You can dispute an error on your credit report. Though it’s a fairly difficult process, it is doable, but you have to be well organized and fully prepared to see it through to the end.
Here’s what you need to do to dispute an error.
Facing Credit Reality: You’re Guilty Until Proven Innocent
If you are going to be successful in disputing an error on your credit report, will have to be aware of a few realities within the credit universe. Credit reports are largely the result of a cozy business arrangement between the major credit repositories – Equifax, Experian and TransUnion – and the creditors. The creditors report their experience with their customers to the credit repositories, and the credit repositories report that information on the credit reports.
Unfortunately, unlike typical practices in law, you are guilty until proven innocent. A creditor can report any type of information that they like, and it will be up to you to have that information either corrected or removed if you have a basis for doing so. That’s the situation you have been fully prepared to accept and deal with.
You should also understand that the process is on the slow side. Both creditors and the credit repositories have up to 30 days to respond to your requests to make changes. And that may be only the beginning – you may be required to submit additional documentation that will slow the process even more. In some cases, it can take several months to have a credit error corrected.
Get Your Evidence Together
You must also understand that neither creditors nor credit repositories will simply accept your word as proof of your claim. You will need to have a paper trail that can be submitted as evidence to prove your point.
In most cases, this will require evidence that either a debt was paid, or that a reported late payment (or series of payments) never occurred. That could mean you will need to provide 12 months or more of canceled checks or online payments to prove that you were never late.
The best advice is to get this information together before contacting the creditor or the credit repositories. Unless you have this information, your claim that the information reported by the creditor is in error will be a weak one at best.
Contact the Creditor First
Your first point of contact should be the creditor who reported erroneous information. You will need the following in order to make your claim:
- A copy of your credit report, so that you can reference the specific entry that is an error. You will have to include your account number, the dollar amount of the error, and the date it was reported to have taken place.
- A cover letter that includes the information above from your credit report, as well as an explanation that you are challenging the reported information, with an explanation as to why you believe it is an error.
- Documentation that supports your claim of the error.
If you have all of the above, most creditors will cooperate and remove the disputed information.
There are two items that you will need from the creditor in order to be satisfied that the error has been removed:
- A written acknowledgment from the creditor that the information reported is an error, and
- A written promise that the erroneous information will be corrected with all three credit bureaus.
Both of these items are vitally important. Creditors are much better at reporting negative information than they are at removing mistakes from your credit report. In the event that they don’t fully cooperate, you will need these items in order to contact the credit bureaus directly, and resolve the problem through them.
Contact the Credit Bureaus if the Creditor Isn’t Cooperative
Even if the creditor agrees to remove the information, you should never take them at their word. Obtain the recent copy of your credit within 30 days of the creditor agreeing to remove the negative information. If it is still on your report, you may have to contact the credit repositories directly in order to get it resolved.
You will need to send all of the information listed above to each of the three credit repositories. If you only send it to one, the other two will continue to report the error.
Here is the contact information for all three credit bureaus. Fortunately, each provides at least three ways to contact them.
Online: Equifax Online Dispute
Phone: 866 349-5191
Equifax Information Services, LLC.
P.O. Box 740256
Atlanta, GA 30348
Online: Dispute Your Credit Report Online
P.O. Box 4500
Allen, TX 75013
(Can also download your correspondence using the upload function)
Online: Manage a Dispute on Your Credit File
Consumer Dispute Center
P.O. Box 2000
Chester, PA 19022
It’s probably best if you contact the credit repositories by mail. They are notorious for not answering their phone lines, or for routing you through a complex telephone system, without ever speaking to a live human being. Also, you may waive some of your rights if you contact them through their online website.
Get Help If You Need It
If you’re getting a sense that disputing an error on your credit report is not exactly a simple process, then you are exactly right. If you don’t feel you can or want do all of the above steps, or if you tried, and neither the creditor nor the credit repositories is being cooperative, consider asking for help. That’s even more true if you need to dispute several errors.
A good credit repair service will be your best ally in your attempt to clear your credit rating. As noted above, you’re guilty until proven innocent when it comes your credit report, and sometimes you just need help along the way.