Errors are common on credit reports. In2013, an FTC report found that one in four consumers had errors on their creditreports. How do errors occur on your credit report? There are a number of ways; the credit history of someone with a similarname can find its way on to your report, in other cases, the creditors make anerror when reporting information to the credit bureaus.
With over 200 million active credit filesmanaged by 3 credit bureaus, there are bound to be mistakes in data entry.
Errors on your credit report can lower your credit score andadversely affect your ability to secure credit, obtain a mortgage, get anoptimal insurance rate or get an unsecured credit card. The law gives you the right, free of charge,to contest anything on your credit report that you contend is inaccurate.
You have three options when disputing errors on your creditreport: online, in writing and over thephone. It is always better todispute an error in writing, as this gives you a paper record of yourdispute. This article will help youcraft such a letter.
First Pull Your Credit Report
You can get a copy of your credit report FREE from annualcreditreport.com. There are three credit bureaus that you will be pulling your report from: Equifax, TransUnion and Experian. While it is common to find advice on the internet which says to only pull one of your reports every 4 months in order to spread out the monitoring of your reports, I say it is better to get all three at once. Information is not shared among credit bureaus and often you can have glaring errors with one bureau while the other 2 show no problems. Also, you never know from which credit bureau a creditor will pull your credit (or if they pull all three), so it is better to get a complete picture right away. After you pull your reports from annualcreditreport.com, print out a copy of each.
Review Your Credit Report History
Most credit reports will divide up your credit report intosections: Adverse History, Accounts inGood Standing, Collections and Public Records. The areas of your credit report you want to focus on are the AdverseHistory, Collections and Public Records. Anything listed in these sections isan item of concern. Take a close lookand take a highlighting pen and make note of ANY information that isinaccurate. Information that isinaccurate INCLUDES dates and amounts – not just payment history. I’ve often seen success in deleting an entirelisting when the date the account was opened was incorrect or the originalamount of the loan was wrong. When youhave highlighted all of the information, it is time to start crafting yourletter.
How Many Letters Should I Write?
You should write a letter to each of the credit bureaus thathave reported any inaccurate information, a maximum of three letters.
What Information Should I Include?
Begin your letter by writing your full name, your addressand your social security number at the top of the letter, along with thedate. You can address the letter “ToWhom It May Concern”.
In the first paragraph of your letter, you can simply statethat you pulled your credit report and noticed some inaccurate information andyou wish to dispute it and have the bureau conduct an investigation. There is no need to cite the Fair CreditReporting Act or make threats. Just beclear.
The next paragraph(s) should list your disputes.
Should I dispute Multiple Items in One Letter?
The answer to this question is a resounding YES. Under the FairCredit Reporting Act (FCRA), the credit bureaus must investigate each itemthat you dispute. However, you must beclear: you can’t just say my report isinaccurate, you must be explicit. Theperson reading your letter has a limited amount of time to decipher it – is itobvious at a cursory glance what is being disputed?
To help with the readability, in your letter, use a wholenew paragraph when describing each of your dispute. In each dispute paragraph, list:
- The account number of the item (the accountnumber will often be incomplete to protect your privacy, just write downwhatever account number is written on your report).
- The information that is inaccurate.
- Why you believe it is inaccurate.
- List any proof that you may be including withyour letter.
Close your letter
Sign your name and list any attachments (documentation) thatyou are including with the letter.
What Documentation to Include with Your Letter
ALWAYS include a copy of your photo ID that clearly listsyour name and your address. If youraddress has changed, then include a copy of a utility bill to prove you havemoved. Even if you don’t include anydocumentation proving your dispute, your letter should have at least oneattachment – your ID. Your creditinformation is highly sensitive information and the credit bureaus willabsolutely not just take your word for it that you are the person disputing theinformation on your report, you must prove who you are and that the address youare listing is correct. Why theaddress? The credit bureau will reply toyour letter via the mail, so they want to be certain they are mailing the sensitiveinformation to the right address.
If you have other documentation that proves you were notlate, the account is not yours, the amount of the loan is incorrect, the datethe account was opened is incorrect, by all means include it with your letterand include the document in your list of attachments.
If you do not have documentation that the information isinaccurate, you may still dispute the information, and I recommend you do. The real burden of proof is on the creditorreporting the information. Documentationjust helps along the process.
Make a Copy of Your Letter and the Documentation
For your records, you need a copy of what you aresending. Therefore, when the bureauwrites back, you can verify what you disputed and that the investigationactually took place. If the item was notinvestigated, the credit bureau could be in violation of the FCRA, which couldlead to an easy deletion.
Always Send the Letter Registered Mail, Receipt Requested.
Under the FCRA, the bureaus have 30 days to investigate yourclaim. If they do not complete theirinvestigation within 30 days, they must delete the entire listing. Sending the letter registered, receiptrequested means that someone must sign for the letter and a copy of the receiptalong with the date the letter was signed will be mailed back to you. Having this receipt is real power in yourhands.
Social Security Number
To Whom it May Concern,
This letter is a formal complaint thatyou are reporting inaccurate credit information.
The following information needs to beverified and deleted from my credit report as soon as possible:
CREDITOR AGENCY – Account#123-34567-ABC. This account shows thatI was late in July of 2019. Thisinformation is incorrect, I was not late on this account.
CREDITOR AGENCY – AccountXXXX-123-0980. This account is notmine.
Please delete the above information asquickly as possible.
My driver’s license, utility bill andproof that I was not late on Account #123-34567-ABCin the form of a canceled check.
Writing a dispute letter is really pretty easy andwill take you less than an hour to complete. Not sure your letter looks correct? Here are some other example letters.