Q: I recently pulled my credit report. I was surprised by the number of old accounts that I’ve never closed out.

There are a couple of accounts on there for stores that have been out of business for years (at least in our area). Also, I no longer have the full account numbers, or any contact information.

How would I go about getting those removed from my credit report?

A: You may not need to do anything. The accounts on there may actually be helping your credit score, unless you have too many accounts open. Frequently, old accounts that show on your credit report may be inactive accounts that are not harming your score or helping it either.

But if you close accounts that you have had for a long time, you actually may hurt your credit score. If there is a discrepancy on your credit history you can go to the three credit reporting bureaus and file an online dispute (you can also do this in writing or by telephone). Once you file a dispute, the credit reporting bureaus have 30 days by law to do an investigation into the information you are disputing. At the end of 30 days, you’ll be notified as to the results of the investigation.

You may need to have a current copy of your credit history on hand to file a dispute. The credit reporting bureaus will need information off of the credit history to activate the investigation.

You can go to www.annualcreditreport.com and pull a free copy from each of the three major credit reporting bureaus, or go to their websites (Equifax.com, Transunion.com, and Experian.com) to purchase a copy.

The real question you should ask is if these old accounts are harming your credit score or if they have no effect. If they are harming your credit score, then you should try to have them removed. But if they aren’t doing anything negative to your score, or are actually improving it (because the longer you have accounts open, the higher your credit score), you may want to rethink your plan to dispute the errors.