What should you do if you want to dispute your credit report? First of all, you should obtain the most recent copies of your credit report from all three of the consumer reporting agencies, Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion. You may be entitled to a free credit report from each of the agencies. According to the Fair and Accurate Credit Transactions Act, you are entitled to a free report from the agencies once every 12 months. You need to get all three types of report, because the information contained in each one can be different.
When you have your report, examine it carefully. The typical information on the report would include your personal information, which means not just your current address but also former addresses (and former names as well, if you have changed your name due to marriage or some other reason). Also on the report are public records on you. Basically, this may have nearly any type of public information about you, including bankruptcies, judgments, liens, even criminal records.
Of course, the credit report contains details of your credit history, noting your credit card accounts, loans, leases, mortgages, and so on. Your payment history will be detailed as well. There is also a list of inquiries, which tells you everyone who has taken a look at your credit report, from banks and other creditors to yourself.
What should you do next? You can start with the personal information. Contact the credit reporting agencies and request the removal of old names and addresses on the grounds that they are inaccurate information. It’s a simple thing, but it can actually help clear up your credit history, especially if your report still contains a number of outdated items.
Then you can dispute any other information, including inaccurate public records information, on your report. This is your right by law. You can file a dispute by writing a letter to the consumer reporting agency, or filling out a dispute form on the agency’s website. When an agency has received notice of a dispute over your report, they are required by law to verify the information with the one who provided it. This they must do within 30 days of receiving your letter or form. If they cannot verify the information, they must delete it from your report.
How do you write your dispute letter to the agency? First of all, do not put any false statements on your written request. And even if you believe a statement to be true, try to word it in a neutral fashion. Instead of writing of an account as “not mine,” for example, simply ask for the item to be verified, and to be deleted if it cannot be verified.
Should you send copies of documents in support of your dispute letter? Documents can help your case, but be careful. They may also inadvertently verify negative information on your report. Sometimes you may be better off letting the agency do verification on its own, at least initially. You can always file a dispute again later.
Always send out a dispute letter marked “certified mail return receipt requested” so you will have documented proof that your demand was received and on what date.