It happens more often than you think. You order a copy of your credit report from each of the three credit reporting agencies—Experian, Equifax and Transunion. As you go through the information, you come across some alarming or downright inaccurate information. What do you do? Dispute it, of course! Learn what you need to know about the credit report dispute process and the steps you have to take to make it as successful a journey as possible:
Your credit history, as documented on your credit report, is one of the major factors creditors and lenders use to determine if you qualify for a credit card, auto loan or home loan. If there is inaccurate information on your report, your credit score may be suffering needlessly, hurting your chances to qualify for these things. That’s why it’s smart to review each of your three credit reports at least once a year. By law, you are entitled to a free copy of your credit reports every year via AnnualCreditReport.com.
When you receive each report—either online or via snail mail—go through line-by-line and carefully read the information each report contains. Mark any items that you do not recognize or think may be inaccurate. Conduct some further investigative research to identify accounts that may be showing up on your report in a way that you do not recognize to verify if such information is valid.
Follow the Directions
Once you have the list of items you need to dispute, read each credit agency dispute policy carefully. You can dispute any information that is inaccurate. However, accurate information, even if negative, is part of your credit history and is not eligible for dispute.
Generally, you can dispute inaccuracies by phone, fax, mail or online. To document your dispute, it is typically best to dispute the information in writing. Properly assign a reason why you are disputing each item. For example, if you were a victim of identity theft and there is account on your report that you did not open, the reason for the dispute is the identity theft. To prove your case, it’s important to include copies of any supporting documentation you may have, like a billing statement or police report.
Sample dispute letter from the FTC:
The issuer of a credit account has 30 days from the time you dispute an item to respond to the dispute. The credit reporting agency acts as the liaison between you and the credit issuer. Once the credit issuer responds to the credit agency, the agency will notify you of the finding. If the item is inaccurate, the credit agency will remove it from your credit report and will issue you a new copy of your credit report with up-to-date information.
If the credit issuer provides the credit agency with information that proves the information is in fact accurate, then the agency will let you know this and you will have an opportunity to provide subsequent information. If you do not hear from the credit agency within 30 days, contact the dispute department for a status update.
Your credit history is a highly important factor in your financial life. Checking your credit reports on a regular basis and correcting any inaccurate information is a financial check-up that you should conduct on an annual basis. When you follow the instructions and know how to maneuver the dispute process, it can be fairly quick and easy.
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