Is the 609 Letter Really a Credit Repair Secret?

Man reading a letter
•••

 © People Images / DigitalVision / Getty

Section 609 of the Fair Credit Reporting Act requires credit reporting agencies to disclose information to consumers who request it about what is in their credit reports. Templates for 609 letters can be found on the internet—often for a fee—but there is no need to spend money on such a product. Anyone can dispute information in their credit report, and it actually is Section 611 of the Fair Credit Reporting Act that affirms this right.

If you’ve been working to improve your credit, you may need to dispute certain items on your credit report. Resolving inaccuracies and addressing other negative or unverifiable items on your credit report can be an efficient way to improve your credit score.

Credit Bureau Responsibilities

The three major credit bureaus—Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion—are required to include only accurate and verifiable information in consumer credit reports. They collect consumer credit information from lenders and other sources, then resell that information to businesses that need to evaluate consumer credit applications.

A letter utilizing rights guaranteed under the Fair Credit Reporting Act to clean up inaccurate information in your credit report might make perfect sense for your situation, but it cannot force the bureaus to remove negative information that is accurate and verifiable.

Benefits
  • Helps you take advantage of your right to request that credit bureaus disclose all information on your credit report.

  • Asserts your right to an accurate credit report, which includes only complete and verifiable information.

  • Credit bureaus should remove information that is erroneous, outdated, or otherwise cannot be verified, as allowed according to the Fair Credit Reporting Act.

Limitations
  • Accurate information can be added back to your credit report even after removal if the creditor can verify its accuracy.

  • New debt collection agencies may add outstanding debts to your credit report at any time.

  • You can't eliminate obligations to repay a legitimate debt, even if a letter removes it from your credit report.

Where the 609 Letter Comes From

The information Section 609 requires credit reporting agencies to disclose includes:

  • All information in the requesting consumer's credit report
  • The source of the information
  • Each prospective employer that has accessed the consumer’s credit report within the past two years (except for businesses that accessed the credit report for an investigative report)
  • Businesses that have made soft inquiries within the past year 

This is the same information you get when you order your credit report online.

In addition to the required disclosure of information in your credit file, Section 609 requires credit bureaus to provide a summary of your rights under the Fair Credit Reporting Act, a list of the federal agencies that enforce the act, and a statement that the credit bureau is not required to remove accurate, negative information unless it is outdated or cannot be verified.

Disputing Information

Your right to request disclosure of information from the credit bureaus does not require a specific letter template or specific language. Simply write to the credit bureau and request disclosure of the information in question. Include documentation, if applicable, to support your claim. Free sample letters are available from groups like the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and MyFICO.  It's also possible to submit disputes online with each agency:

Sections 611 and 623—not Section 609—of the Fair Credit Reporting Act cover consumers' rights to dispute inaccurate information and the obligations of the credit bureaus and those furnishing information to the credit bureaus to provide a description of the dispute process if the consumer requests it in writing.

What 609 Letters Don't Do

No letter can guarantee that a credit bureau will remove negative information from your credit report if that information is accurate and can be verified. As well, no letter can stop the bureaus from adding negative information to your report if it is accurate and verifiable—even if that information previously was removed at your request. For example, you may successfully dispute information that cannot be verified at the time of your dispute, but if the credit bureaus are able to verify the information at a later date, they can return the information to your credit report.

It's also important to note that successfully having information removed from your credit report has no impact on legitimate debts—regardless of whether or not the credit bureau in question can verify it. If it is a legitimate debt, you still are responsible for repaying it.

The Fair Credit Reporting Act does not require credit bureaus to keep or provide signed contracts or proofs of debts. You can, however, request a description of the investigation procedure.

Article Sources

  1. Federal Financial Institutions Examination Council. "The Fair Credit Reporting Act." Pages 57-59. Accessed March 6, 2020.

  2. Federal Financial Institutions Examination Council. "The Fair Credit Reporting Act." Pages 60-64. Accessed March 6, 2020.

  3. GovInfo.gov. “Fair Credit Reporting (Regulation V).” Accessed Feb. 7, 2020.

  4. Electronic Code of Federal Regulations. “Part 609—Free Electronic Credit Monitoring for Active Duty Military.” Accessed Feb. 7, 2020.

  5. Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. "Sample Letters to Dispute Information on a Credit Report." Accessed March 6, 2020.

  6. MyFICO. "Sample Letter of Explanation to Dispute Credit Report." Accessed March 6, 2020.

  7. Federal Financial Institutions Examination Council. "The Fair Credit Reporting Act." Pages 60-64 and 72-74. Accessed March 6, 2020.