How to Remove Unauthorized Credit Inquiries From Your Credit Reports
A credit inquiry is nothing more than a record of who pulled your credit reports and when. It's a federal requirement for the credit reporting agencies to keep a comprehensive record of these inquiries for 24 months.
Some inquiries lower your credit scores and some don't, so it's important to recognize the difference between the two.
Inquiries that Don't Lower Credit Scores
1. Inquiries in response to a court order
2. When you ask for a copy of your own credit reports from an authorized source
3. When you apply for a job
4. When you apply for homeowner's, auto, or renter's insurance
5. When an investor wants to buy a pool of loans from a lender
6. Account management inquiries
7. Request by the local child support enforcement agency if it's to assess what you should pay in child support
8. Utility inquiries (e.g., gas or electric)
9. Promotional inquiries
Inquiries that Lower Credit Scores
1. When you knowingly give permission to someone to review your credit
2. When you apply for a government or professional license
3. Someone has permissible purpose to review your credit
4. Request by the local child support enforcement agency if it's to collect child support
5. When a collection agency tries to collect a debt
How much can a credit inquiry lower your credit scores?
Now that you know which inquiries can lower your credit scores, wouldn't you like to know by how many points they can lower them?
Unfortunately, there's no one right answer to that question. If anything, there are at least 10 answers to that question.
You see, there are 10 different ways that Fair Isaac scores us. For example, your 80-year-old grandmother who has had credit for 60+ years will be scored very differently than your 18-year-old teenager. And someone with a prior bankruptcy will be scored differently than someone without one. Those are just two examples.
For bankrupt people, I've found through independent research that each inquiry can lower credit scores up to 12 points.
For non-bankrupt people the number of points could be the same, lower or even much higher, if you don't have much credit. It's extremely difficult to predict exactly how many points an inquiry will impact your scores unless you were on the team that created the FICO credit risk scoring model.
How long do credit inquiries stay on your credit reports?
Credit inquiries can remain on your credit reports for 24 months, but they only affect your credit scores for the first 12 months.
If there's an inquiry on your credit reports that you initiated, but it's older than 12 months, it no longer affects your credit scores, so it's harmless.
So far we've talked about authorized credit inquiries. But there are also unauthorized credit inquiries that appear on your credit reports.
What is an unauthorized credit inquiry?
An unauthorized credit inquiry is any inquiry on your credit report from a company or individual without permissible purpose that you didn't give permission to review your credit reports.
Unauthorized credit inquiries may lower your credit scores, so you should have a game plan to remove them.
Game Plan to Remove Unuthorized credit Inquiries
1. Write a letter to the lender and request they show you proof that you authorized them to review your credit
2. If they don't provide proof, request the lender send a letter to you stating the inquiry was made in error
3. Make it clear that if they do not provide proof of your authorization or give you the letter stating the inquiry was in error, that you will sue them for violating the FCRA
If you get a letter back from the lender that says the inquiries were made in error, all you need to do is make three copies of the letter and mail one to each credit reporting agency. Then you can sit back and allow the credit reporting agencies to do the voodoo that they do.
The credit reporting agencies will contact the lender to verify the letter's authenticity. After they're done verifying they'll remove the unauthorized inquiry and mail you a copy of his updated credit report.
If you follow these steps and 30 calendar days pass since the time you contacted the lender (and they haven't responded or provided proof)...it's time to have an attorney mail a more forceful letter on your behalf.
The failure to respond is called "willful noncompliance." My guess is that you'll hear from the lender quickly—especially if they are a reputable company. Sometimes it just takes the hint of legal action to light a fire under their rear ends.
If that doesn't work, then you should consider suing them in small claims court.
But to really have a strong case, I would suggest you know and can prove what your FICO scores were before the incident, and immediately after. With this information you should be able to prove damages easier.
For example, let's say that you were approved for a mortgage with 5% down and your middle score was 580. But after the unauthorized inquiry your middle score dropped to 568.
Now your mortgage company says the only way you can close on your mortgage is if you put 20% down. You would have a good argument to prove potential damages.
The credit reporting agencies can always recalculate an old score if they are ordered to do so by the courts. But it's best to give your attorney as many facts as possible to build your case ahead of time.
I'm not advising you to start arguing with your lenders about valid inquiries...only unauthorized inquiries that lower your credit scores.
About the Author: Stephen Snyder is the founder of the After Bankruptcy Foundation a non-profit organization that provides free bankruptcy information and recovery steps. Stephen also writes a free weekly newsletter on bankruptcy recovery.