How to Dispute Credit Report Mistakes

Here’s how to dispute credit report mistakes. It is your right under the federal Fair Credit Reporting Act to dispute credit report mistakes, including items that are incomplete. Here's how to do that:  

#1. First, get a copy of your credit report from all three major credit reporting agencies (CRAs): Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion. If you order your reports online, be sure to save copies either on the hard drive of your computer, or print them out.

You can get a truly free credit report once a year from AnnualCreditReport.com, the government-mandated site for free credit reports. Note, you will not get a free credit score from that site, nor will you get an analysis of your credit. You can get a free credit score from Credit.com.

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 #2: You have the right to ask the CRA to investigate any item that is incorrect or incomplete. The agency has 30 days to verify it with the creditor or it must be deleted.
Keep in mind that CRA’s do not share information with each other. Investigations are cursory, and the CRA will often just take the creditor’s side of the story as the truth.

Tip: While you can file a dispute online, attorney Robert Brennan (the co-author of the California edition of our e-book) does not recommend you use that option. He warns that if you file a dispute online you may be agreeing to mandatory arbitration, and give up your right to pursue a claim in court. He recommends you file your dispute in writing with the credit reporting agency.

If the CRA just confirms the information is correct, you may want to go straight to the source. Under the Fair Credit Reporting Act, you also have the right to dispute inaccurate or incomplete credit report information directly with the lender or collection agency that is  reporting it. Use the address supplied with your credit report to contact the company. The “furnisher” of the information you are disputing must investigate and get back to you within thirty days. It must also share correction with all agencies to which is has reported the data.

This approach can work well when you know the lender has wrong information, or when you are asking a lender or collection agency to remove some late payments as a favor, or as part of a payment negotiation.

How to Dispute Credit Report Mistakes Effectively

The average time a credit bureau employee will spend on your dispute is less than a minute. Make your letter as brief and clear as possible, while getting your point across.

Always include your identifying information including former addresses and your Social Security Number. Include any relevant account names and numbers.

Include copies of documentation of your side of the dispute, if available. Highlight the relevant details (the line showing it’s been paid, for example).

Don’t try to sound like a lawyer. It's not necessary and your dispute may be flagged.

Be nice. The person opening your mail deals with hundreds of disputes every day. If your complaint escalates, you can be more forceful, but rudeness won’t help. 

Sent your letter certified mail, return receipt requested, or with delivery confirmation. Notarize important disputes.

Our Most Important Tip for How to Dispute Credit Report Mistakes: Keep copies of all correspondence for your records! Print and keep copies of credit reports. Keep envelopes. Print copies of disputes entered online.

Hopefully, you won’t have to pursue legal action to get your credit report fixed, but if you do, you will need all this documentation.

Don’t flood the bureaus or creditors with disputes. Your disputes may be tagged as “frivolous.” This means they think you are using credit repair, and they will refuse to investigate.  

If these steps do not resolve the matter, contact a consumer law attorney with expertise in credit report matters for help. You could also consider filing a complaint with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. 

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