Your credit reports contain information about where you live, how you pay your bills, and any public records that you may have.
Credit bureaus sell your credit report to creditors, insurers, employers, landlords, and anyone else who will pay for it. They use this information to evaluate what kind of risk you will be for credit, insurance, employment, renting, and sometimes utilities.
You probably already knew that. But, did you know the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau found that one in five people have an error on at least one of their credit reports?
Other studies have found that up to 79% of the consumer credit reports surveyed contained some kind of error or mistake. That’s right. That means about 4 out of 5 people have information on their credit reports that is erroneous! Astonishing, isn’t it?
Even worse, more than 25% of credit report errors are severe enough to result in the denial of credit or increase interest rates. Good credit scores can save you $100,000 over the life of a $250,000 mortgage.
So, if credit bureaus report your information incorrectly, it could cost you $100,000 more on a 30-year mortgage!
Credit Reporting Laws – Your Rights Under the FCRA
That’s just the beginning of the awful things a consumer could experience as a result of an error on your credit report. For this reason and many others, it’s crucial that you review your credit report periodically.
However, the law is on your side. By law, the three credit bureaus have a responsibility to provide accurate information about you. The Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) requires them to have a dispute process so that you can get the errors on your credit report fixed.
Under the FCRA, if you dispute an item on your credit report, the credit bureaus must notify the information provider. Then, the information provider has 30 days to verify the item’s accuracy.
If they cannot verify it, they must remove it from your credit report. After corrections are made, the credit reporting company must notify anyone who has received your credit report in the past six months.
How do errors appear on your credit report?
There are numerous reasons that errors show up on your credit report. Lenders, credit card issuers, and collection agencies sometimes report inaccurate information. They are only human. They make mistakes.
Sometimes people have similar names or similar social security numbers get mixed up. Many times items of a family member’s account will appear on a credit report because of similarity in name.
Identity theft is another possibility. If someone stole your social security number and opened a credit account in your name, it may still appear on your credit report.
Re-aging of accounts can also occur when debt collectors pass your accounts around. These are also common credit report errors, and you should dispute them.
How to Dispute an Error on Your Credit Report and Win
The dispute process can be done via mail, phone, or online. The best way to do it is by certified mail, return receipt requested. This allows you to keep records of all correspondence with the credit reporting companies. It’s also much more effective doing it through the mail. You give up some of your rights when you dispute online at the credit bureau’s website.
Check Your Credit Report for Errors
To dispute inaccurate information, you must first obtain copies of your credit reports. You can get one free credit report from each of the three major credit bureaus every 12 months. You will then want to spend some time analyzing them. Make sure that everything on your credit reports is being reported accurately, including your personal information.
Look for any negative accounts on your credit reports. Do you notice anything about them that could be questionable? If so, you are entitled to dispute the account that contains the error.
Send a Credit Dispute Letter
The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau recommends that you contact the credit bureaus that are reporting the errors. The best way to do that is in writing. It’s important to note that filing a dispute does not hurt your credit scores.
Take a look at our sample dispute letters and follow the instructions. You may also include a copy of your credit report or any other documentation if you think it will help, but it’s unnecessary.
You can also print out a credit bureau dispute form that you can find on each credit bureau’s website. However, it is advisable to write a letter instead.
Wait 30 – 45 Days for the Credit Bureau Investigation and Response
After the creditor receives notice of a dispute from the credit reporting company, they must investigate. Following their investigation, they must report the results back to the credit reporting company.
Creditors must then notify all three credit reporting companies if inaccurate or incomplete information is found in the disputed account. Occasionally, the creditor simply fails to respond to the credit bureau. In that case, the credit bureau must remove it from your credit report.
You will hear back from the credit bureau about 30 to 45 days after they receive the letter. Often you will receive the results of your dispute sooner than that.
Dispute Addresses & Phone Numbers for the Three Major Credit Bureaus
Equifax Information Services LLC
P.O. Box 740256
Atlanta, GA 30374-0256
Phone number: (800) 685-1111
P.O. Box 4500
Allen, TX 75013
Phone number: (888) 397-3742
Consumer Dispute Center
P.O. Box 2000
Chester, PA 19016
Phone number: (800) 916-8800
You will need to follow up with your credit report dispute if you don’t receive the desired dispute results. It’s also possible that your letter gets ignored. If you have not received a response within 30-40 days, you will need to send a follow-up letter. You can also file a formal complaint with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC).
The FTC does not resolve individual consumer disputes. However, you should keep a copy of the filed complaint for your records. You will need it as evidence if you decide to sue the credit bureau for willful failure to comply with the law.
Getting Professional Help
If you don’t have time or would rather just have it done for you, check out one of the top credit repair services. It will also ensure that it gets done correctly. One particular company has been helping people with their credit history for over 18 years. Read our review on Lexington Law review to learn more about them.
Lexington Law as removed millions of negative items from their clients’ credit reports. They know how to follow up with creditors and credit bureaus when they are not cooperating. For the best possible results, you may want to give them a try.
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Frequently Asked Questions
What types of errors can appear on a credit report?
Errors on a credit report can include incorrect personal information, such as your name, address, or Social Security number. They can also include incorrect account information, such as inconsistent credit limits, balances, or payment history.
You may also find outdated accounts, accounts that don’t belong to you, and incorrect inquiries.
How do I dispute credit report errors?
To dispute credit report errors, you should contact the credit bureaus in writing. Provide a clear explanation of the error and include any documentation that supports your claim. The credit bureau must investigate the dispute within 30 days. However, they have 45 days if you’re disputing an error from a free annual credit report.
Does disputing a credit report error affect my credit score?
Disputing credit report errors should not have an effect on your credit score. The credit bureaus must investigate the dispute and remove any inaccurate information from your credit file. If a negative item is removed, your credit score will most likely go up.
How long does it take to fix a credit report error?
Credit bureaus must investigate the dispute within 30 – 45 days. If they cannot verify that information on your credit report is accurate, they must remove it.
What should I do if a credit bureau doesn’t take action to fix the error?
If a credit bureau doesn’t take action to fix the error, you can follow up with them. You can also file a complaint with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.