Dispute Credit Report Errors
There are three major consumer reporting agencies that provide consumers and businesses with personal credit reports: Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion. In some instances, the information contained on your credit report may be inaccurate. If you believe there is an inaccuracy, then it is in your best interest to correct it. Failure to correct errors could result in a lower credit rating. Under the federal Fair Credit Reporting Act, credit reporting companies and the providers of your credit information are responsible for correcting inaccurate or incomplete information on your credit report.
- Request a copy of your credit report. The first step is to get a copy of your credit report. You should not contact each reporting agency separately. Instead, you can use one of the following methods for requesting a free annual report:
- Call 1-877-322-8228. Your credit report will be delivered by U.S. mail.
- Visit annualcreditreport.com and request a report.
- Request a copy of your report by mailing a written request to Annual Credit Report Request Service, P.O. Box 105281, Atlanta, GA 30348-5281. You can complete and mail in the Federal Trade Commission's form available at http://www.consumer.ftc.gov/articles/pdf-0093-annual-report-request-form.pdf.
- Review the report carefully. After you get the copy of your report, you should review each section and make a notation of the information that you would like to dispute.
- Gather evidence that the information is inaccurate. Your dispute will be more effective if you have evidence that an error was made. For example, if you see that a credit card payment is listed as more than 60 days past due, then you should see if you have cancelled checks that show payment was made and accepted before that date.
Disputing the Error with a Credit Reporting Agency
- Use the online dispute systems. You may dispute a credit report error online by visiting the website of the one of the three credit reporting agencies. Before beginning, be prepared to provide the credit report number on the credit report that you wish to dispute.
- Equifax's online dispute system is available by clicking on the “Credit Report Assistance” tab at the top and selecting “Dispute info on credit report.”
- Experian's online dispute system is available by clicking “Disputes” under the “Consumer Assistance” heading.
- TransUnion's online dispute system may be found by clicking on the “Credit Reports, Disputes, Alerts & Freezes” tab at the top of the page.
- Write a letter. An alternative to making a dispute online is to send one through the mail. You may dispute a credit error by directly writing to the appropriate credit reporting agency. In your letter, you should include the following:
- Your personal information, including name, address, birth date, and Social Security Number.
- A description of the entries on your credit report that you believe are inaccurate. State the facts and why you are disputing the information. You can also provide a copy of the report with the entries highlighted.
- A request to correct or delete the entry.
- Mail the letter. After you draft the letter mail it to the appropriate agency by certified mail, return receipt requested. That way, you can track it and be assured that the agency has received it. The address for each major credit reporting agency is here:
- Experian's National Consumer Assistance Center, P.O. Box 4500, Allen, TX 75013.
- Equifax Information Services, LLC, P.O. Box 740256, Atlanta, GA 30374.
- TransUnion LLC, Consumer Dispute Center, P.O. Box 2000, Chester, PA 19022.
- Supply any requested information. The agency may request additional information from you. Be sure to provide any requested information promptly, and send copies (not originals).
- Always keep copies of any communications that you have with a credit reporting agency.
- Wait for the results of the investigation. The credit reporting agency is required to investigate the dispute within 30-45 days of its filing.
In doing so, the credit reporting agency will forward the information you provide to the organization that reported the information.
- The provider of the information (usually a creditor) must then investigate the disputed information and report results back to the credit reporting company. If the company finds that the information is inaccurate, then it must notify all three national credit reporting agencies.
- Once the investigation has been completed, the credit reporting agency must send you the results in writing. It must also send you a written notice that contains the name, address, and phone number of the creditor who reported the disputed information.
- Ask for the inclusion of a statement of dispute. If the resolution is not in your favor, then you can ask that a statement of dispute be included in your file. This statement will then be included in all future reports.
- For a fee, you can also request that the credit reporting agency send your statement of dispute to anyone who has received a copy of your report recently.
- The statement can be 100 words or less (200 if you live in Maine). The credit reporting agency should provide guidelines.
Contacting the Creditor About the Error
- Understand who to contact. In addition to contacting the credit reporting agency, you should also contact the organization that provided the information that serves as the basis of the credit reporting error. Typically, this will be a creditor, such as a bank that extended a loan to you or a credit card company. Sometimes, it may be a collection agency.
- If the credit reporting agency resolves the dispute against you, then contacting the creditor directly is the next logical step. However, the creditor is not required to respond unless you have additional information that was not considered by the credit reporting agency.
- Call the creditor. Look at your statements and find a contact number to call. Once you reach a representative, you should inform him or her that you are disputing the entry. If requested, provide a detailed explanation as to why you are disputing the entry.
- Also ask if the creditor needs additional information from you. If it does, then send copies of any supporting documentation.
- Follow up with a letter. Even if you call, you should still send a letter.
You should memorialize your telephone conversation by summarizing the conversation and typing up a letter. By doing so, you can create a paper copy of the communication that you have had with the creditor.
- The FTC has a sample dispute letter that you can use. It is available at http://www.consumer.ftc.gov/articles/0485-sample-letter-disputing-errors-your-credit-report-information-providers. Be sure to revise it to fit your particular circumstances.
- Wait to hear back. The creditor generally has 30 days to perform an investigation. It should then inform you of the results within five days of completing the investigation.
- If the dispute is resolved in your favor, then the creditor should contact the credit reporting agencies to correct the error.
- If you are sent a letter by the creditor agreeing that the information is incorrect, then you should forward a copy of the creditor's letter to all credit reporting agencies that reported the error.
- You do not have to pay a fee to dispute an error on your credit report.
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