Disputing something that's incorrect on your credit report is pretty simple. Getting and keeping a good credit rating is hard enough, without credit agencies screwing up and putting things on there that should be. You can dispute online, but writing an old- fashioned letter by certified mail is also a good way to get their attention and keep a record for yourself too.
Get a Free Credit Report, or a Not-So-Free One
First, you need to see a copy of your credit report. Here are the free ways:
You can get one free report each year from the three main credit agencies at annualcreditreport.com. Follow the steps, starting by clicking on your state, and you'll be shown your report immediately. There are also instructions on that site for writing or calling, but it takes a couple weeks to get your report that way.
You can also get a free report whenever something goes wrong, like you apply for credit and are denied, or an insurance company or an employer tells you they won't do business with you or hire you because you have bad credit. You should receive a statement about why you're denied and on the statement will be information how to order a free report.
If you've already used up your free copy for the year and don't fit under the other possibilities, you can very carefully sign up for one of those "free credit report" places and cancel exactly as required, if you don't want the monthly service.
You can also just pay for a copy. It costs around ten bucks, and you can buy it by going to the credit agency's website or calling them:
Make sure you're not signing up for a credit monitoring service, unless you want to, and that you're only buying a one-time report.
Or if you do want to keep tabs on your credit report regularly because of an ongoing problem or because you're working on repairing it, paying a monthly credit monitoring service isn't necessarily a bad deal, and you can see your credit report on a regular basis to make sure all is okay. Look for a service that allows access to all three credit bureaus, not just one, and that charges the least for the services you want.
How to Dispute
So, you've got your credit report and there's something you need to dispute.
You can dispute an Equifax report by mail to:
Equifax Information Services, LLC
P.O. Box 740256
If you live in an area where CSC Credit Services instead of Equifax keeps your credit files (you'll know because it'll say so somewhere on your credit report), use this address for regular disputes:
CSC Credit Services
PO Box 619054
Dallas, TX 75261-9054
Or this address for fraud disputes:
CSC Credit Services
PO Box 619046
Dallas, TX 75261-9046
Equifax also has an online dispute process.
TransUnion has a handy form in a pdf file that you can print out and fill in to dispute by mail. Send it to:
TransUnion Consumer Solutions
P.O. Box 2000
Chester, PA 19022-2000
Or you can do it online or by phone.
Experian is really pushing their online dispute center. They don't even give an address to send a written dispute to anymore.
Even if you dispute with the credit bureau online, you can send a copy of your dispute to the original creditor, too. Their name and some kind of contact information should be listed on the credit report, and from there you can get their mail address.
If you decide to dispute by mail, there's no particular wording of a letter that's necessary, so you can write it in your own words, but here's a sample:
(any code number from your credit report)
I am disputing the following item which is an error in my credit report.
(List the item)
This is an error because (it's been paid in full, or whatever the error is). I am writing to request that it be removed (or changed to reflect the accurate information, or whatever you want done).
I have enclosed copies of (list whatever documentation you're enclosing, such as a cancelled check). Please investigate this item and (delete, correct, etc.) it as soon as possible.
(sign your name)
The credit bureaus have 30 days to check on your dispute and respond. One advantage of disputing online is that you can log in and check on the progress. At the end, they'll send you a new credit report free with the changes they've made, if any. If they fixed what needed fixed, great. You can ask them to send a notice of the corrections to anybody who got a copy of your report in the past six months, and have a corrected copy sent to everyone who requested a copy during the last two years for employment purposes.
If they didn't make the changes, you can write them back and request that the item be marked as disputed. You can also send your own brief statement explaining why it's wrong, and they're required to include your statement in your credit report whenever they send it to anybody.
The bad news is that disputing only works to remove the information if it's actually inaccurate (or if you're very lucky and the original creditor doesn't respond to the credit bureau with information). However, you can't just play the odds and dispute everything, because if the credit bureau thinks your dispute is "frivolous," they're not required to investigate it.
5:40 p.m. March 10
what if you don't hear back?
7:31 p.m. March 10
If you don't hear back in thirty days, send a demand letter asking the credit bureau to remove the item, since the haven't responded within the allowed deadline. Enclose a copy of the first letter you sent or reference the number of your dispute.
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