Dispute Your Credit Report – Part 1

Errors in your credit report can cost you big money. It is in your best interest to dispute your credit report for any incorrect, incomplete or wrong information included in it.

According to a study released by the US PIRG (Public Interest Research Group) in June 2004 – up to 79% of the consumer credit reports surveyed contained some kind of error or mistake. Chances are that you may need to dispute credit report error or two.

According to FCRA guidelines, consumers and lenders share the responsibility of correcting information on credit reports. In order to ensure that mistakes get corrected as quickly as possible, you need to contact both the credit bureau and the lender/creditor/organization that provided the information to the credit bureau.

Disputing credit report can be time consuming process, but it’s certainly worth the effort. If you plan to take a big loan – allow a few months to correct your credit report before applying. It may mean big money in reduced interest rates!

How to dispute your credit report

Step One – Notify the credit bureau
Tell the credit bureau, in writing, what information is wrong, missing or inaccurate. You can find a sample credit report dispute form here.

Provide your complete name and address. For each item you wish to dispute:

  • Clearly identify the item (add a reference number or account number and state dates).
  • State the facts, explain why you dispute that item and request that it be corrected or deleted.
  • Include copies (NOT originals) of any document that support your position.
  • Enclose a copy of your credit report with the disputed item encircled.

Send your letter by certified mail, return receipt requested, so you can document the credit reporting company received your correspondence. Keep copies of your dispute letter and all enclosures.

Important tips

  • Do not dispute too many items in one letter. Challenge a maximum or 3-4 items at a time. Experts claim that disputing more than four items may suggest that you’re engaging in fraudulent credit repair tactics.
  • All 3 major credit bureaus encourage you to dispute credit report error using their online interface. Most financial advisors and consumer advocates recommend that your dispute your credit report by mail only. This creates a “paper trail” and thus makes it harder for the credit bureaus to ignore your request.

Under the FCRA, credit bureaus must investigate the items you dispute within 30-45 days, unless they consider your dispute frivolous.

They also must forward all the relevant data you provide about the inaccuracy to the lender/creditor/organization that provided the information.

After the information provider receives notice of a dispute from the credit bureau, it must investigate, review the relevant information, and report the results back to the credit reporting company. If the information provider finds the disputed information to be inaccurate, it must notify all three nationwide credit bureaus so they also can correct your credit report with them.

A consumer reporting agency must correct or, as the case may be, delete from your credit file the information that is found to be inaccurate or can no longer be verified.

The credit bureau must inform you what the results of the investigation are. See How to Dispute Credit Report – Part 2 for more information on your rights and next steps in case that the dispute is resolved to your satisfaction, or in case that it doesn’t.

Step Two – Notify the lender/creditor/organization that provided the information to the credit bureau
Tell the entity that provided the information to the credit bureau in writing that you dispute it. You can use the same dispute letter sample.
Again, include copies of documents that support your position. You can find the information provider’s address in the “Creditor Information” section of your credit report.

If the information provider again reports the same information to a credit bureau, it must include a notice of your dispute with it. If you are correct (i.e. the information is found to be inaccurate) – the information provider may not report it again.

Request the information provider to copy you on correspondence they send to the bureau. Expect this process to take between 30 and 90 days.

Disputing Credit Inquiries
Disputing and removing credit inquiries from your credit report requires a different process. See Removing Credit Inquiries for more information.

Please Note
The act of disputing credit report doesn’t guarantee that the changes will be made on your credit report – it just ensures that your dispute will be investigated.

Does it cost money to dispute items on credit report?
Under the FCRA, it doesn’t cost anything to dispute mistakes or outdated items on your credit report.

For more information see the FTC’s “credit repair” set of guidelines

Dispute Addresses for the Three Major Credit Reporting Agencies:

P.O. Box 7404256
Atlanta, GA 30374-0256

Dispute Department
P.O. Box 9701
Allen, TX 75013

TransUnion Disputes
2 Baldwin Place, P.O. BOX 1000
Chester, PA 19022

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