Your credit report contains details about your credit accounts with various creditors. Other businesses may view your credit report when you make an application to decide whether to loan money to you, what rate to charge for insurance and other products, or even whether to hire you or give you a raise.
The Fair Credit Reporting Act gives you the right to an accurate credit report. Before the law was amended in 2003, you were only allowed to dispute credit report errors with the credit bureaus—the businesses that collect information for your credit report. Now, the law has been changed to allow you to also dispute errors directly with the credit card issuer, lender, or whichever business has reported you to the credit bureau.
How Credit Bureau Disputes Work
Disputing errors directly with the information supplier could you resolve your credit report errors. When a credit bureau receives a dispute, they often reduce your dispute to a numeric code and send that code to the business that supplied the information you’re disputing. The simple code may not be enough to completely explain your dispute and it could come back as verified, even when you’ve sent proof that supports your dispute.
For example, your creditor may have recorded a late payment by mistake. The late payment is reported to the credit bureaus. When you submit a dispute and the credit bureau asks the creditor to verify, the creditor relies on the information that’s in their system, which is that your payment was late. If you instead make the dispute with the credit card issuer, sending along proof that your payment was processed before the due date, the creditor would be forced to acknowledge your proof, update its system to show your payment was received on time, and have the credit bureau remove the late payment from your credit report.
What to Include in a Dispute
When you dispute a credit report error in writing, your dispute letter should identify exactly what you’re disputing and state the reason for your dispute. If you have any proof that supports your dispute, you should also include copies, not the originals, with your dispute. Make sure you get the address the business uses for correspondence—it’s not always the same as your payment address. Send your letter via certified mail with return receipt requested to have a proof of mailing and receipt.
Once the business receives your dispute, they’re required to investigate what you’ve disputed. They have the same amount of time to investigate and respond to your dispute as a credit bureau—30 days from the date they receive your dispute. They may take up to 45 days to do the investigation if you send additional information after the initial dispute letter.
If their investigation determines that your dispute is correct and there is an error on your credit report, the business has to notify all the credit bureaus of your error. (They don’t have to notify a credit bureau if the account doesn’t appear on your credit report with that bureau.) The credit bureau is then required to update that account, or delete the account if it’s necessary. Credit bureaus can also permanently block certain items from being listed on your credit report, for example, items that are the result of fraud.
The business can determine that your dispute is frivolous or irrelevant if you don’t give them enough information to investigate the dispute, e.g. you don’t specify the date and month of the late payment you’re referring to. Be careful disputing the same item multiple times. Businesses can also conclude your dispute is frivolous if it’s the exact same as another dispute you’ve made to the business or to a credit bureau and if the business has already investigated that dispute.
If your dispute is frivolous, the business has to send you notification within 5 business days. The notice has to include the reason that your dispute was deemed frivolous, but businesses are allowed to send generic form letters to respond to you.
These rules don’t apply to credit repair companies or forms you use that were given to you by a credit repair company.