Can You Remove Unauthorized Hard Inquiries from Your Credit Report?

It’s good to know how to remove hard inquiries from your credit report because they can ding your credit score – or be an early warning of identity theft. 

By Carla Fried | American Express Credit Intel Freelance Contributor

6 Min Read | October 28, 2020 in Credit Score



When you apply for a loan or a new credit card, your credit report will receive a hard inquiry that can lower your credit score – but typically by only a few points.

A legitimate hard inquiry usually can’t be removed. But it disappears from your credit report after two years, and typically only impacts your score for about one year.

If you find an unauthorized hard inquiry on your report you can file a dispute and request that it be removed.

Whenever you apply for a loan or new credit, lenders usually ask for a close look at your credit report. With your permission, lenders and other creditors make a “hard inquiry” so they can review the details of your personal financial life to help them consider whether to approve your application and what terms to offer you if they do. Each hard inquiry can cause your credit score to dip – yet another reason to regularly monitor your credit report and credit score


In the event you discover an unauthorized hard inquiry, there are steps you can take to file a formal dispute and request that the hard inquiry be removed from your credit report. Here’s what you need to know about how the credit bureaus handle inquiries, the impact of certain types of inquiries, and how to request the removal of an unauthorized hard inquiry from your credit report.


Don’t Sweat the Soft Inquiries

Before you request to remove any inquiry from your credit report, it’s worth knowing that in the world of credit reports your file includes both “soft” inquires and “hard” inquiries – and you thought only taco shells came in hard and soft versions.

  • Soft inquiry: This is usually a non-event because it doesn’t impact your credit score. When you check your own credit score, that’s a soft inquiry. If a creditor or lender you’re already doing business with wants to check your score that’s also considered a soft inquiry. Businesses that want to know if you’re a good candidate for a preapproval offer can also make a soft inquiry.
  • Hard inquiry: A lender makes a hard inquiry when you make a formal request to borrow money – when you apply for any type of loan, apply for a new credit card, or ask to have your credit card limit raised.

If you receive a preapproval marketing pitch for a credit card, that’s likely the result of a soft inquiry. If you then follow through and apply, that triggers a hard inquiry, which is also sometimes called a “hard pull.”


Hard Inquiries Can Ding Your Credit Score

Only hard inquiries can impact your credit score, and federal regulations require any business that wants to make a hard inquiry to first get your permission. 


Hard inquiries on your credit report, along with any new accounts you’ve recently opened or loans you’ve received, together account for 10% of your FICO score. FICO credit scores are the most widely used by lenders and creditors. Even though a hard inquiry will hurt your credit score, it’s generally only a minor dip. FICO says a single hard inquiry will typically cause a drop of less than five points.1 To learn more about how different factors influence your credit score, see “What Affects Your Credit Score.”


Hard Inquiry Removal

When you discover an unauthorized hard inquiry, it’s a good idea to check if your credit report is also listing a new credit card or a loan that you don’t recognize. That could indicate identity theft – more about that later.


If you see an unauthorized hard inquiry without an associated fraudulent account, you can request that the unauthorized hard inquiry be erased from your account by filing a formal dispute with the credit bureaus. Because the government and the credit reporting industry recognize credit reports can be error-prone, they provide a way to dispute your credit report. Here are the main steps: 

  • Get a copy of your credit report, look for hard inquiries and make sure you recognize – and authorized – all that you find.
  • If you find an unauthorized hard inquiry, write a dispute letter or fill out an online form to report it and request its removal.
  • You’ll need to collect documents to support your claims.
  • Each bureau – Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion – lets you file disputes through online forms, telephone, or postal mail.
  • Allow 30 days or less to get the results of a dispute investigation.

Did you know? As an added security measure to help protect against fraud, American Express reports a reference number to credit bureaus – instead of your actual account number.


Multiple Similar Hard Inquiries Get Special Treatment

The two most popular credit scoring models don’t ding you for being a smart consumer who shops around for the best loan. FICO typically doesn’t factor in similar hard inquiries from different lenders if they’re made within 30 days. This applies when you’re shopping for car loans, mortgages, and student loans. A new version of FICO that lenders may use counts all similar checks made within 45 days as one hard inquiry – but it usually takes years for lenders to adopt new credit scoring models, so banking on 30 days is safer. 


The VantageScore system developed by the three major credit bureaus has a two-week window for similar hard inquires, recording them as only one.2


You Can’t Remove Authorized Hard Inquiries

Legitimate hard inquiries can’t be removed from your credit report. But they do fade away. A hard inquiry that you authorized will show up on your credit report for 24 months, but it only impacts your credit score during the first 12 months.


Unauthorized Hard Inquiries May Be an ID Theft Warning

Whether you prefer do-it-yourself credit report monitoring or use a credit monitoring service to keep an eye on your reports, it’s important to watch for and act on any unauthorized hard inquiries that show up. They can be a sign you’re a victim of identity theft. 


Identity thieves usually piece together enough of your personal information to apply for a loan or credit card posing as you, which will trigger a hard inquiry on your report. If that happens, it’s a good idea to contact the lender or credit card issuer ASAP, alert them to the fraud, and follow their directions for shutting down the account. 


You may also want to consider placing a fraud alert on your credit report, which makes it harder for thieves to open a new account posing as you. An even stronger protection is to put your credit report under a credit freeze. A freeze prevents any business from making any type of inquiry. When you’re shopping for a loan or credit, you can “unfreeze” your credit report to allow an authorized hard inquiry to go through. 


The website maintained by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has a free step-by-step guide to help you deal with identity theft.3


The Takeaway

Lenders and creditors will ask your permission to make a “hard inquiry” check of your credit report when you apply for a loan or credit. An authorized hard inquiry stays on your credit report for two years and can have a small negative impact on your credit score for up to a year. If you find an unauthorized hard inquiry on your report you can file a dispute and request it be removed.

Carla Fried

Carla Fried is a freelance journalist who has spent her entire career specializing in personal finance. Her work has appeared in The New York Times, Money,, and Consumer Reports, among many other media outlets.


All Credit Intel content is written by freelance authors and commissioned and paid for by American Express. 

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