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, technically, you could be paying $100,000 more on a 30-year mortgage because of mistakes the credit bureaus made in reporting your information!
Credit Reporting Laws – Your Rights Under the FCRA
That’s just the beginning of the awful things that could happen to a consumer because of the credit bureau’s erroneous reporting. 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, credit bureaus have a responsibility to provide accurate information about you. The Fair Credit Reporting Act 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 information on your credit report, they notify the company that provided the information, who then must verify the item’s accuracy.
If the item is proven to be inaccurate or unverifiable, it must be removed from your credit report within 30 days after the credit bureau has received the dispute. The credit reporting company must also notify anyone who has received your credit report in the past six months of the corrections.
How do errors appear on your credit report?
There are numerous reasons that errors show up on your credit report. Lenders, banks, and collection agencies sometimes report things inaccurately. 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 or credit card and opened an account in your name, that account could still show up on your credit file as a mistake even if you reported the identity theft.
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. We highly recommend that you do it through certified mail. 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 report is being reported accurately, including your personal information.
Look for any negative accounts on your credit report. Do you notice anything about them that could be questionable? If so, you are entitled to dispute the account that contains the credit report 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.
After the creditor receives notice of a dispute from the credit reporting company, it must investigate, review the relevant information, and report the results back to the credit reporting company.
If the creditor finds inaccurate or incomplete information within the disputed account, it must notify all three credit reporting companies so they can correct the error on your credit report. 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 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, it’s essential that you have the complaint filed for your records in case you decide to hire an attorney as a willful failure to comply with the law may subject the credit bureau to civil liability.
Getting Professional Help
If you find that 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.
They have removed millions of negative items from their clients’ credit reports and 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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