It’s possible for incorrect, incomplete or outdated information to appear on your credit report. If it does, it can drastically lower your chances of getting the loans, credit cards, and other credit products you deserve. If you find an error, take the following steps as soon as possible. If you see evidence of fraud, contact the credit reporting companies immediately. Explain the situation and ask that a fraud alert be placed in your file. Also report the fraud to the police, and your creditors.
1. Contact the credit reporting company
Contact the credit reporting company that is reporting the item in question. It is helpful for you to have a printed copy of your credit report from them. You may be eligible to receive it free of charge.
After you advise the credit reporting agency of the information that you dispute and why, the credit reporting company will review it. If you have any documentation that supports your position also send that to the credit reporting agency. If further investigation is required, the credit reporting agency will provide notification of what you’re disputing to the source that furnished the disputed information to them.
The source of the disputed information will review the information, conduct its own investigation, and report back to the credit reporting agency. The credit reporting company will then make all appropriate changes to your credit file based on the investigation, and notify you of the results of the investigation and any changes that were made to your credit report.
2. Contact the Creditor Regarding the Problem
In some cases, you should contact the appropriate creditor or lender before contacting a credit reporting company. This is especially true if you are a victim of identity theft or fraud. You should also contact the appropriate creditor or lender if that source has verified the information that you disputed with the credit reporting company. Most large creditors have standard procedures for customers to dispute items about their accounts with them. If you have proof that the item in question is incorrect, it should be resolved quickly.
If the creditor finds that the disputed information is indeed incorrect, the creditor is required by federal law, the Fair Credit Reporting Act, to update its records both internally and with the credit reporting companies to which it reported the disputed information, usually within 30 days.
Always follow up your phone calls with a letter. List each disputed item, and state how it is inaccurate, attaching copies of all relevant documents. Include your full name, account number, the dollar amount in question, and the reason you believe the item is wrong. Be concise.
3. Contact the Other credit reporting companies
If you find an inaccuracy with one credit reporting company, you may want to get your credit report from the other two credit reporting companies to see if their credit reports contain the same error.
After you’ve corrected an error with one credit reporting company, the other credit reporting companies will in most cases also receive the corrected information. But for prompt correction, it’s best to contact each of the three major credit reporting companies yourself.
4. Make Sure the Disputed Information Is Addressed
Within 30 days (45 days if based upon your annual free credit file), the credit reporting company should notify you of the results of its investigation. You’ll need to obtain a new copy of your credit report to make sure that the inaccuracies have been corrected or removed.
If the disputed information has been resolved, you can have the credit reporting company notify anyone who received a credit report with the inaccurate information in the past six months (two years in the case of employers) of the corrections that have been made.
5. If You Cannot Resolve a Disputed Item
You have the right to file a brief statement with the consumer reporting company, free of charge, explaining the nature of your disagreement. The consumer reporting company may limit your statement to not more than 100 words if it provides you with assistance in writing a clear summary of the disagreement. Your statement will become part of your credit report, and will be reported each time your credit report is accessed, for as long as the disputed item remains in your credit report.