. However, you should take it a step further and send your dispute via certified mail too. Remember, you can use a template to ask the agency to verify the accuracy of the inquiry. You will need to continue to follow up to make sure the inaccurate inquiry is removed.

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