How to dispute incorrect information in your credit report? Disputing incorrect information with the Credit Bureaus is the first step towards fixing errors in your credit report. Credit reporting is governed primarily by the Fair Credit Reporting Act (“FCRA”). The FCRA requires that you dispute inaccurate information with the credit bureaus BEFORE you can sue BIG BAD BANK for destroying your credit score. It’s almost like the BIG BAD BANK gets a “Get out of Jail FREE Card,” in the old Monopoly game. In any event, IF the BIG BAD BANK fixes the inaccurate information after you dispute with the Credit Bureaus – problem solved.
Brief Summary of the Dispute Process
Write a letter to the Credit Bureau, in plain English, explaining the problem and how it should be fixed. Include in the letter a copy of the page of the report showing the inaccurate information and attach other important documents, for example, a copy of a statement from BIG BAD BANK showing that you “Paid-off” the mortgage; or a copy of a bankruptcy discharge order showing that the “Charge-Off” should be erased.
- Number the pages to show they are part of a document. So, for example, if you send a one-page letter and two attached pages, label them at the bottom of each page “1 of 3”, “2 of 3” and “3 of 3” so there won’t be any question that you sent 3 pages. Send your dispute to the Credit Bureau certified mail – return receipt requested. The return receipt is proof that the Credit Bureau and BIG BAD BANK received your dispute as they must sign for your certified letter upon receipt.
- Sign and photocopy your letter to the Credit Bureau and send a copy to the BIG BAD BANK, also certified mail return receipt requested, at the address shown on the Equifax credit report. Keep a copy of your dispute (all pages). I suggest that you also make a copy of the front and back of both envelopes (the one to the Credit Bureau and the one to the BIG BAD BANK), with the return green cards already attached, before you take them to the U.S. Post Office. Should either the BIG BAD BANK or the Credit Bureau deny receipt of your dispute, you will have essentially irrefutable proof that you sent it.
- By the way, you may be wondering why you need to send a copy of the dispute to the BIG BAD BANK, given the explanation that the FCRA requires you to dispute with the Credit Bureau. Just do it. If you really want to know why, call me and I will explain it.
Where Do I Send the Dispute
If the BIG BAD BANK misreported information to Equifax, Experian and TransUnion, you will need to dispute with all three (3) Credit Bureaus. That means three (3) certified letters, return receipt requested to the Big 3 Credit Bureaus and a copy of each letter send to the BIG BAD BANK at the address shown in each credit report. Thus, you will have to send 3 disputes to the Credit Bureaus and 3 copies to the BIG BAD BANK. Don’t forget to keep photocopies of everything you mail.
What Not To Do There are three possible channels to assert your dispute with the Credit Bureau: (1) mail; (2) phone; (3) internet. Please only dispute by mail (certified, return receipt requested). Do not use the phone or the internet. Do not use the phone or the internet. Do not use the phone or the internet. That was not an editing error; I wanted to drive the point home by repeating it three times.
Here is why. If you lodge your dispute by phone, who knows how the Equifax employee will characterize it. A mischaracterization of your dispute may result in BIG BAD BANK not fixing the inaccurate reporting when it should have if it were properly notified of the nature of your dispute. For example, the Equifax employee may tell BIG BAD BANK that you believe that the debt in question (the mortgage in our example) is not yours, instead of correctly indicating that you had paid the mortgage. Plus, you will have no way to attach documents–documents which may clearly show why your dispute is meritorious so that the reported information must to be corrected.
If you file your dispute online, you will get a nice confirmation email, but you will not get a copy of what you wrote. If you need to hire a lawyer, he/she will want to evaluate the quality of your dispute, in other words, whether you adequately told the Credit Bureau why the information reported about your mortgage was inaccurate. Not being able to see what you told the Credit Bureau, the lawyer will tell you to do your dispute again . . . this time by mail, certified return receipt requested.
Sample Letter for Disputing Errors on Your Credit Report
[Your City, State, Zip Code]
[City, State, Zip Code]
Dear Sir or Madam:
I am writing to dispute the following information in my file. I have circled the items I dispute on the attached copy of the report I received.
This item [identify item(s), such as creditors “Charge-Off”, and identify type of item, such as credit account, etc.] is [inaccurate] because [describe what is inaccurate and why]. I am requesting that the item be removed to correct the information.
Enclosed are copies of [use this sentence if applicable and describe any enclosed documentation, such as payment records and court documents] supporting my position. Please reinvestigate this [these]matter[s] and [delete or correct] the disputed item[s] as soon as possible.
Enclosures: [List what you are enclosing.]
Free Template Letters:Here is website with a few template letters to speed things up a little: http://myscorepro.com/credit-blog/howard-holtzman/credit-resources/dispute-templates/
Results of your dispute
In a few days, you will get a response from Equifax. If the misreporting is fixed, congratulations. You did what the FCRA required you to do: dispute with the Credit Bureau. The BIG BAD BANK and the Credit Bureau did what the FCRA required them to do: correct the error. If the Credit Bureau did not fix the problem, you now have the right to go to court to get it fixed. The FCRA also allows you hire a FREE attorney as the charges are reversed to the Credit Bureau. In other words, the Credit Bureau pays my legal fees for failing to fix your mistake – it’s almost like a penalty for failing to do their job properly.