Items you will need
- Written proof of the error and correct information
- Addresses of all credit bureaus and affected creditors
Negative information can remain on a report for up to seven years and could keep you from getting a loan, a good interest rate and even a job. If you find an error on your credit report there is a process for correcting it, backed by the federal Fair Credit Reporting Act and the Federal Trade Commission. However, you can only remove incorrect information, not accurate but negative information that you want to get rid of.
Review your credit report carefully for errors in your personal information, balances due, payment history and account status. Obtain an updated copy, if necessary, from one or more of the three credit bureaus -- Experian, TransUnion and Equifax. You can receive one free copy per year from each bureau at annualcreditreport.com.
Identify the mistakes on the credit reports. If the same error is on all of the reports, select just one to contact in order to correct it. Once it's fixed, that bureau or the credit provider is required to contact the other agencies to fix it.
Tell the credit bureau in writing about the error. Each bureau has an online reporting system, but you need to be prepared to back up your claim with written proof. Use professional wording to explain the error and the correct information. Send a copy, not the originals, of any supporting documents. Use certified mail so you have proof of your request. The agency must investigate your claim within 30 days and report the outcome to you in writing once the investigation is complete.
Contact the creditor directly to correct the information, if desired. As with the credit bureau, use certified mail to send a letter and copies of any documents that back up your claim. Follow up with a phone call to make sure the information has been received. Get the first and last name of anyone you speak to at the creditor's office and document each step you took to correct the error. If a creditor incorrectly reports a debt to a credit bureau, they must correct the information with each bureau and cannot later report the inaccurate information to other agencies.
Protect yourself in the event your claim is rejected. You can request the credit agency include a statement of your dispute in your record for any future inquiries, even if they do not agree. You can ask them to send a copy to anyone who has requested your report in the recent past. They may charge a fee for the latter service.
Get copies of your credit report at least once each year to make sure everything is accurate and that no unauthorized activity has occurred.
If you are turned down for credit or are unemployed and beginning a job search, you are entitled to an additional free report. Each credit bureau has an online request form.
Once the credit bureau fixes the error, you can ask them to send – for free –the revised report to anyone who recently requested a copy of your credit history.
While you can get free copies of your credit report from each reporting agency annually, it does not include your credit score. All agencies charge a fee to report a credit score to you, and some may encourage you to sign up for expensive credit-score monitoring services.
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