Items you will need
- Computer and printer
- Mailing supplies and postage
It is always a good idea to review your credit report at least once a year so you can spot any errors or fraudulent accounts. In many cases, victims of identity theft first learn their identity has been compromised when reviewing their credit report. If you do spot errors or fraudulent accounts, it is within your rights to dispute the credit report. Under the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA), the three main credit reporting bureaus--Experian, TransUnion and Equifax--must correct inaccurate information in your credit report. In addition, the creditor that provided the inaccurate information, such as a credit card company or a mortgage provider, must correct the information as well.
Print two copies of the disputed credit report and circle each item that is inaccurate.
Write a letter to the credit reporting bureau that issued your credit report--Equifax, Experian or TransUnion. Make sure your letter is dated and includes your name and address. Your letter should include in detailed language exactly what is erroneous on your report and why those items should be removed. Include any documents or information that may support your case and the credit report you printed in Step 1.
Make a copy of the letter, credit report and supporting documents so you have all the information you are sending for your records.
Mail the letter, credit report and any other related documents to the credit reporting bureau by certified mail. For the address for each of the credit reporting bureaus see Resources below. Request a return receipt at the post office so you will know that the letter was received.
Write another letter to the creditor that supplied the inaccurate information to the credit reporting agency. For example, if your credit report lists that you have a credit card issued by First National Bank and that is untrue, send the letter to First National Bank. Explain why the information they supplied is inaccurate and request that they update their records. Repeat Steps 3 and 4 for this letter.
Wait for a response from the credit reporting bureau. Under FCRA, the agencies are required to investigate your dispute. However, they are not required to conduct an investigation if they deem your dispute to be frivolous. If they do conduct an investigation, they must send you the results of their investigation in writing, along with a new copy of your credit report after the errors have been removed. You should also receive a written response from the creditor you contacted in Step 5.
File a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission if you do not hear from the credit agency or the creditor within 45 days. The FTC complaint assistant will prompt you to answer a series of questions that should take no longer than five minutes. This information is used by the FTC to investigate unethical practices, although they cannot resolve an individual dispute. In addition, continue contacting the credit agency or creditor by phone and writing until you receive a written response.
If the credit agency decides that your dispute does not have merit, ask that they include a copy of your dispute with any future credit reports. This will ensure that future creditors know that you have disputed the contents of the credit report.
If the information in your credit report is accurate, the only way to improve your credit report is to use credit wisely and wait for your credit history to repair itself, according to the Federal Trade Commission. Disputes are only an option if the information is erroneous or inaccurate. You cannot dispute accurate information just because it damages your credit score.
- Steve Woods at www.sxc.hu