Do you have a less-than-ideal credit score? One of the quickest and easiest ways to start repairing your credit is by disputing inaccurate items on your credit report. Request a credit report from all three of the major reporting agencies: TransUnion, Experian, and Equifax. You want to request the report from all three agencies because if there IS an inaccuracy in your credit history, it’s unlikely that all three bureaus would pick on it. Additionally, if you’re applying for a mortgage, a car loan, or a new apartment, you don’t know which of the three bureaus is going to be consulted.
Once you get the report, there are a few things you can look for:
Account related errors include credit/loan accounts that you didn’t open, accounts that you closed previously but are still listed as open, and any late payments that you made seven or more years ago. All three of these constitute errors and you’ll want to clear them up.
While flubs such as a misspelled name, an inaccurate mailing address, or an incorrect listing of your employer don’t hurt your credit on their own, they can cause problems. Let’s say your name is John Smith and you make your credit card payments on time every month, but your name is misspelled “Jon Smith”.
Your credit card company sees that Jon Smith is making his payments on time, but John Smith hasn’t paid on his card in months. Obviously, this causes a situation where your credit habits are being misrepresented – and it’s all because of a misspelled name.
This is why you want to verify your name, address, and employer information.
Pay close attention to remarks about late payments, accounts that were released in bankruptcy but are still populating as being active, or collections accounts that have been paid off but are still reflecting as unpaid. Any of these loose ends can negatively hurt your credit score, and for no reason – in essence, you’re being penalized for a mistake you didn’t make.
When you come across an inaccuracy in your credit report, it’s the responsibility of the data furnisher and the credit bureau to investigate the claim and, if necessary, correct the report. Thanks to the FCRA act, if you dispute an entry on your credit report, the credit agency (be it TransUnion, Experian, or Equifax) is obligated to verify that the item is accurate. If they can’t prove that the item is accurate, or if they find that it’s inaccurate, then they’re legally bound to remove the item within 30 days of the dispute.
There are three ways to dispute inaccurate information on your credit report: you can either go to the data furnisher, you can go to the credit bureau, or you can do both.
Bear in mind while dealing with the credit bureaus that the three agencies are separate, meaning if you find an error on all three reports, you have to file three separate disputes. So for example, if you find an error on all three reports, then just filing a dispute with TransUnion won’t cut it – you have to file with Experian and Equifax as well.
As far as the actual dispute is concerned, you can do it online or via regular mail. If you’re doing it online, then you can include the supporting documentation with your claim. If you go the snail mail route, you’ll send it all together. Here’s the process for both methods.
Start by writing a dispute letter and when you send it, send it through certified mail. You’ll want to send it certified so you’re able to track it. Make sure you include any documentation that is relevant to the dispute. For example, if you recently closed out a collections account and it’s still reflecting as active, then you’ll want to include the letter indicating that the account was closed. You’ll receive a response within 30 days (just make sure you’re factoring in the amount of time it takes the dispute to reach the bureau, and the time it takes for the response to get to you).
Write a dispute letter pointing out the error and where it’s found on your credit report. Because you’re online, you’ll be submitting your dispute instantly and you’ll be able to track the dispute as it’s handled by the credit bureau. Upload as much supporting documentation as you can – the stronger the evidence of the error, the stronger your case – and wait for the process to complete. You’ll receive an email with the verdict within 30 days.
Either way, if your dispute is found to be accurate, it will then be removed from your report(s) within 30 days, and your credit score will improve accordingly.
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