One of the important reasons to check your credit reports is to ensure that the information presented represents you and the manner in which you have handled your finances. Your credit report should be free from errors, no matter how trivial they may seem. Errors can range from the misspelling of your name in the personal information section to something more serious such as a claim that an account was not paid.
Report your dispute to the credit reporting agency (CRA). To ensure inaccurate information is removed or corrected on a credit report, you must send the dispute through the CRA. You may also send your dispute to the creditor, lender or other agency that is reporting the information.
Online Disputes –
Written Disputes - In a written dispute, your letter should clearly identify each item in your report you dispute, state the facts and explain why you dispute the information, and request deletion or correction. You may want to enclose a copy of your credit report with the items in question circled. See our Sample Dispute Letter.
If you send the dispute by mail be sure to include copies (not originals) of any supporting documentation. Send the correspondence via certified mail, return receipt requested, so you can document that it was received by the CRA. Keep copies of your dispute letter and enclosures.
Results - The credit reporting agency must investigate the items in question – usually within 30 days. They also must forward all relevant data you provide about the dispute to the information provider (creditor, lender, etc.). After the information provider receives notice of a dispute from the credit reporting agency, it must investigate, review all relevant information provided, and report the results to the credit reporting agency. This must occur in the 30-day period.
According to the Fair Credit Reporting Act disputed information that cannot be verified must be deleted from your file, erroneous information must be corrected, and incomplete items must be completed.
When the investigation is complete, the credit reporting agency must give you the written results and a free copy of your report if the dispute results in a change. Also, if you request it, the credit reporting agency must send notices of corrections to anyone who received your report in the past six months or two years if the reports were used for employment purposes. If an investigation does not resolve your dispute, ask the credit reporting agency to include your statement of the dispute in your file and in future reports.
Accurate Negative Information – when negative information in your report is accurate, only the passage of time can assure its removal.
Accurate negative information can generally stay on your report for 7 years from the time that the account goes past due. However, if you file a chapter 7 bankruptcy, that information can remain on a report for 10 years from the time it is filed.
Adding Accounts to Your File. Sometimes your file may not reflect all your credit accounts. Although most national department store and all-purpose bank credit card accounts will be included in your file, not all creditors supply information to credit reporting agencies: Some travel, entertainment, gasoline card companies, local retailers, and credit unions are among those creditors that may not report your accounts to all three credit reporting agencies. If you’ve been told you were denied credit because of an “insufficient credit file” or “no credit file” and you have accounts with creditors that don’t appear in your credit file, ask the credit reporting agency to add this information to future reports.
Although they are not required to do so, many CRAs will add verifiable accounts for a fee. However, if these creditors do not report to the CRA on a regular basis, these added items will not be updated in your file.