An inquiry is the term used in the world of credit reporting to describe the record of someone pulling or accessing a copy of your credit report. There are two type of inquiries; soft and hard. The actual record of the inquiry is very simple contains only two pieces of information. First, the inquiry shows the data of the access into your credit report. Second, the inquiry identifies the company or party that did the accessing.

Soft inquiries, such as those that occur when you check your own credit reports, are nothing to worry about from a credit score perspective because nobody sees them but you. However hard inquiries, such as those that occur when a lender checks your credit, do have the potential to negatively impact your credit scores. If you pull your credit reports (remember, that’s a soft inquiry) and discover hard inquiries that you do not recognize it can be somewhat upsetting. Your credit scores could potentially be damaged by inquiries that you did not authorize.

Because of your rights under the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) you are able dispute information on your credit reports which you believe to be incorrect or caused by fraudulent activity. This means that you have the right to dispute anything including accounts, collections, public records, and, you guessed it, inquiries. In fact, inquiries that you do not recognize should be disputed since they are sometimes a sign of identity theft. Here’s how…

Dispute Process

The dispute process for a hard credit inquiry is essentially the same as any other type of credit dispute. In case you are not familiar with the credit dispute process afforded to you under the FCRA, here is a brief overview.

Initiate the Dispute
To begin the dispute process you have to notify the credit reporting agencies (CRAs) – Equifax, Trans Union, and/or Experian – that you disagree with information on your credit reports. You can initiate your dispute via mail, online, over the phone, or even by fax.

The Investigation and Verification
The CRAs contact the company (aka data furnisher) who is reporting the allegedly false information on your credit reports. The data furnisher either confirms the information is accurate or, if the data furnisher agrees that incorrect information is being reported, requests that the information be updated or deleted.

Your Results
The CRAs either update the information on your credit reports, delete the information, or leave the information unchanged. Whatever the results, the CRAs are required to send you updates with the results of your investigation within 30-45 days after you initiated your original disputes.

The Catch

Although it is possible for you to dispute hard inquiries on your credit reports just like you can dispute any other information, it may be less likely for you to actually see an inquiry deleted. The credit reporting agencies will generally remove inquiries from your credit reports that are deemed to be a result of identity theft. However, if a hard inquiry appearing on your credit report was simply unauthorized and not fraudulent then you may have a difficult time having the inquiry deleted because it is a matter of fact that someone pulled the report, which is all the inquiry is meant to convey.

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) released an opinion letter on this very subject which states “The fact that a consumer report was requested “in error” does not nullify the fact that the report was furnished; that information must be retained by the CRA so that it can comply with [the Fair Credit Reporting Act].” To be a little more clear, even if a lender agrees that your credit report should not have been pulled that does not change the fact that the CRAs did indeed share copies of your credit reports with the lender. At that point it’s a crap shoot as to whether or not the credit bureaus will remove the inquiry.