How to Dispute Your Credit Report
Learning how to dispute your credit report can be a confusing and complicated thing to do. The following are some practical steps for you to take to navigate your way through a financial check-up.
Why Should You Check Your Credit Report
It’s quite common for errors to appear in your credit report, which is why it’s also common to dispute your credit report. These errors may not be insignificant. They may be important ones that can have a powerful impact on your future. The fact of the matter is that you could be missing out on a lot when you’re not looking at your credit report. Check out some important statistics and facts below:
- 35% of Americans have never checked their credit report
- A 2012 Federal Trade Commission (FTC) report found one in four Americans found at least one potentially important error in at least one of their credit reports
- Errors on your credit report may affect if you can take out a loan
- They may affect how much you will have to pay money to get that loan
- Ensure the information on your credit report is correct, complete, and updated before applying for a loan for a large purchase e.g. home mortgage, car loan, buy insurance, or applying for a job
- To prevent identity theft
Now is the time to act. Plan now for your future, especially if you’re thinking about doing any of the following things above. You never know what’s going to happen. And you may not know what you’re going to want.
How To Spot An Error
An error is information on your credit report that shouldn’t be there. This might be due to the fact that the information is not yours, is wrongly reported, or it’s against the law to be listed. Common credit report errors include errors in personal information, accounts, and/or derogatory marks.
Personal Information Errors
- Wrong name listed
- Addresses you’ve never lived at or used as a mailing address
- Inaccurate employer information
- A late payment that’s more than seven years old
- Having a credit card or loan account listed that’s not yours (or that you’re not a co-signer or an authorized user on)
- An account that was closed by you, but shows as being closed by the provider
Derogatory Mark Errors
- A paid-off collections account that still shows as being unpaid
- A paid tax liens that is more than seven years past the date of payment
- An account that was discharged in bankruptcy is still showing up as active with a balance (account history can still be reported)
How to Obtain Your Free Credit Report
The Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) requires the three nationwide companies to provide you a free credit report. Equifax, TransUnion, and Experian must, upon request from you, give you a free report once every 12 months. They must provide a website, telephone number (toll-free), and mailing address. You can use any of these 3 methods to obtain your free credit report.
- Go to annualcreditreport.com,
- Call 1-877-322-8228,
- Or mail to:
Annual Credit Report Request Service
P.O. Box 105281
Atlanta, GA 30348-5281
You don’t need to request your free credit report from the three nationwide credit reporting companies separately. In fact, you ask to get the credit report from the 3 credit reporting companies simultaneously.
Other Reasons for Getting a Free Credit Report
There are other situations where you’re entitled to a free report. You can get a free credit report if a company takes negative action against you by denying your application for insurance, employment, or for credit.
You can also get a free credit report for the following other reasons:
- You’re unemployed and are planning to look for a job within the next 60 days
- You’re on welfare
- Your credit report is inaccurate due to fraud (e.g. identity theft)
Buying Your Credit Report
If you need a credit report for not any of the reasons above, it might cost you to buy another copy of your report within 12-month period. Contact the three credit reporting companies to a purchase your credit report:
- Experian: 1-888-397-3742, www.experian.com
- TransUnion: 1-800-916-8800, www.transunion.com
- Equifax: 1-800-685-1111, www.equifax.com
Fixing Credit Report Errors
You want to get into touch with both the credit bureau and the organization that gave the information to the bureau. Under the FCRA, both of these parties are responsible for ensuring that there isn’t wrong or missing information in your credit report.
Unless the credit bureau thinks your dispute is frivolous, they must look into the item(s) in question typically within 30 days. Include copies of the documents that will help your case. The letter should include the following:
- Your full name
- Your up-to-date address
- Clearly show each item you are disputing in the credit report
- List all of the facts along with an explanation for why it supports your dispute
- Request a deletion or correction
- Include a copy of your report
- Circle items you’re disputing
- Use a sample letter such as this one
You should keep copies of your disputed letter and enclosures. Use certified mail to send your letter, along with a return receipt requested. This way you can keep a record that the credit bureau received your correspondence.
Appropriate creditor or information provider
You also want to write to the appropriate creditor or information provider. Explain that you are disputing the information provided to the bureau.
- Include copies of documents that support your position
- Request that the provider copy you on correspondence they send to the bureau
This process may take between 30 and 90 days. Remember that if the provider again reports the same information to a bureau, it must include a notice of your dispute.
Sometimes, disputing incorrect information on your credit report may be one of the fastest ways in making a positive impact on your credit score. At the end of the day, it’s really important to dispute wrong information on your credit report because it may have a huge effect on your financial future. Therefore, learning how to dispute your credit report is important to know.