Too many credit inquiries signal to potential creditors or loan guarantors that you are a risky investment. If they see a large number of them in your file, they may think you're applying for a lot of credit and being denied, or that you need credit to finance a lifestyle where you live way beyond your means. Removing credit inquiries can help raise your credit score because it will lower your perceived risk to lenders.
Two Types of Inquiries
When you look at your credit report, you will notice that the credit inquiry section is broken into two categories: hard inquiries and soft inquiries. Hard inquiries occur when you authorize an organization to check your credit, such as when you apply for a loan or for a job that requires a credit check. Soft inquiries are done without your knowledge, which is how you get preapproved for credit cards and other loans without applying. Hard inquiries are detrimental to your score, but both types can be harmful.
Removing Credit Inquiries
It is worth the effort and time to remove unauthorized inquiries from your credit report. This takes three to six months to complete, but consider the time as an investment in your future. Unfortunately, you cannot have authorized inquiries removed unless they turn out to be incorrect. These inquiries will expire on their own after two years.
Order Your Credit Reports
Order your report from the three major credit reporting agencies: TransUnion, Equifax and Experian. Do not order the consolidated report; the consolidated report could miss important information. Examine the inquiries section of your credit report.
Check for Unauthorized Inquiries
See if any of the hard inquiries are false. If you have a relationship with each company mentioned, such as if you applied for a loan or credit card with them, it may likely be authorized. If you have a long list of inquiries you did not authorize, this may simply be an error or you may be a victim of identity theft.
Find Contact Information
Each inquiry listing should include an address for the company involved. For inquiries without addresses, call the credit reporting agency to obtain this information. You can find the address and phone numbers below.
Write Letters to the Companies
Write detailed letters to all the companies in question and ask them to remove the false information from your credit report. Only include your name, current address and your request for them to send you proof of authorization. Companies must be able to verify that you authorized the inquiry or they must remove it from your credit report. If they do not provide proof of authorization and refuse to remove the inquiry on your report, you may consider legal recourse.
Other Important Details
Sometimes you must deal with the credit reporting agencies directly if the companies do not cooperate.
After you send your letters to the companies, if they do not respond to you within 30 days this demonstrates willful noncompliance, which means they purposefully ignored your letter. Dispute false information directly with the credit reporting agency or contact an attorney if any company refuses to send you the proof you requested.
Credit Reporting Agencies
When disputing credit inquiries directly with the credit reporting agencies, use the same procedure as a normal credit dispute. In your dispute letter, mention that you already sent a request to the company directly and the company did not respond. Use the dispute forms included with your credit reports and mail in your dispute. All three credit reporting agencies accept disputes online.
P.O. Box 1000
Chester, PA 19022
P.O. Box 740241
Atlanta, GA 30374
P.O. Box 2002
Allen, TX 75013
Change Your Habits
Unfortunately, you cannot have soft inquires removed from your report. However, you can reduce their frequency by registering with the FTC-approved opt-out site. Note that you will be required to provide your Social Security number, birth date and mailing address.
Here are a few tips to reduce the number of new hard inquiries:
- If you're shopping around for rates by applying at several lenders, keep within a 14 day window. For the purpose of your FICO score, these inquiries will be counted as one instead of many.
- Don't apply for credit cards you don't need. For example, avoid the temptation of store cards during the holiday shopping season.
- Ask companies why they need to do a credit check before authorizing them to do so. You should always put some thought into this decision.
Note that credit inquiries are only a small part of a greater formula that determines your credit score. Keep them to a minimum to make your report look more promising to lenders, but don't ignore more important factors like consistent on-time payments of your bills. It carries significantly more weight in a lender's decision of whether you are an acceptable credit risk.