We’ve talked before about how important your credit history and credit score are, both in your business and your personal life. Without good credit, it’s very difficult to get approved for a credit card, a loan, or receive payment terms from a vendor. Many landlords and employers also use credit reports as part of their evaluation process.
It is equally important to periodically check your credit report to make sure it doesn’t contain any wrong information that might be detrimental to you. By law, you’re entitled to one free copy of your report per year from each of the three major credit reporting bureaus. Many experts suggest getting them at four month intervals so you can cover the entire year. You can order your free credit report online or by phone at 1-877-322-8228. (You’re also entitled to a free copy of your report if you’ve been turned down for a credit card or loan.)
What to look for on your credit report:
- Payments reported as late or missing that weren’t
- Accounts listed as open that you’ve closed
- Accounts that don’t belong to you
- Incorrect names or other identifying info
- Bankruptcies reported after ten years
- Other negative credit info reported after seven years
If you find a mistake, it’s on YOU to contact the credit bureaus to let them know. You can do this online, in writing, or by phone.
How to Contact the Credit Agencies With a Correction
Equifax Credit Dispute Contact
By telephone: 1-866-349-5191
By mail: P.O. Box 740256, Atlanta, GA 30374. You need to print and include this information form.
Experian Credit Dispute Contact
By telephone: 1-888-EXPERIAN
By mail: P.O. Box 4500, Allen, TX 75013. You’ll need to include your full name, date of birth, Social Security number (if you don’t have one, note that), all of your addresses for the last two years, a copy of a government issued ID (like a driver’s license or state ID card), and a copy of a utility bill, bank, or insurance statement. List each item on the report that you think is wrong, the account number, and the reason you feel the information is incorrect.
Transunion Credit Dispute Contact
By telephone: 1-800-916-8800
By mail: P.O. Box 2000, Chester, PA 19022. Include your TransUnion file number, Social Security Number, date of birth, current address, company name of the disputed item, account number of the disputed item, the reason for the dispute, and any corrections to your personal information such as your address, phone number, etc.
What Happens When You Initiate a Dispute?
The Fair Credit Reporting Act says the credit bureau must investigate and correct any inaccurate information, which will usually happen within thirty days. The bureau presents your claim to the creditor that provided the information. The creditor then has to look into it and report back to the credit bureau. If the information does turn out to be wrong, they have to notify ALL of the major credit bureaus so your file can be corrected.
If you initiate the dispute online, you’ll have a tracking number so you can log in and check the progress of your case. If you do it by mail or phone, keep records of who you speak with or any correspondence you receive. The bureaus recommend you hold off on applying for new credit while the dispute is pending.
No matter what the outcome, when the investigation is complete, you’ll get the results in writing. If you still have a dispute after the investigation is done, you can ask for a statement of the dispute to be included in your file and in future reports.
What’s the Best Way to Dispute Something on Your Credit Report?
Disputing online is definitely the easiest, but some experts recommend filing your dispute by mail, as not all online forms have enough space for all the information you might want to present. They also might not allow you to provide the backup information you need to make your case. Furthermore, some online dispute forms have arbitration clauses that say you’ll forfeit your right to sue if the credit bureau does something wrong.
Guidelines for Filing a Credit Dispute By Mail
- Keep it simple. Include everything you need to, but stick to the facts using clear language. Now is not the time to trot out legalese or try to be fancy.
- Send a separate dispute letter for each incorrect item rather than combining them.
- Include copies of whatever evidence you have, whether it’s a Social Security card showing your correct number, a canceled check showing a payment was made, bank statements, or anything that substantiates your claim.
- To expedite things, send a copy of your dispute to both the credit bureau and the lender, collection agency, or whoever furnished them with the incorrect data.
- Send your dispute by certified mail so you have proof it was received.
- Use our credit dispute templates as a guide (see below).
- Finally, don’t give up! If your dispute is valid and the error continues to be reported by the credit bureaus, consider taking the case to an attorney. The Fair Credit Reporting Act was set up to protect you in these situations, and you do have legal recourse.
Sample Credit Dispute Letters
Use these letters as a guide, but make sure to personalize them to your circumstances and information. Also make sure to check the lists above to see what additional information each credit bureau might require.
Sample Letter to a Credit Bureau to Dispute Inaccurate Information:
Your City, State Zip Code
Bureau City, State Zip Code
To Whom it May Concern,
This letter is to inform you that you are reporting inaccurate credit information about me, and to officially ask that you open an inquiry into the matter and update my credit profile with the correct information.
It would be detrimental to any future credit applications if this incorrect information persists (or … because of this inaccuracy, I was recently denied for xxxxx), so I would appreciate this being taken care of as quickly as possible.
The error is xxxxx (succinctly explain the problem, whether it’s a payment that wasn’t credited properly, an account that doesn’t belong to you, a bankruptcy that should have been removed, etc.).
I am attaching the following proof, xxxxx (a copy of a canceled check, a bank statement, a copy of the court order, etc.).
The error is with Name of Credit Card, Bank, Etc. – Account #xxxx xxx xxxx.
Please investigate and delete this detrimental information. Thank you in advance for your efforts.
Social Security #xxx-xx-xxxx
Sample Letter to a Creditor (e.g., a bank or credit card company) to Dispute Inaccurate Information:
Your City, State Zip Code
Credit Card Company
Credit Card Company Address
Company City, State Zip Code
Re: Acct #xxxx xxx xxxx
To Whom it May Concern,
I recently received a copy of my credit report from xxxxx (name of credit bureau), and was surprised to see that you reported xxxxx (whatever the incorrect information may be, whether 30 days late, a wrong amount, a missed payment, etc.).
Not only is this not the case, but according to the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA), you are required to notify me when negative information such as this is listed, and I have not received this notification.
I am disputing your claim with the credit bureau and am officially requesting you to open an investigation into this matter.
Attached please find the following proof, xxxxx (a copy of a canceled check, a bank statement, email payment confirmation, etc.).
According to the FCRA, you have 30 days to look into this and respond to my request. If you don’t respond within that time, you must remove this negative information.
Thank you in advance for your efforts.