It’s something that’s drilled into our heads over and over: You must maintain a good credit score.
But sometimes errors can pop up on our credit reports through no fault of our own. When that happens, it’s important to take steps to fix these errors as soon as possible.
In this blog post, we’ll explore how to do that using the example of one of the three main credit reporting services, Experian. Here’s how to deal with an Experian dispute.
Know what to look for
Start by requesting a new report. Every twelve months, consumers are entitled to obtain a free copy of their credit report from each bureau. Review the report and check all your identifying information, such as your Social Security number, birth date, current and previous address and the name under which you’ve applied for credit. (You may need to check for variations on your name, such as “Joseph” vs. “Joe.”)
Errors in this section won’t harm your credit score, but it could be a sign that someone else’s info has gotten mixed up with yours…or worse, that you’ve become the victim of identity theft.
From there, review each tradeline on the credit report for accuracy. Look for mistakes, such as:
- Mis-merged accounts or ones that aren’t yours (particularly if you have a common name or if you have a “junior” or “senior” attached to your name.)
- Late payments that weren’t late.
- Public records that aren’t yours, such as liens, judgments and bankruptcies.
- Negative information that is factual but too old to still be on your report. Most listings must age-off after 7 ½ years.
- Duplicate listings for the same account. For example, if both an original creditor’s tradeline and a tradeline for the collector of that account are listed, one of those listings must be removed.
If you spot any of these mistakes, you will need to take steps to get the errors corrected. Inaccurate information on credit reports may bring your credit score down, which could impact terms for existing credit. As well, these errors may contribute to the determination of whether you get approved for new credit.
How shall I file an Experian dispute?
Once you’ve obtained a current copy of your Experian report, review it for accuracy. If you find information that is not listed correctly, you will need to prepare a dispute letter. Start by making a copy of your report and highlighting the errors.
Next, gather documents that illustrate why the listed information is incorrect. For example, if a creditor lists an obligation as owing and it was satisfied in full, gather proof of payment, such as the last billing statement, a canceled check confirming pay off, and correspondence from the creditor confirming payment.
Most important, you need to send a letter to the credit bureau disputing the error. Your letter should:
- Clearly state the problem
Prepare a letter that clearly states the problem. Do not dispute several items in the same letter. Keep your letter short and to the point.
- Show the error
Make it easy for the credit bureau representative to understand your dispute. Often, it is helpful to highlight the error on the report with a marker.
- Provide documents to support your claim
Photocopy documents and highlight information that shows why the listing is incorrect.
- State the final action to be taken
Should the tradeline be removed? Updated? Corrected? Clearly state the action you would like the credit bureau to take.
- Create a good paper trail
Always, keep a copy of your complete written correspondence, documents sent and proof of mailing receipts (i.e. Certified Mail, FEDEX, etc.)
- Document that your letter was received
Know when Experian received your dispute and calculate when you should expect a written. Experian has 30 days to respond to your dispute. Mark your calendar and look for their written reply.
Get help from an Experienced Consumer Law Firm
The Fair Credit Reporting Act offers protections to consumers from false or incorrect information appearing on credit reports. After disputing with the credit bureaus, if the errors continue to appear, there could be a violation of the consumer’s rights.
The attorneys at Flitter Milz have worked with consumers throughout Pennsylvania and New Jersey, to resolve issues of inaccurate credit reporting. If you have errors on your credit report that won’t go away, contact us today for a no-cost consultation.