Let’s face it. Credit reports are far from perfect. After all, they rely upon individual creditors and credit bureaus working hand-in-hand to collect data about you and report it accordingly. Obviously somewhere in the process of parsing the data of millions of accounts mistakes will be made. It’s human nature.
Maintaining a good credit score is hard enough without misinformation constantly showing up on your credit report. Not to mention identity theft that can wreak havoc on your credit history and create huge problems down the road.
That’s why it’s important to take a hard look at your credit report long before applying for a big time loan such as a mortgage or an auto loan/lease to ensure there aren’t any hiccups along the way.
If you fail to properly prepare yourself, you could find yourself with a sky-high interest rate, or worse yet, completely out of luck, all because of an erroneous item showing up on your credit report that shouldn’t really be there.
Believe me, it’s not uncommon for inaccurate items to appear on a credit report, but if they do, disputing them isn’t that difficult. You’ve really got two methods for tackling negative items or errors that you want removed from your credit report.
Write a Dispute Letter to the Credit Bureaus
You can write a dispute letter to the credit bureau(s) that is reporting the error, explaining that the item in question should be removed, including copies of any pertinent documentation and a copy of the credit report itself highlighting the mistake.
A sample letter should include your full name, address, a complete description of the error, and a short narrative as to why you are disputing the item(s) in question. You’ll need to send the letter by certified mail and make sure you ask for “return receipt requested” to document the process.
The credit bureau then has 30 days to review the information, send it to the creditor(s) involved and complete an investigation. When the investigation is complete, the credit bureau must send you the results in writing along with a free copy of your credit report if the dispute results in some kind of action.
If an item on your credit report is changed or removed, the credit bureau cannot put the disputed information back on your report unless the creditor verifies that it is indeed accurate.
If the Creditor Doesn’t Respond, Negative Item Will Be Removed
So essentially the creditor has to prove you wrong, which in many cases they fail to do, either because they are indeed reporting misinformation or simply because they don’t have the time or wherewithal to pursue your case.
Kind of like a police officer who fails to show up to your hearing after getting a speeding ticket. Even though you were in fact speeding, failure to appear and fight your case lets you off the hook.
Regardless of whether it was a mistake or truly late/derogatory, the item will be removed from your credit report for lack of a challenge or response from the issuing creditor. Gotta love the system folks. It can be your best friend or worst enemy.
In other words, even if the item you are disputing is in fact accurate, it is possible to get it removed. And that can boost your credit score big time. Win!
Many consumers don’t know about this seemingly simple credit loophole, and some may foolishly enlist so-called credit experts to complete this basic task for them at a premium. While those companies could be useful, this is one fix you should be able to complete on your own.
Dispute a Credit Report Item Online with the Credit Bureaus
This method may be a lot easier than writing a letter because everything is very streamlined and you can do it in your pajamas. In my experience, after signing up for a so-called free credit report, you’ll be able to dispute any item you feel doesn’t belong. I noticed an erroneous medical collection on my report years ago and simply hit the “dispute this item” button next to it, and followed the on-screen instructions.
About a month later, the item was successfully disputed and my credit score surged nearly 100 points. I didn’t have to provide documentation or explain anything – it was simply removed because the company didn’t respond to the inquiry.
To my knowledge, most free credit report/credit monitoring programs have this feature. It’s easy to use, and an efficient way to dispute negative items quickly without sending letters and getting too technical. Best of all, it’s completed online and most of these companies also provide a free credit score to boot!
Your Credit Score Should Jump
As with the method above, you should hear something within 30 days, and in the case that your dispute is successful, your credit report and credit score will be updated. Remember, one simple credit report dispute can affect your credit score tremendously, often resulting in a 50 point swing or possibly even more depending on its severity. Talk about raising it in a hurry!
Below are the official credit report dispute websites for the big three credit reporting bureaus. Select the correct credit bureau by identifying which one is reporting the error.
As alluded to earlier, more than one credit bureau may be reporting the same error. You should have your credit report handy as well since you will probably need the associated report number to file your dispute online. Happy disputing!