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Dispute Errors on Your Credit Report

Prepare yourself for a shocking revelation…Many credit reports contain errors.

There are many reasons for these errors. Contrary to popular belief, this is not always the credit bureau’s fault. Issues can arise with people having the same name, a creditor reporting error, or just something falling through the cracks.

The key is to work to resolve errors as soon as you find them. It may not always seem fair that the consumer has to resolve issues that are not their fault, but your credit file is your responsibility, and considering how many aspects of life it affects, you need to act, and act with confidence.

Please note: When trying to resolve an error, it’s important to keep a record of everything you do. Send all correspondence return receipt requested, and make copies of any letters or documents you send. Never send original documents.

So you have discovered an error. What next?

Contact the creditor regarding the problem

In most cases, you should contact the appropriate creditor or lender before contacting a credit report bureau. Most large creditors have standard procedures for customers to dispute items on their account. If you have proof that the item in question is incorrect, it should be resolved quickly.

If the creditor finds that the disputed information is indeed incorrect, the creditor is required under the Fair Credit Reporting Act to update its records both internally and with the credit report bureaus it deals with, usually within 30 days.

Always follow up your phone calls with a letter. In your letter, list each disputed item, and state how it is inaccurate and how it should be fixed, attaching copies of all relevant documents. Include your full name, account number, the dollar amount in question, and the reason you believe the item is wrong. Be concise — roundabout stories won’t help your case.

Here are three examples:

Acme Auto Loans, account number 842974289XXXX. This is not my account. Please remove it from my record.

Chapter 7 bankruptcy, U.S. Bankruptcy Court, Austin, TX. Date: 3/5/89. This bankruptcy is more than 10 years old and should be removed from my record.

Bank of Springfield MasterCard, account number 492839203837XXXX. This account is listed as Open. Please see the attached letter indicating that the account was closed on 9/15/98.

Contact the credit bureau

If you cannot resolve the problem with the creditor, contact the credit report bureau that is reporting the item in question. What do I mean? Each credit bureau can have different information on file for you. Be sure to note which report you are seeing the error reported on. You will need a printed copy of your report from them, which you may be eligible to receive free of change.

After you send written documentation of the inaccuracy, the credit report bureau will review it. If further investigation is required, they will provide notification of your dispute, including the relevant information you submitted, to the source that furnished the disputed information to them.

The source will then review the information, conduct their own investigation, and report back. The credit bureau will then make all appropriate changes to your credit file based on the investigation, and notify you of the update.

When the investigation is completed, the credit report bureau must give you the written results and a free copy of your report if the dispute results in a change. (This free report does not count as your annual free report under the FACT Act.) If an item is changed or deleted, the credit report bureau can not put the disputed information back on your credit  file unless the information provider verifies that the information is accurate and complete. The credit report bureau also must send you written notice that includes: the name, address, and phone number of the information provider (credit0r).

Contact the other credit bureaus

If you find an inaccuracy with one credit bureau, you may want to get your credit report from the other two agencies to see if their reports contain the same error. After you’ve corrected an error with one agency, the other agencies should eventually receive the corrected information. But for prompt correction, it’s best to contact each of the three agencies yourself.

Contact information:

Trans Union
800/916-8800

TransUnion Disputes

Equifax
800/685-1111

Equifax Disputes

Experian (formerly TRW)
888/397-3742

Experian Disputes

Ensure that the error is fixed

Within a month of your inquiry, the credit report bureau should notify you of the results of its investigation and provide you with a new credit report free of charge. Examine it carefully to ensure that the inaccuracies have been fixed or removed. If the error has been fixed, you can have the credit report bureau send the corrected report to anyone who received the inaccurate report in the past six months (two years in the case of employers).

If you cannot resolve a disputed item

You have the right to attach a 100-word statement, free of charge, explaining the nature of your disagreement. Your statement will become part of your credit file, and will be included each time your credit file is accessed.

If you feel that an organization has not responded promptly or fairly to your situation, you can contact the Federal Trade Commission.

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