Information on your credit report is used to create a credit score so if errors are on your credit report it could reflect with a lower credit score. A lot of time the errors are not known until it’s already too late and you’ve been denied a loan, housing or in some cases employment. According to a study from the Fair Trade Commission, one in five consumers have errors on their credit report and approximately 5% of consumers have errors serious enough to results in less favorable loan terms. If you have found errors in your report and would like to dispute the information you are in luck! Here are the steps to dispute information on your credit report:
Obtain Current Credit Reports
Make sure you have copies of your credit that are no more than 60 days old from each of the three major credit bureaus. Information is not shared between bureaus so each report could contain different information.
Dispute the Mistake
It may seem like an easy thing – but you actually have some options on how to dispute the information. The first decision to make is if you want to dispute the information directly with the credit bureau (the furnisher) or if you want to go to the credit reporting agency (CRA) whose report shows the errors.
Dispute mistake with credit reporting agency if…
- It’s something not supplied by the furnisher – for example, wrong address or incorrect public information such as a judgment
- The information reported doesn’t belong to you
Dispute mistake with the furnisher if….
- You have documentation that will show the furnisher is making a mistake in how they reported the information (copies of correspondence with company)
- You’ve already disputed the information with the CRA and it’s confirmed at being accurate.
Note: You always must dispute the information with the credit reporting agency that is reporting it before you can sue for credit damage.
The second decision is if you would like to dispute the information online or by mail. Online is the fastest and easiest, but not always will be the best option. You may choose to mail in your dispute request if:
- It doesn’t fall neatly into one of the CRA’s dispute categories. If you dispute online you will need to choose a reason for the dispute – if you need to provide a more detailed explanation a letter might be the best way to go.
- You give up your rights online. When disputing online you first want to read the website terms and conditions to make sure you aren’t agreeing to mandatory binding arbitration, meaning you forfeit your right to have your day in court if it’s not resolved.
- You have proof of your side of the story. If you have the documentation to prove the information is wrong you’ll want to include it in your written dispute. All documents related to the wrong information will be useful and may speed up the dispute process.
- This is your second attempt. If you received a letter from the credit reporting agency saying the information is correct, but you know it’s not, you may want to follow up with a letter.
Anytime you mail a dispute you want to send it certified mail, return receipt requested. Be sure to keep a copy for your records. Below are the addresses of the 3 major credit bureaus:
PO Box 740256
Atlanta, GA 30374-0241
PO Box 9556
Allen, TX 75013
PO Box 2000
Chester, PA 19022
Wait for a response
The CRA and furnisher have up to 30 days to complete the dispute and provide you with results.
Escalate your dispute
You will need to escalate your dispute if the results have been returned not as you expected. Send a letter to the CRA and/or the furnisher of the information stating why you believe the dispute results are wrong. Also, be sure to CC: the Better Business Bureau, your state attorney and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.
Talk with a consumer law attorney
If your attempts to get the information corrected do not work you may want to consult with a consumer law attorney with experience in consumer credit disputes. The National Association of Consumer Advocates is a good place to start to find an attorney.
Keep records of your dispute
Keep all things related to the dispute in one place that will be easy to find. Copies of credit reports, any letters of correspondence or printed copies of emails or online responses are all things to keep. In the event this happens again you will be ready.
Monitor your credit reports
Order your credit report from www.annualcreditreport.com and use a credit monitoring tool. If possible set up alerts for changes on your credit report. If you monitor your credit reports and scores closely you will be alerted quickly to any problems that arise.