When making a purchase, obtaining a loan, finding a job, and even renting an apartment, a consumer’s credit report is a crucial aspect of the approval process. Many consumers with poor credit reports may find themselves facing significant difficulties, and sometimes these difficulties are unjustified. Information contained in a credit report is not always correct. Fortunately, the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) is designed to protect consumers in these cases. If there is an error on a credit report, a consumer is entitled to certain legal rights.
5 Steps to Disputing Errors on a Credit Report
Consumers dealing with errors on their credit reports are entitled to dispute the erroneous information. Follow these four steps to address potential errors:
- Obtain a copy of your credit report and carefully review it.
- If you spot any errors, notify the credit bureau and company furnishing the incorrect info to the bureau about the error(s).
- Notify the credit bureau—in writing—and be as specific as possible about what is wrong. (Do not use the online dispute process; our experience has taught us that online disputes are not taken as seriously as written disputes.) Make sure to date the letter, provide the account number and any identification information, and advise them how to contact you. Attach a copy of the page of your credit report that has the incorrect trade line or info highlighted.
- If possible, attach any documentation you have that verifies that what the credit bureau is saying is wrong.
- Send this written dispute to the credit bureau and the company (called the “furnisher”) furnishing the incorrect info.
- Send this written dispute via certified mail, or UPS or FedEx, so that you can track your package and be certain that it was delivered.
- Request that an investigation be conducted. The bureau is required to do so under the FCRA, and must look into the matter within 30 days. The credit bureau must also notify the furnisher of the information within 5 days or receiving your dispute and provide the furnishers with the same information you gave when you notified them of the error.
- Save a copy of all your disputes, and any response from the bureau or furnisher.
- After the 30 days have passed, review your credit report again. If the credit bureau was unable to verify that the information in your credit report is correct, the bureau must remove the disputed error from your report. If the credit bureau determines that the information is correct, however, the disputed information will likely remain on your report. Send in another dispute providing the old info and any new info you might have to prove your dispute is correct. (The more disputes there are, the better the chance of the problem getting fixed, and if the CRA simply refuses to fix it, the more valuable any claim under the FCRA will be.
- If you are dissatisfied with the results of the credit bureau’s investigation, contact an experienced attorney. The FCRA entitles consumers to seek legal action in these cases. Often, the credit bureaus invest very little time and effort into investigating a consumer’s dispute over reported errors on a credit report. Some consumers may opt to submit multiple disputes prior to contacting an attorney, though this is not required.
- If you have applied for credit from anywhere and have been turned down, save all documents verifying that you applied for credit, as well as any documents showing that you were turned down or had a higher interest rate than you should have due to the incorrect info on your credit report.
Disputing an error on a credit report is rarely an easy process. Consumers battling with large credit bureaus and the furnishers of the inaccurate information are often unfairly matched with regard to resources. Further, the bureaus and the furnishers of the information have far less incentive to correct the information than the consumer who is dealing with its impacts. Fortunately, we can help even the playing field. We encourage you to reach out today for more information at (804) 282-7900.