If you notice negative or inaccurate items on your credit report, you should file a credit report dispute. This is when you contact either the data furnisher or the credit bureaus themselves to correct or remove something on your report, and it’s an important step in repairing your credit. In this article, we review the three methods you can use to file your dispute.
Important Update: Bureaus Offer Free Weekly Reports Through April 2022
In light of the unprecedented financial crisis caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, the credit bureaus have expanded free credit report access. You can now download your credit report from each bureau once per week through annualcreditreport.com.
We recommend taking advantage of these free weekly reports to check your credit often during this crisis, so you can avoid mistakes.
There are three ways to dispute information on your credit report. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) still recommends completing the process through snail mail. However, the three credit bureaus (Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion) have options for online disputes. The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) advises that you either use mail or online methods to contact the credit bureaus, but you can also dispute the information directly with the data furnishers.
Here’s how you can take advantage of each of the three methods:
Method 1: Dispute with the credit bureaus online
Often, different credit bureaus report different information. This could mean that only some of your credit reports have errors. Whether you need to correct one report or all three, disputing directly with the credit bureaus online is a popular option. Each bureau has different dispute instructions, and their web pages will guide you through the process.
You can submit or check on a dispute on Equifax’s dispute page.
Experian’s dispute page gives you a few different options. You can start a dispute, check on an existing dispute, receive instructions for disputing by mail, or view the results of a phone or email dispute.
Go to TransUnion’s dispute page, where you will have to log in or create an account. This account allows you to start and monitor credit report disputes on the TransUnion website.
Method 2: Snail Mail
This method will take a while, but it’s tried and true. Here are some tips for making sure your dispute is filed correctly:
Tip No. 1: Details on top for easy reference
Your dispute letter should always include your full legal name and Social Security number at the top of the letter. You should also include any account numbers relevant to the disputes made in the body of the letter.
This might make you nervous to put that personal information in the mail, but it’s important for the credit bureau to have it in an easy-to-reference place so they can find your information easily. Plus, a tip below can provide the extra peace of mind you need to know your information is safe.
Tip No. 2: Make sure it’s readable
Ideally, your letter should be typed because it leaves zero room for error. In the past, handwritten letters were acceptable, but in this day and age, you should make an effort to type and print your letter. If you must write it, make sure your handwriting is impeccable so it’s 100% readable. This also applies to the addresses on the envelope. Make sure you get them right for each bureau you contact:
P.O. Box 740256
Atlanta, GA 30374-0256
P.O. Box 4500
Allen, TX 75013
Consumer Dispute Center
P.O. Box 2000
Chester, PA 19016
Tip No. 3: Be concise about the issue
Disputes should be as short and to the point as possible. You want to describe exactly what you think is wrong or incorrect and what needs to be done for the inaccurate information to be corrected. It should just be the facts.
The credit bureau doesn’t want to know the why, they just want to know what. So, you need to leave out the backstory and just be specific about the details of your dispute.
Tip No. 4: Documentation is key
It’s important to note that the burden of proof on credit report disputes is for the creditors to verify that the information provided is correct. According to the Fair Credit Reporting Act, any information that can’t be verified must be removed.
On the other hand, any proof or documentation you can provide of the error on your credit report will only make your case stronger. Copies of checks, statements, and correspondence with your creditor can be beneficial to your success. If it proves the mistake, it’s worth including – just make sure to use copies and keep the originals for your records.
Tip No. 5: Registered mail, return receipt requested
Always make sure that your dispute letters are sent by registered mail with return receipt requested. This way, you know your letters are being sent securely and you know exactly when they’re delivered to the bureau.
Remember, the receipt of your disputes by the bureau starts the clock on the amount of time they have to respond. When you get confirmation that your letters were received, you know exactly how long you have before you hear back. By law, the credit bureaus have 30 days to respond to disputes, unless they require additional documentation; if so, the bureau’s response must be received within 45 days.
Tip No. 6: Keep everything
You should keep everything related to the disputes that you make. This includes copies of everything that you send, as well as copies of any correspondence you get back from either the original creditor or the credit bureau. This can help you track your disputes and ensure that things are done correctly. If something happens, you have a paper trail to make your case.
Method 3: Dispute directly with the data furnishers
Your lenders and creditors are the ones sending your information to the credit bureaus. All of the incorrect or negative information on your credit report starts with them, so a great way to dispute items on your credit report is to contact these data furnishers directly. This means that the original data is corrected, not just the record on the credit report. You can do this either by contacting the company directly or through a credit monitoring tool like SmartCredit®️.
SmartCredit allows you to inquire about disputed information directly with your data furnishers all on one platform. The software shows you what’s affecting your credit report negatively. Then, all you have to do is click the associated Action button and follow the prompts. SmartCredit handles the rest.
What if your dispute fails?
Credit repair isn’t always easy. While you can go through the process on your own and make disputes yourself, they have to be made the right way if you want to be successful. Otherwise, there’s a chance your disputes can be rejected even if the information you’re disputing is actually wrong or incorrectly reported.
That can be really frustrating. By law, you can include a 100-word statement in your report if a negative item remains after you submit a dispute, but the information will still be there until the penalty expires. And you’ll have to work harder to offset the damage of that negative item if you want a good credit score.
The information below can help you understand how to make effective credit report disputes, but it’s only a starting point and the tips below can’t guarantee success.
Article last modified on September 28, 2021. Published by Debt.com, LLC