At least once a year, if not more, an individual should closely examine his or her credit report to look for errors that may be on the report. Did you know that it is estimated that 19.2 % of credit reports that were examined in a recent study had errors on them? Of these reported with errors, 12.1% of them had errors large enough to impact their credit score.
Once a year obtain a copy of your credit report from one of the three credit bureaus( Equifax, TransUnion, or Experian) for free. Federal law states that an individual had the right to a free report from all three once every 12 months. You can order them at the same time, or in four month intervals, or whenever you wish. Look closely at each report, making sure the charges on the report all pertain to you. If you should see something that is not right, you need to get it taken care of as soon as possible. Here are the steps that you should take to get it taken care of.
First write a dispute letter to the agency that you noticed the error was with. Do not just state there is an error on your report and you would like it removed. There needs to be some explanation of why you believe that the error is indeed a mistake. Include anything that will help to make your case clear, such as receipts of bills or any other documentation. Also state that you want either a correction made or it deleted off your credit report. Your name and address must be included in this letter as well. Make photocopies of everything you send so you can have a copy for yourself. Never send the original documents. Everything that you send should be sent by registered mail or certified mail to ensure you have the record of when it was sent and received.
If you would like, you can make a copy of your credit report and circle the information that you believe is wrong and include this with the letter.
Once the credit agency has received your information, they will have 30 days to investigate. Sometimes this is pushed back to 45 days if there is a lot to investigate. The information that you as the consumer have given the agency will be passed along to the company that first gave the credit bureau the information ( such as a person from the credit card company). Both the credit bureau and the company that gave the information will look into the case and see if there is indeed an error.
If you are correct on the error, the error will be removed. If neither the credit bureau or the company that first reported the error do not find that it was an error, the consumer may ask to have a statement placed on their credit report that disputes the charge. This will be available for anyone to see when they look at your credit report.
One should keep all materials that go with the disputed case in a centralized location. This could be in a file box or a folder. Place all copies that you have sent to the credit bureau and record any information, such as if you called the credit agency on the phone. Record the date and time and who you spoke with, as well as if they have an ID number or not. Also include what the conversation was about and what the outcome of the phone call was. The process of resolving an error takes time and little things like this seem frivolous but can help when trying to get an error corrected.
So what happens if the outcome of the dispute is not in your favor? You can either live with it and place the note in your credit report stating that you disputed it or you can repeat the process all over again. This is referred to as a reinvestigation and there will not be any charge for doing this. If you have not had any luck and just feel that you can not compete with the credit bureau, you may find a lawyer that is willing to take on your case. Show the lawyer all the saved documentation that you have from the initial dispute letter with the documentation, as well as any records you have of phone calls, emails, or other letters.
Disputing a credit report can be a challenge but if you remain persistent and stay organized with all the materials, a successful outcome can be obtained. The credit bureau may not be the most helpful, but with taking the above steps, your credit report can get to where it is suppose to be.
*The above content is for informational purpose only. It does not constitute professional financial advice. If you have more questions, please reach out to a financial advisor for more information.