Errors in credit reporting can be detrimental to an individual’s financial health and stability. New lines of credit can be denied or offered at inflated interest rates because of incorrect negative information provided by even one of the three credit reporting bureaus. Some experts estimate that one in every four credit reports contains inaccurate information that could stop individuals from obtaining new lines of credit.
The first step to correcting inaccurate or outdated information on your credit report is knowing what creditors are seeing when they pull your information. While you can pay each credit reporting bureau a fee to see your report at any time, federal law requires that each bureau allow you to see your credit report for free once every 12 months. A website has been created to allow individuals to pull all three reports for free. AnnualCreditReport.com is one of the few places you can pull your credit reports without fear of having to pay anything. It is the site recommended by the Federal Trade Commission.
When inaccurate information is found, it must be disputed with each individual credit bureau that is listing it. If, for example, there is incorrect information on all three reports, it must be disputed with all three bureaus separately. If only one credit reporting bureau is showing misinformation, then only that bureau needs to be contacted.
To dispute anything on your credit report, gather any supporting documents you have as evidence. Write a letter to the credit reporting bureau explaining clearly what the inaccuracy is and provide the correct information so that the error can be corrected. The Federal Trade Commission has created a sample dispute letter that can be used as a guide. Attach your supporting documents to the letter to ensure that your complaint is addressed and corrected. We typically encourage folks to send these letters certified mail, return receipt requested, so you have evidence that you properly gave notice of any inaccuracies.
Each of the credit bureaus has set up a page on their websites to allow individuals to file online disputes. Access them here:
Once your complaint has been submitted, the credit reporting bureaus will investigate the inaccuracy, and will usually send a response in the mail no later than 30 days from the day that the dispute was submitted.
If you still are unable to have the improperly listed debt removed then you should contact the Federal Trade Commission to let them know of the improper reporting and the credit bureaus failure to properly remove the inaccuracy.