How To Dispute Errors on Your Credit Report
- Make a copy of your credit report and circle every item you believe is incorrect.
- Write a letter to the reporting agency (the address will be printed on the report). Explain each dispute and request an investigation to resolve the issues. If you have supporting paperwork, send it along, coding pages to match dispute paragraphs. Do not send your originals.
- Send all materials by certified mail, return receipt requested, so that you can prove the packet was received.
- Send a similar letter of dispute to the creditor whose reporting statements you disagree with. Refer to a billing statement to find the correct address for disputes, because it's usually different from the payment address.
If your dispute involves personal information, such as your current address, enclose a copy of your driver's license or a utility bill in your name to verify your residence.
The reporting agency will initiate an investigation, contacting your creditors to verify the accuracy of the information. If the creditor cannot verify that the entry is correct, it must be removed. When the investigation is complete, the agency must send you a free copy of your report if changes were made.
If the investigation uncovers an error, you have the right to ask that a corrected version of your credit report be sent to everyone who received the report during the past six months.
Contact your creditor first, then allow a bit of lead time before you submit the dispute to the reporting agency. By the time the dispute is verified, the creditor will hopefully have corrected the error.
You can initiate an investigation from many online credit reports by following the links provided and checking the disputed items as directed. There sometimes isn't a place for remarks--you'll simply check a multiple-choice reason for each dispute.
If Changes Aren't Made
If the credit reporting agency says the original information is accurate, it must provide you with a written notice that includes the name, address, and phone number of the
person who made the report. If you still disagree, initiate a second investigation.
Unfortunately, in the real world the reporting agencies often try to sidestep that requirement, giving you standard, computer-generated information rather than the facts you need to find the person or department who made the negative report. Keep plugging away until you have the answer you're looking for.
If your attempts to correct an entry are unsuccessful, you can ask the reporting agency to insert a 100-character explanation next to it that explains your side of the story.
Sometimes You Hit a Dead End
I know from personal experience that it's sometimes difficult to have information changed, even if you can prove it is incorrect. A family member has not been able to have an incorrect employer notation corrected, even though he has not worked at the company for many years. The standard response from the credit reporting agency is that they would not have the information if he had not included it on an application for credit.
They refuse to remove the incorrect notation, even though he has provided them with a letter from his current employer and several W2s.
Why did that happen? Somoneone likely keyed-in a previous employer as a current employer. Sometimes you simply cannot get through to them that errors exist.
Bankruptcies remain on your credit report for ten years, while other types of entries are generally reported for seven years. If an account that was previously past due has been brought current, and has been either paid off or kept current for at least a year, the creditor might agree to an early deletion of the past due references.
Write a letter to your creditor and request that the negative entries be removed. They'll often comply if they see you are up to date and handling your account in a positive way.
Another tactic you can use to clean up your credit report is to dispute a negative item even if you believe it is accurate, but you'll have to follow your conscience to decide if that's an ethical way to go.