Section 3 Step 2 Disputing Credit Report Errors
The next step in repairing your credit is disputing any errors on your report. If you think that any information on the credit report is incorrect or incomplete, you have the right to dispute it.
Credit disputes can be made online, by phone, or through the mail. You should receive instructions about how to file a dispute when you order your credit report.
Errors on your credit report happen for four different reasons:
- A creditor (bank, credit card company, or other lender) made a mistake and reported a late payment or default incorrectly.
- A collection agency incorrectly reported collecting on debt that doesn’t actually belong to you.
- Your identity was stolen, and new credit accounts were opened with your information.
- One of your existing accounts (like a credit card) was compromised and used by someone not authorized.
How To Dispute An Error
If there are errors on your report (not fraud), there are a number of ways you can dispute them.
What’s the best method to file a credit dispute?
Filing online is the quickest and easiest way to do it. The problem, however, is that you don’t have any evidence or a paper trail regarding your dispute. This is also the case when you file by phone.
Filing by mail has a few distinct advantages:
- You can include concrete proof along with your dispute, like a credit card statement showing that you made payment on time.
- You have a paper record of your dispute.
- Sending a dispute letter via certified mail ties your claim to a specific date (credit bureaus must respond within 30-45 days).
When you file your credit dispute, be sure to include the following:
- A copy of your report (highlight the disputed item)
- Proof that supports your claim
- A concrete, explicit request that the erroneous information be either corrected or removed
Including supporting proof is important. If you don’t include enough, the credit bureau may consider your claim frivolous. If that’s the case, they won’t investigate the disputed item and won’t issue any updates to your credit report.
However, if it’s determined that your dispute is appropriate, an investigation will happen. In many cases, the bureau will simply contact the creditor in question, determine if anything is incorrect, and then respond to your claim.
Alternatively, you can file disputes directly with the creditor (bank, credit card company, or another lender). They are under the same legal requirement to investigate a dispute that you might file.
Writing for Credit.com, Keli Geldis notes:
If you have errors, especially inaccurate negative information, on your credit reports, you can see changes to your credit scores fairly quickly. Credit reporting agencies have to respond to disputes within 30 days, although some can take 45 days. And if the credit reporting agency sides with you, it must remove the mistake immediately. In a 2012 Federal Trade Commission study on credit report accuracy, four out of five people who disputed an error on their credit reports had a modification made to their reports.
After your dispute, one of two things will happen:
- Successful dispute. Your credit report will be updated, the other credit bureaus will be notified, and you’ll be issued an updated version of your credit report.
- Unsuccessful dispute. No change will occur to your credit score and your report will note that you disputed an item. You can add a statement to your credit report that provides context for the dispute and provides clarity when future creditors review your report.
Taking Things A Step Further
If your dispute is unsuccessful, you do have one further option: file a complaint with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB). If you choose to file a complaint with the CFPB, provide as much information as possible, including all your correspondence with the credit bureaus.
After you file your complaint, the CFPB will work with the credit bureaus to attempt to resolve your complaint.
Filing credit disputes is a tedious process, but it’s absolutely necessary if you want to repair your credit. If you don’t dispute incorrect information, it will remain on your credit report and drag your score down.
Steps to Take if Your Identity Was Stolen
If you believe your identity was stolen, it’s critical that you take immediate action. The longer you wait, the more fraudulent activity can take place on your account.
Follow these steps:
- Contact each of the three credit bureaus (Equifax, Experian, and Transunion) and have them place a fraud alert on your account.
- Freeze your credit reports so that potential creditors are not able to view your credit reports. This makes it more difficult for new accounts to be opened.
- Report the theft to the FTC and local police. This creates an “Identity Theft Report” which can then be used to resolve fraudulent transactions on your credit report.
Steps to Take if an Existing Account Was Compromised
If you believe that one of your existing accounts, such as a credit card, has been accessed by unauthorized people, you should immediately contact the creditor. Usually, the creditor will immediately cancel the card, issue you a new one, and then correct your credit report with the proper information.
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