Negative information on your credit report can hurt your FICO score. Here's how to dispute inaccurate info on your credit report.
You know how important your credit score is to being able to get credit cards, loans and even hired for a job or to qualify for good rates on insurance premiums. That’s why it’s critical that you get in the habit of monitoring your credit reports from all three bureaus (Experian, Equifax and TransUnion) at least once a year - and it’s FREE, so no excuses!
When you get the report, don’t just check out the score. Take a good look at your history and make sure everything on there is correct, because negative information on your report will sabotage your score. Mistakes happen… in fact, an estimated 1 out of every 5 Americans find errors on their credit history. While it’s not your fault that the wrong information was reported, removing it from your credit report isyour responsibility.
Luckily, both the credit bureaus and the companies who misreported your information have protections in place to help you dispute the incorrect information on your credit report.
Option 1: Submit a Dispute to the Credit Bureaus
Thanks to the Fair Credit Reporting Act, you have the right to an accurate credit report. And because of that provision, you can ask the credit bureau to take off the incorrect information on your credit report by calling them, sending a letter or submitting an online form. Here’s an overview for each approach:
- Online and phone disputes require that you have ordered a copy of your credit report within the past month, including the credit report number as proof. You’ll also still have to submit proof by mail, and there is a chance you’ll have to call the credit bureaus to provide further information.
- Disputes by mail require you to write a letter explaining the situation and the reason that you know the information is wrong - for example, you paid the bill and have a bank statement that shows the payment. Be sure to send the letter and backup information via certified mail with a return receipt so you have a paper trail to document the process.
By choosing to submit a dispute by mail, credit bureaus have 30 days to respond to investigate your dispute and respond, or they have a 45-day window if you send additional proof while your dispute is being investigated. FYI, if a credit bureau doesn’t respond in the 30/45-day timeframe, you have the right to sue them in federal court for up to $1,000— which you deserve for having to deal with a lower credit score that was not your fault.
IMPORTANT: Regardless of how you report the error, once you’ve successfully disputed it, you’ll still need to follow up and make sure the mistake has been removed entirely from every credit report that it appears on.
For more information on how to dispute mistakes on your credit reports, click on the following links for more information:
Here are the mailing addresses and phone numbers of the three major credit bureaus’ dispute offices:
P.O. Box 740256
Atlanta, GA 30374
P.O. Box 4500
Allen, TX 75013
Consumer Dispute Center
P.O. Box 2000
Chester, PA 19016
Option 2: Dispute With the Business That Reported the Bad Info to the Credit Bureau
Similarly, you may want to bypass the credit bureau and work directly with the business that reported the wrong information. Depending on the type of business, you may be able to do so over the phone—however, by filing a dispute by mail, those companies are under the same 30-day obligation that credit bureaus are. If the business determines that the error on your credit report was their fault, the company must then notify all the credit bureaus so your credit reports can be corrected.
Mistakes happen, but there’s no reason you should suffer from them. Take action to remove black marks from your history, and start getting back the credit - and the score to match - that you really deserve.