How to Dispute Credit Report Errors: A 5-Step Guide
Why You Should Know How to Dispute Credit Report Errors
Our society runs on credit. If you have credit cards, a mortgage, or a bank account you have a credit report. The information in your credit reports is gathered from banks, loan companies, credit card issuers, former landlords, and other sources. These data providers, also known as information furnishers, can make mistakes when they report your financial details.
If you want to apply for a loan, car insurance, or an apartment rental the information in your credit report can impact your chances. If your credit report contains inaccurate information, you need to know how to dispute credit report errors to protect your financial future.
The Laws and Regulations That Protect Consumer Credit Information
In 1970, the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) was enacted by Congress. The main goal was to protect consumers’ rights to know what information is in their credit reports and correct errors that could affect their ability to use credit. Credit reporting is regulated by the Federal Trade Commission along with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.
The FCRA is a complicated statute with many detailed provisions. The consumer protection lawyers at Schlanger Law Group created a Fair Credit Reporting Act Consumer’s Guide to help answer your FCRA questions.
How Credit Reporting Errors Can Happen
Consumer financial information is gathered by credit reporting agencies (CRAs) from various information furnishers. The three major credit bureaus are Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion. These reports are sold to people and businesses that are considering extending consumer credit.
Credit report errors can be simple clerical mistakes such as misspellings or transposed numbers. Sometimes creditors don’t keep accurate records or misreport the status of your account. For example, a creditor may claim you are behind in loan payments when you are current.
Sometimes errors happen when someone else’s information is mistakenly included in your report. Also, identity theft is a growing problem. If someone steals your personal information and opens accounts or takes out loans in your name, the loans and accounts will appear on your reports. When you find identity theft-related problems, you need to act quickly.
Follow These Five Steps to Dispute Credit Report Mistakes
Inaccurate credit reporting can have serious consequences. You need to understand and follow these important steps to protect your financial future:
- Review your credit reports regularly to discover errors.
- Dispute credit reporting errors with the credit bureau that created the inaccurate report.
- Dispute the mistaken information with the creditor that furnished the incorrect data.
- Ensure the credit reporting company and creditor follow the law when they receive your dispute.
- Take action if your dispute is rejected or ignored.
If you have trouble with any of these steps, contact a dedicated credit lawyer at Schlanger Law Group for help.
1. Request and Review Copies of Your Credit Reports
According to the FCRA, you have the right to receive a free copy of your credit report every 12 months. Go to AnnualCreditReport.com to request your free reports from the big three CRAs—Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion. Review each of these free credit reports carefully because the reports may contain different information. Look for inaccurate or incomplete information such as unfamiliar addresses and social security number errors.
If you find inaccurate information or an error on your credit report, you need to contact the credit reporting agency that prepared the report to file a credit report dispute and correct or delete the mistakes.
2. File a Dispute with the Credit Reporting Agency (CRA)
Always begin your dispute process with the CRA or you may not be protected by the Fair Credit Reporting Act. To dispute information in your credit report, you should prepare a written dispute letter and mail it to the credit bureau that issued the inaccurate report.
Consumer Tip: Do not use the CRA’s online dispute portal to dispute credit report mistakes. You may not be able to attach important documents or explain the error in detail using their form. Also, you may not be able to keep a copy of your submission.
The three major credit reporting agencies can be reached here:
Equifax – P.O. Box 740256, Atlanta, GA 30374-0256. Phone number: (866) 349-5191. You can also go to the website for more details about filing an Equifax dispute.
Experian – Address: P.O. Box 4500, Allen, TX 75013. Phone number: (888) 397 3742. You can also go to the website for more details about filing an Experian dispute.
TransUnion – Address: P.O. Box 2000, Chester, PA 19016-2000. No phone number is provided. You can go to the website for details about filing a TransUnion dispute.
What to Include in Your Dispute Letter
You can use this sample dispute letter that the FTC prepared for your convenience. In general, your dispute letter should include:
- A copy of the credit report that includes the mistaken data with the errors circled or highlighted,
- Your explanation of why the information is inaccurate,
- Copies of any supporting documents that help prove why the data is incorrect, for example:
- Bank statements
- A divorce decree
- Final loan payment
- Proof of your identity such as your driver’s license
- Proof of address such as a utility bill
- A request that the credit bureau investigate the errors and either correct or delete the information in your credit report, and
- A request that the CRA block the information from your credit report if it relates to identity theft.
Do not send original documents. Mail your dispute to the CRA by certified mail and request a return receipt so you can prove when your dispute was received. Keep track of everything you send and all responses including emails, telephone calls, and other documents.
3. File a Dispute with The Creditor That Furnished the Inaccurate Data
Send a separate dispute letter to the creditor that provided the information to the CRA. Include a copy of the same information you mailed to the credit bureau. Ask the creditor to perform an investigation and correct or delete any incorrect information with the CRA. If the information relates to identity theft, ask the creditor to block the information.
You can dispute credit report errors on your own or you can reach out to an experienced consumer protection lawyer to be sure you include all the necessary details and documents. This is especially important if identity theft is involved.
If you file a dispute on your own and the investigation results are not favorable, your dispute is rejected, or you are completely ignored, reach out to the SLG team of consumer protection lawyers immediately.
4. The CRA and Creditor Must Follow the Law
According to the Fair Credit Reporting Act, a CRA must:
- Investigate your dispute within 30 days,
- Forward all documents you provided to the creditor that furnished the data, and
- Send you written results within five days of completing the investigation.
If the CRA claims your dispute is frivolous, it does not have to investigate. However, it must send you a letter within 5 days to explain why it decided your dispute is frivolous.
The information furnisher must also investigate your dispute. If the data is incorrect, the furnisher must correct the error and notify any CRAs that previously received the inaccurate information. The CRA must then update the report using the corrected data and send the new report to you for free. Always follow up to ensure the data has been corrected or removed from your report.
There is no cost to dispute credit report errors and it should not affect your credit score. Of course, if incorrect negative information is removed from your report, your credit score may improve. However, many factors play a role in your credit score so one correction may have no impact.
If a credit report error is corrected, and if you request additional notifications, the CRA can notify the creditors that received a copy of the incorrect report in the past six months. The CRA can also send a revised credit report to potential employers that requested your report in the past 2 years. However, these additional notifications are not free.
5. What to do If Your Dispute is Rejected or the Information is Not Corrected
If the creditor decides the disputed information is accurate and does not correct it, ask them to notify the credit bureau about your dispute every time the disputed information is reported. You should also ask the CRA to add a note to your report to explain your dispute.
If your dispute is rejected and you know the data is incorrect, you can try to dispute the information again. However, you would need additional documents or another explanation to support your dispute. Consult with an experienced lawyer to help you effectively dispute credit report errors.
When Your Efforts are Unsuccessful, Turn to a Credit Report Error Attorney for Help
If your credit report error dispute is unreasonably rejected or completely ignored, don’t wait. Contact a credit reporting lawyer at Schlanger Law Group to protect your rights. Call (212) 500-6114 or click the button below to make an appointment to discuss your credit report error concerns today.
Schlanger Law Group LLP serves clients in New Jersey, New York, and throughout the United States with consumer protection, class action, credit reporting, and identity theft issues.