As a consumer, your credit information is reported to the credit bureau by the issuer of that credit. This includes loans and credit cards. The bureau maintains a database of this data; however, the bureau relies on the provider of that information for its accuracy. If there is a mistake, you have the right under the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) to file a dispute with the credit bureau and have those errors or inaccuracies removed.
Request your credit report. You can receive the report for free at AnnualCreditReport.com. There you can annually order one report from each of the bureaus: TransUnion, Equifax and Experian. You can request one bureau's report, only two or all three.
Dispute any inaccuracies or errors on your report at the bureau's website. Each bureau has an online form where you can specify the items in dispute and your reasons. Print a copy of the dispute form for your records once you're done.
Expect to receive a response within 30 days. The FCRA allows bureaus that much time to complete an investigation. Since you filed your dispute online, the bureaus will send your results to you via e-mail. You will also receive a new copy of your credit report with the disputed items removed.
Contact the supplier of the information on your report if you are unsatisfied with the investigation results. Keep in mind that the credit bureau can only verify information. If there's an error or discrepancy within the creditor's records, you must rectify the error at that source.
The law that gives consumers the right to receive one free report each year is the Fair and Accurate Credit Transactions Act (FACTA). Congress passed the law in 2003 as an addendum to the FCRA.
Consumers also have the option of filing a credit report dispute by phone with a customer service rep, or by mail. Mailed disputes should include a letter that lists the items of dispute and the reasons for the dispute. You should also include any supporting documentation, if you have it.
You should only use annualcreditreport.com to order your free reports. Other websites promise free reports as a lure to get you to sign up for another product they're selling. Experian, owner of the site freecreditreport.com, was sued by the Federal Trade Commission for deceptive advertising for this very reason. Experian later settled the suit and agreed to compensate the affected consumers.