How Do I File a Credit Dispute?
Curious about how to file a credit dispute? Errors on your credit report are serious, and seemingly small mistakes can impact your profile in a big way. It’s your right as a consumer to report erroneous or fraudulent charges. Perhaps a merchant did not provide satisfactory goods or services. All of these warrant disputes.
Don’t let incorrect reporting limit your buying power anymore.
Here’s what you need to know about the credit dispute process and exactly how to take action.
What Is a Credit Dispute?
If you notice an inaccuracy on your credit report, you have both the right and the power to speak up and be heard. When you file a dispute, the credit reporting agency must investigate your claim.
Which Inaccuracies Require Disputes?
The following inaccuracies on your credit report warrant a dispute.
• Incorrect or incomplete personal/identity information
• Accounts that don’t belong to you (identity theft)
• Accounts closed that are still being reported as open
• Accounts that report you as owner when you’re an authorized user only
• Accounts listed more than once
• Incorrect account balances and credit limits
• Delinquencies paid but still reflecting as unpaid
• Incorrect dates
• Outdated information like late payments that are over 7 years old
• Same debts listed more than once
• Medical debts you’re not responsible for
This is not an exhaustive list. When it comes to your credit, all inaccuracies are worth investigating. Here’s why…
Errors Affect You
Can a single error really affect you that much? Should you keep a close eye on your credit report? Yes, and yes. Negative impacts are certainly possible even if the inaccuracy seems small.
Everything on your report affects your credit score. So, if you’re trying to secure a loan, you may be denied outright or miss an opportunity for a lower interest rate. Why? Because your report reflects poorly on your financial character. This could certainly stem from a single, “tiny” error you’re tempted to dismiss.
Steps for Filing a Credit Dispute
Ready to submit a dispute? Be sure you follow all the necessary steps.
1. Identify your credit report errors.
From time to time, intentionally review your credit report for inaccuracies. You can get one free credit report from each of the major bureaus annually.
2. Contact the company that reported inaccurately.
Next, reach out to the entity that’s provided the erroneous information. This may be your bank, utility company, etc. Inquire about their records, and confirm that the error is, indeed, an error.
You may be able to resolve the issue during this step. If not, contact the bureau directly.
3. Submit your dispute.
The Fair Credit Reporting Act law requires credit bureaus, as well as the company reporting the error, to correct inaccuracies and/or incomplete information.
Tell the credit bureau, in writing, about the inaccuracy. You can find an example letter here. Make copies of any materials that support your claim, and submit those as supplement documents. Keep all originals. Enclose your credit report with the inaccuracy highlighted. Send this to the credit bureau and to the company that reported the inaccurate item.
Finally, mail your letters. Send them certified mail, and opt for “return receipt requested.” Save your post office receipt(s).
4. Understand the timeline.
Bureaus must investigate disputes. The process, by law, should take no longer than 30 days. The bureaus have five days to inform you once they determine the result.
5. Follow up.
The bureau will respond to you in writing. You’ll also receive a free copy of your credit report if it’s been changed. You can further ask bureaus to send out these changes, notifying anybody who received your report within the last six months. Or to send a corrected credit report copy to anyone who received the erroneous one in the last two years.
It’s possible your dispute won’t be resolved. In that case, further action will be necessary. You may need to file a complaint with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. They’ll contact you within 15 days of filing.
Otherwise, know that aggressive, attorney-backed credit repair exists. It goes beyond the general dispute process and gets lasting results.