Federal law gives you the right to dispute incorrect or outdated information that appears on your credit report, and it doesn't cost you anything to do so. For a report from the Experian credit bureau, you can initiate a dispute online or by mail, although Experian says that in most cases, you'll get the quickest response online.
What You Can Dispute
You have the right to dispute incorrect information on your Experian report. That includes payments incorrectly reported as late or missed; closed accounts listed as still open; incorrect account balances; and errors in personal information, such as addresses and Social Security numbers. In addition, federal law requires that most negative information -- such as late payments, collections and foreclosures -- be removed from your credit report after seven years, although bankruptcies can remain for 10 years. So, if there's something negative on your credit report that's more than seven years old, you can dispute it. However, if information is accurate and timely, you cannot have it removed, even if it's negative.
Initiating a Dispute Online
To file a dispute online, go to experian.com/dispute. Check the box for "Start a New Dispute Online" and click "Continue." If you have your Experian report in hand, you can enter your report number to get started. If you don't have your report with you, enter your personal information, and the Experian database will locate your data. Select "Submit" and follow the onscreen directions to identify the information you want to dispute.
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Disputes by Mail
To initiate a dispute by mail, prepare a letter that includes the following information: your full legal name; your birth date; your Social Security number; the addresses where you lived the past two years; a photocopy of a government-issued ID, such as a driver's license or passport; a photocopy of a utility bill, bank statement, credit-card statement, insurance bill or some other document verifying your identity and address; and the specific information on your report that you are disputing -- including the account number, the information in question, and why you think it's wrong. Send this letter to Experian at P.O. Box 4500, Allen, TX 75013. To ensure it has been delivered, send it by certified mail.
You have a greater chance of a dispute being resolved in your favor if you can supply evidence to support your claim. Make copies of receipts, account statements, credit card statements, correspondence or any other evidence. If you're filing a dispute online, you'll have the chance to upload this information; if filing a dispute by mail, include copies with your dispute letter. Do not send the originals.
What Happens Next
Experian has 30 days to contact the creditor that reported the information you're disputing. That creditor then has 30 days to respond, so it can take a couple months for a dispute to be resolved. However, Experian says it's common for the process to take no more than a week to 10 days. When Experian makes a decision on your dispute, you are notified of the resolution in writing. Be aware that successfully removing information from your Experian credit report does not mean it is removed from reports issued by the other majorcredit bureaus, Equifax and TransUnion. Contact the creditor to make sure it reports corrected information with those bureaus or file a dispute with the bureaus yourself.