Human beings have legal rights that protect your safety, identity, and property. More specifically, per the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA), you also have the right to an accurate credit report.
That said, credit reporting companies make mistakes, and businesses that report to these companies — the information providers — don't always hit the mark.
Inaccurate credit information may also be the result of identity theft. If someone uses your name, for example, to commit fraud, and they don't pay their bills, and you don't catch it right away, their delinquent account will likely appear on your credit report.
Accordingly, it's up to you, the consumer, to review your credit report from time to time. Your credit information ought to be accurate, up-to-date, and complete before you apply for a loan or job, or even purchase insurance. Consequently, if you spot inaccurate information on your report, it's crucial that you dispute it.
The following information outlines how to kick off the dispute process:
Request a Credit Report and Identify the Type of Error.
Before you dispute inaccurate credit information in your report, you must identify the type of error. This will ensure you understand the discrepancy. After all, the more informed you are, the quicker the credit reporting agency can investigate the dispute.
Take note of the following categories to determine the type of error in your credit report:
- Account Information Errors include information such as a late payment that's over seven years old; a credit card or loan account that doesn't belong to you (or on which you are not an authorized user); or an account that was closed by you, but is listed as closed by the provider instead.
- Derogatory Mark Errors include a paid tax lien — a legal claim against the assets of a noncompliant taxpayer — that is more than seven years old, an account closed in bankruptcy that is listed as active with a balance, or a paid-off debt collection that is listed as unpaid.
- Fraudulent Account Errors indicate that an unauthorized party has used your personal information to open an account. You may dispute this information if it appears in your report; however, consumers are also encouraged to implement a security freeze to keep others from opening new lines of credit in their name. Make sure to keep the freeze on your account until you've resolved the issue.
- Personal Information Errors include the wrong name, incorrect addresses (including previous addresses), and inaccurate employment information.
Inform the Credit Reporting Company of the Error.
To file a dispute, notify the credit reporting company of the inaccurate information in writing. Send letters by certified mail, and write “Return Receipt Requested” by the return address so you can keep track of what the credit reporting company has received from you. Make sure to include the following in your correspondence:
- Your name and address
- The type of information that you dispute, along with a list of each item, an explanation, and a copy of your credit report with the inaccurate information circled
- Copies of the documents that support the discrepancy
Credit reporting companies must investigate consumer disputes within 30 days, and forward the relevant data to the information provider. After the information provider is informed of the dispute, they must investigate and communicate their findings to the credit reporting company. In turn, if the information provider confirms the inaccuracy of the disputed information, they must notify all three national credit reporting companies.
Upon completion of the investigation, the credit reporting company will send you the results in writing, as well as a free copy of your report with the updated information. They will also provide written notice with the name, address, and phone number of the information provider.
You may also request that the credit reporting company send out notices to all entities who received your credit report in the last six months. Furthermore, you may request that they send a corrected copy of your report to anyone who received a copy for employment purposes in the last two years. Conversely, if the investigation doesn't resolve your dispute, you may request that the credit reporting company include a statement of the dispute in your file and in all future reports.
Notify the Information Provider of the Error.
While consumers are encouraged to report inaccurate credit information to the credit reporting agency, and the agency is obligated to communicate with the information provider during the investigation, you may also inform your lender of the dispute. In many cases, corresponding with the lender directly — in addition to filing a dispute with the credit bureau — will speed up the investigation, and help the consumer determine the source of the erroneous information.
You may follow the same steps listed above to file a dispute with the information provider, or begin the process with an informal conversation. An informal conversation, however, should be reserved for your lender rather than the credit bureau. And finally, remember to document your communication!
*Note: If you are dissatisfied with the outcome of your dispute, you may speak with a credit repair lawyer, file a complaint with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), or reach out to your state's Department of Consumer Affairs or Attorney General's office to discuss how to best proceed.
For more information on Credit Disputes and Consumer Protection, an initial consultation is your next best step. Get the information and legal answers you are seeking by calling (515) 451-1260 today.
Information contained herein does not constitute legal advice and is only intended as general information. Every case is unique and one should contact a specific attorney regarding their particular situation.
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