How to dispute an error on your credit report

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Some studies show serious errors in credit reports were found as high as 25% of the time. The first time I ordered my credit report it showed me:

  • previously living at an address I had never heard of
  • a credit card account I had never opened
  • my name as Scott Alan Turner Jr.

Interesting, because there is no Scott Alan Turner Sr.

It was a time-consuming process to get this cleaned up, however:

My experience was not as bad as the woman who sued Equifax for $18.6 million and won because they repeatedly would not fix her credit report.

It is a consumer right for you to dispute errors on your credit report. You might find errors about your personal information, incorrect accounts, or account details. If you do find an error follow this step-by-step process to dispute an error on your credit report:

Step 1. Get your free credit reports

The law requires you to receive one free copy of your credit report each year from each of the three major reporting bureaus. Check each report for accuracy.

Make a copy of your credit report and highlight the error you are disputing.

If an error only appears on one credit bureau’s report, you only need to contact that particular bureau (not all three).

Step 2. Collect any supporting documentation

In some cases, you will need to provide supporting documentation.

For example if your credit report shows an account as opened but it was closed years ago, include documentation from the credit issuer stating the account is closed.

DO NOT SEND THE ORIGINALS. Make copies to send.

Step 3. Write a dispute letter

Dispute the error in writing. Do not use the website to fill out your request. You want proof that the request was received (discussed in the next step).

Print/fill out a dispute letter. The Federal Trade Commission has a Sample Letter for Disputing Errors on Your Credit Report

Equifax and TransUnion each have their own forms.
– Print the Equifax manual form
– Print the TransUnion manual form

Keep copies of the dispute letters sent and any additional information to support your claim.

Step 4. Mail your dispute

Send the dispute information via certified mail, return receipt requested. Send a copy to both the credit bureau and the credit issuer at the same time.

The only way to have proof is by sending your request via certified mail.

If the dispute is in regards to a company that issued the credit, you will want to send them a copy of the dispute as well. For example, if your credit report shows a Capital One credit card that you never opened – contact Capital One at the same time as the credit bureau.

Include in your envelope:

  • Copy of the dispute letter
  • Copy of your credit report with the error highlighted
  • Copies of any supporting documentation

Step 5. Wait for a response

The credit bureau must investigate your request – usually within 30 days – and send you a written response. The credit bureau must contact the credit issuer with any corresponding documentation.

If your dispute is successful, the credit issuer will contact all three credit bureaus with the updated information. The credit bureau will send you a new copy of your credit report that shows the error fixed.

What happens if your dispute isn’t fixed?

If the problem is not fixed, go through the process a second time. Take your original forms and send a follow-up letter. Include you will be filing a complaint with the Consumer Finance Protection Bureau. Doing so might light a fire under them to take you more seriously if your complaint is legitimate.

Failing all of those steps you can ask the credit bureau to include your statement of the dispute in your credit report for all future credit inquiries. You can add a brief statement to your file explaining the situation.

It’s going to take you some time to work the system and get any errors off of your credit report. The credit bureaus are allowed 30 days to respond so it may take at least a month to get an issue worked out. The amount of time it takes reinforces why you need to request a free copy of your credit report every twelve months.

Question: Have you had to file a credit report dispute? What were the results? Please leave a comment below.

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