The law that controls everything as it relates to credit reports and credit reporting is titled the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA).
The formal dispute process as set forth in the FCRA must be followed exactly or erroneous, false and/or incorrect information can simply be reflected on, and stay on, a credit report forever.
If erroneous, false and/or incorrect information is showing up on someone’s credit report, it will have far-reaching consequences as far as the ability to obtain credit at a favorable rate and may affect obtaining employment. The following are the exact steps that need to be taken in order to delete wrong information on credit reports.
- Get your credit reports. Get them only in writing from annualcreditreport.com and use the mail in form available at that site to obtain the credit reports from all three credit reporting agencies (Equifax, Experian and Trans Union). The form to get all 3 credit reports is located here. Attach a copy of your driver’s license and utility or other bill that ties you to the address you want the credit reports mailed to and so you can show that you are who you say you are. This is the absolute best way to get your free credit reports when you want to dispute erroneous information and it avoids many problems.
- DO NOT get the credit reports directly from the credit reporting agencies (Equifax, Experian and Trans Union) or you may lose important rights due to binding arbitration!
- Once you get the credit reports, review them carefully for any incorrect information. If there is erroneous information such as the debt having been paid off, the debt not being owed, the debt being discharged in bankruptcy and still showing a balance, charge off or in collections, etc., you will then want to prepare a dispute letter directly to the credit reporting agency that has the wrong information. DO NOT submit the dispute online! It is critical that you do the dispute in writing and that you mail it in. Logically, you would think that you would dispute the erroneous information with the credit furnisher that is providing the wrong information but that will accomplish absolutely nothing. The FCRA mandates that you must make the dispute with the credit reporting agency itself who then will contact the furnisher. If you do not follow these steps exactly, then you will accomplish nothing and the errors on your credit reports will be entitled to remain there.
- When you prepare your dispute letter to the credit reporting agencies, you must mail it to them by certified mail, return receipt requested. Keep a copy of the signed and dated letter that you send and also keep the green card you received back from the post office verifying that the credit reporting agency did receive your dispute letter. This is what a sample dispute letter looks like:
SAMPLE DISPUTE LETTER – USE THIS AS A GUIDE TO CREATE YOUR OWN DISPUTE LETTER
Your full mailing address
Your city, state zip code
Date of letter
Name of Credit Report Agency (Transunion, Equifax, Experian)
City, state, zip code
After reviewing my credit report, I am writing to dispute the following information. I have circled the disputed items on my attached report. These include (list item(s) disputed by name of source, such as creditors, and identify type of item, such as credit account, judgment, etc.)
This item(s) is(are) inaccurate because (list exactly why each item is incorrect or incomplete – for instance, “I do not owe the debt.” “The debt is not my debt.” “I have paid the debt.” “The debt was included in my bankruptcy and is only allowed to be shown as a 0 balance-discharged in bankruptcy.”).
Supporting documents have been enclosed. (BE SURE TO INCLUDE AS MUCH SUPPORTING PROOF AS POSSIBLE TO SUPPORT YOUR DISPUTE – THIS IS VERY IMPORTANT!!!) Pursuant to the FCRA (Fair Credit Reporting Act), please forward them to the credit furnishers. If you are not going to forward them, please inform me immediately so that I may do so myself.
Your name printed AND signed name
Encl. (List exactly what you are enclosing)
- In addition to NOT submitting your disputes online, DO NOT use a PO Box as the mailing address for your disputes. Use ONLY the physical mailing addresses for the credit reporting agencies. The physical addresses are as follows:
1550 Peachtree Street, NW
Atlanta, GA 30309-2468
701 Experian Parkway
Allen, TX 75013
555 West Adams St
Chicago, IL 60661
- Remember to keep a copy of everything you send, including the supporting documents/enclosures, and then keep a copy of the green card you get back from the post office so you can verify that the credit reporting agency received your dispute. The importance of doing this cannot be overstated.
- If you want, simply out of frustration, you can also write a separate letter regarding your dispute to the actual credit furnisher. This may help expedite the correction but remember that, under the FCRA law, this WILL HAVE NO EFFECT in correcting erroneous or wrong information on your credit report. The only way the system operates is by a dispute letter directly to the credit reporting agency, regardless of whom is furnishing incorrect information on you!
- Once you have submitted a proper dispute, wait up to 45 days for a response. If your credit report is fixed, then you need to do nothing further.
- If your credit report is not corrected after your first dispute, then tried to get credit and see if whomever you are applying for credit to denies you or gives you a problem or a higher interest rate because of this incorrect information. Make sure to keep proof of ALL denials you receive or problems you have getting credit AFTER your initial dispute. As a side note, any damage or problems you have suffered before you do your initial dispute, are meaningless and of no force or effect under the FCRA. That first dispute triggers liability and the requirement for the credit reporting agency to “follow reasonable procedures to assure maximum possible accuracy” of your credit report. The furnisher of the incorrect information, once it receives the dispute directly from the credit reporting agency, is required under the law to “conduct an investigation” of the dispute and report its findings back to the credit reporting agencies.
- If the information is not corrected as you think it should be, then do a second round of disputes. That is essentially your initial letter and you should note on it “2nd Request – Urgent!” with the new date and explain again what your dispute is and that this is the second time you’re disputing the inaccurate information and that you needed corrected because it is damaging to you.
- Once you get the report back from the second round of disputes, if the credit reports are still not fixed, tried to get credit again and keep all proof if you are denied credit or if you have problems again after the second round of disputes.
- You may have to do disputes another time or two if the credit reporting agencies and the furnisher of the incorrect information will not fix your credit reports.
- The best advice that we have for doing an effective dispute letter is to pretend that you are trying to explain to a fifth-grader what the problems are with your credit reports and why the information that is being shown is wrong. Explain the problems in great detail with all of the supporting documentation that you have and in simple terms so that even a fifth-grader would understand why the information on your credit report is erroneous.
If your credit reports are not corrected to delete the inaccurate or incorrect information that you believe is shown and you are suffering damages in the form of credit denials, job denials, etc., you then have a right to file a lawsuit against the credit reporting agencies and the credit furnisher for the erroneous information that is still showing on your credit reports.
The law under the FCRA is complicated and illogical in parts. If you need assistance helping to resolve incorrect and erroneous information that is on your credit reports, please feel free to contact one of our offices nearest to you. We have years of experience helping people navigate through the FCRA.