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Credit Reports: What They Are, How To Get One, How To Fix It

How Do I Fix An Error In My Credit Report?

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If an item in your credit does not seem legitimate, challenge it.

Consider starting by calling the creditor. Ask for the person in charge of fixing an error in information submitted to a credit bureau. Have documentation that supports your understanding of the facts handy so you can be specific. If the company asks that you send documentation, send a copy, keeping the original. Once the company agrees with you, ask that a correction be sent to the credit bureau(s) to which the information was submitted - and that you be sent a copy of the correction. Then check your report to be sure the correction was made.

If the matter is not resolved to your satisfaction, contact the credit bureau(s) with the misinformation. If you question an entry, a credit bureau is legally obligated to either verify the report as legitimate or remove it from your report. 

All three credit bureaus provide instructions for disputing an item on your credit report. Following are links to information about starting a dispute with each of the three major credit bureaus. As you will see, you have a choice between submitting the dispute online or via regular mail. Regular mail is preferable so you can attach documentation. Contact information for the three bureaus is:

According to Smart Money magazine, the people processing disputes are under enormous pressure to process disputes and forward them as quickly as possible. Therefore it is advisable to keep your explanations short and to the point. It may help to write out what you want to say before submitting your dispute. Walk away from what you wrote for at least an hour. Then review it before sending. It will help you see what you wrote from the point of view of an independent reader. Alternatively, ask a friend or family member to read what you wrote for the same reason.

What should be in the letter to the credit bureau

The letter to the credit bureau should include the following:

  • Identify who you are (name, current residence address, Social Security number)
  • Your reason for writing (basically to correct an incorrect entry)
  • What is wrong with the report and why it is wrong (including any story and proof)
  • Why it won't happen again (e.g., it was a very unusual situation that is not likely to occur again)
  • What you want the credit bureau to do.
  • A request for confirmation that the action you require was completed,
  • A polite "thank you" for their consideration.
  • Your signature.

The Federal Trade Commission has a sample letter posted at offsite link

Correspondence should be sent by certified mail, return receipt requested and should include copies (not originals) of documents that support your position.

Be sure to keep a copy of everything you send a credit bureau.

What happens once the credit bureau receives your letter

Once the credit bureau receives your letter disputing information in the report, the bureau must investigate the items in question, usually within 30 days. The only exception is if the bureau considers your dispute to be frivolous.

The investigation starts with the bureau contacting the creditor and forwarding all relevant data you provide about the dispute.

After the creditor receives notice of a dispute from the consumer reporting agency, it must investigate, review all relevant facts you provided, and report the results to the consumer reporting agency - generally within 30 to 45 days.  

When the investigation is complete, the credit bureau must give you the written results and a free copy of your report if the dispute results in a change. (Be sure to request the copy of the bureau doesn't send it to you).

  • If the creditor says the information is correct, you will receive notice from the bureau advising you that the information has been checked and is accurate. You will be given an opportunity to note on your report that you dispute the item. (If you then apply for a major loan or credit, it is advisable to submit a letter explaining the dispute.)
  • If the creditor finds that you are correct and the disputed information is inaccurate, the credit bureau will eliminate the item. Also the creditor must notify all consumer reporting agencies to which it has reported the inaccurate information.
  •  If a creditor fails to respond to an investigation, the law requires that the disputed item in the report be removed until it is verified by the creditor.

If the creditor doesn't agree with your version or the credit bureau won't fix the error, see: What If The Creditor Or Credit Reporting Bureau Won't Fix An Error In My Report?

NOTE: At your request, the credit reporting agency must send a notice of correction to anyone who received your report in the past 6 months.

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