Credit reports must be kept accurate.
Let’s face it, consumers need good credit for a variety of reasons — from housing, education and employment, to personal loans or emergency expenses, such as medical bills or funerals. Good credit and high credit scores facilitate the process of obtaining approval for new credit. Errors on credit files not only affect the consumer’s ability to borrow money and how much it will cost to borrow money, but present a wider-range of unfavorable consequences, such as lowered credit scores, increased interest rates and lower credit limits.
Steps to Effectively Dispute Credit Report Errors
The Federal Trade Commission conducted a study that showed one in five people have an error on at least one credit report. By reviewing credit files regularly, consumers can minimize errors by disputing them timely.
STEP ONE: Obtain current credit reports
The website, annualcreditreport.com, is the quickest way to access reports. By writing to the three main credit bureaus – Transunion, Experian and Equifax — to obtain a current copy of your report, you will need to provide two forms of identification. A government-issued ID, such as a driver’s license and a copy of a current utility bill or bank statement showing your current address would be acceptable.
STEP TWO: Write to the Credit Furnisher
After reviewing your credit report for accuracy, if there are errors listed you may need to write to the lender, creditor, collection agency or other type of data furnisher to request updated information on your account. Obtaining verification of your account status from these companies can provide useful evidence when your dispute is investigated by the credit bureau and evaluated for accuracy.
STEP THREE: Prepare a Written Dispute to the Credit Bureau
The most effective method of disputing errors on a credit report is to write to the credit bureaus — Transunion, Experian and Equifax.
Five simple guidelines for your dispute letter:
1. Keep your dispute to one page. Address only one issue at a time.
2. Clearly identify the error by highlighting it on a current credit report.
3. State the action you want the bureau to take.
4. Enclose documents supporting why the tradeline must be corrected.
5. Make your dispute & supporting documents easy to understand.
Why must I dispute directly with Transunion, Experian and Equifax?
Transunion, Experian and Equifax are considered “the source” of credit reporting information. They are most likely to have been furnished with the most up-to-date information. Although there are a variety of other sources that provide credit reporting information such as, Credit Karma, Credit Sesame, MyFICO.com, or various industry-specific reports, these reporting services may not update information with the frequency of the three main bureaus.
Can’t I dispute online or over the phone?
Although the credit bureaus accept disputes online and by phone, consumers must be cautious. These methods of disputing could present problems.
- Online disputes have limits to character/space requirements, and could present difficulty in communicating a complex dispute.
- Phone communications are difficult to document — whether it’s conveying precise issues or identifying steps required to resolve the problem. As well, phone disputes do not provide the opportunity to submit supporting documents which could help prove your point. It’s best to have a good paper trail showing all steps you’ve taken to address any errors.
STEP FOUR: Keep Records of your Dispute
Dispute letters should be sent to the credit bureaus by Certified Mail, Return Receipt. Be sure to keep a copy of the dispute letter and all supporting documents enclosed with your letter, along with all mailing receipts from the post office.
Credit bureau disputes are typically concluded within a few weeks, but the bureaus have 30 days to respond in writing to your dispute. It may take a little longer for the reports to be updated and for credit scores to reflect updated information.
The Law is on your Side
The Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA), is a federal law governing how consumer credit information can be used and distributed. It gives consumers the right to obtain credit reports, dispute inaccurate information appearing on the reports, and have errors corrected. Credit furnishers, such as banks, mortgage lenders, credit card companies and other finance companies, must provide accurate information to the credit bureaus. When a consumer’s application for credit is denied due to errors on the credit report, the consumer’s rights may have been violated under the FCRA.
Seek Help from a Qualified Consumer Law Firm
Flitter Milz is a consumer protection law firm that addresses accuracy and privacy violations of the Fair Credit Reporting Act. If there are uncorrected errors on a consumer’s credit reports, the consumer’s legal rights may have been violated. The attorneys at Flitter Milz evaluate consumer’s credit reports for errors and identify steps to correct them. If a consumer’s credit has been damaged, there could be a violation of the law. CONTACT US for a no cost legal review. Pictured: Cary Flitter (center), Andy Milz (left), Jody López-Jacobs (right).