As you periodically review your credit report, whether it be monthly or yearly, you may come across simple errors in information or incorrect reports of credit that you may have received. There are two ways to correct or “dispute” this information. One is online and the other in writing.
If you need a credit report visit “An Overview of the Fair Credit Reporting Act” for information on how to obtain your free credit report and why you are entitled to one. Resources like CreditSesame.com – Free Credit Score can help you keep track of your credit and know when you may need to dispute it.
Here is a step by step process for disputing your credit report information:
It is important that you receive your credit report from all three major credit reporting agencies:
as different credit companies report to different agencies. Not all creditors use only one and the incorrect information may appear in different reports. You may obtain your credit report online for free one time a year, with each additional report costing and additional sum, usually $10.00. If you are obtaining your first free annual credit report it will include all three agencies, you do not need to request one for each. However, you may find it more cost effective to use a credit monitoring system with a yearly fee that gives you all three credit reports in one on a periodic basis which you determine.
Next, review your credit report and mark the incorrect information. You may wish to print your report out to do this – especially if you have several mistakes or errors. Be sure to record the name, address, amount and account number if available in your notes.
Third, write the credit reporting agency a letter indicating that specific information if incorrect.
Fourth, attach to the letter any supporting documentation to dispute the inaccurate information. I recommend that one of your attachments be a copy of your credit report with specific errors circled or noted in some manner. You may wish to number them and then address as each numbered point within your letter, especially if you have several errors or mistakes. For example, there were errors on my credit report that all listed a false address and a variation of my name. I provided proof of my name over the period of several years, proof that the address did not exist and proof regarding my primary address that was listed on one, as it was not my address but a rental property.
NOTE: The most important thing you need to do when attaching documents is to include COPIES. Do not send originals as you may need that information for another report or in the future.
Fifth, write another letter to the credit lender providing the information. Indicate to them that you have filed a dispute with the credit reporting agency (Naming it specifically) and provide a copy of supporting documentation of the dispute to that information provider also.
If you are using a credit monitoring system online you may be able to eliminate many of these steps. In many of the better versions of a credit monitoring system, as you pull up the details of each account it offers you the option to “dispute” the information. You simply click on dispute and it will automatically pull up the account information you are disputing. You then has a small amount of space to indicate why you dispute the information and click submit.
After filing either your written letter or online dispute the credit reporting agency will investigate the information and determine if your dispute is accurate or not. They also forward all the information you have provided to the credit lender. Usually within approximately 30 days a decision is made as to the accurateness of the information and the credit lender must provide all three major credit reporting agencies with the corrected information. Also when the investigation is complete, you are entitled to the results in writing; a free corrected copy of your credit report; and if you request it a corrected copy of your credit report may be submitted to other credit providers that you may be trying to obtain credit from. For example, you may discover the errors while attempting to purchase a car or home. A corrected copy will be provided to the lender upon your request. If your dispute is denied, resubmit it with additional documentation or contact the credit reporting agency to determine what information would be convincing.
A sample letter is stated below, and provided by the Federal Trade Commission:
Your Address, City, State, Zip Code
Name of Company
City, State, Zip Code
Dear Sir or Madam:
I am writing to dispute the following information in my file. I have circled the items I dispute on the attached copy of the report I received.
This item (identify item(s) disputed by name of source, such as creditors or tax court, and identify type of item, such as credit account, judgment, etc.) is (inaccurate or incomplete) because (describe what is inaccurate or incomplete and why). I am requesting that the item be removed (or request another specific change) to correct the information.
Enclosed are copies of (use this sentence if applicable and describe any enclosed documentation, such as payment records, court documents) supporting my position. Please reinvestigate this (these) matter(s) and (delete or correct) the disputed item(s) as soon as possible.
Enclosures: (List what you are enclosing.)
Disputing your credit is not something you need to hire a specialist to do, and many of those “get help repairing your credit report” programs are scams that are used to obtain your information for their own identity theft purposes or just to make money. Remember, negative information on your report that is correct can not be removed, no matter what someone may offer. This is a simple easy process, which involves very little cost to you. The only cost you incur is your postage and copies. For just a few dollars and a little effort you can save yourself money and permanent damages to your credit report. It’s well worth the effort.