The Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) gives Americans the right to an accurate and complete credit report. If you find outdated, incomplete, or inaccurate information on your credit report, you can dispute it and have it removed or updated.
According to the FCRA, inaccurate, incomplete, or unverifiable information must be removed or corrected, usually within 30 days. Also, a consumer reporting agency may not report negative information that is more than seven years old, or bankruptcies that are more than 10 years old.
Options for Disputing Credit Report Information
You have two options for disputing credit report information.
You can file a dispute with one of the three credit bureaus (Equifax, Experian, or TransUnion) which are the companies responsible for compiling your credit report based on information received from your creditors. You can also file a dispute directly with the creditor or business that provided the information to the credit bureaus.
Start by stating your claim with the credit bureau; this way, if they don't remove or update the information in your favor, you can follow up by addressing your dispute with the creditor who provided them with inaccurate information. Both the credit bureau and your creditor have the power to fix the mistake.
Ordering a Free Credit Report
To initiate a dispute, you must first order a credit report. An amendment to the FCRA requires that each of the nationwide credit reporting companies provide you with a free copy of your credit report, at your request, once every 12 months.
Annual Credit Report Request Service
P.O. Box 105281
Atlanta, GA 30348-5281
Mailing Addresses for Disputing an Error
Send a credit report dispute letter detailing your complaint to the credit bureau who reported the error. The letter should include copies (not originals) of documents that support your claim. Provide your name and address, and call attention to each disputed item in your report. Clearly explain why you're disputing the information, and finally, request that it be corrected or removed. The FCRA suggests that you enclose a copy of your report with the items in question circled—and remember to keep a copy of your letter.
Send your dispute via certified mail, so you're able to track your letter and make sure the credit bureau responds in a timely manner.
Mail your letter to all three credit bureaus if all three of your credit reports contain the error. The credit bureau has between 30 to 45 days to respond to your dispute letting you know the result of their investigation.
Here are the mailing addresses for each credit bureau:
P.O. Box 7404256
Atlanta, GA 30374-0256
P.O. Box 9701
Allen, TX 75013
P.O. Box 2000
Chester, PA 19022-2000
You can also dispute inaccurate information directly on the credit bureau's website: Equifax.com, Experian.com, or TransUnion.com. Each should provide a way to upload, fax, or email documentation supporting your dispute, like a copy of a canceled check showing that you made a payment on time.
When you file a dispute online, note the date of submission so that you can follow up with the credit bureau if it doesn't provide a response within the necessary timeframe. Print a copy of any confirmation the credit bureau gives you and keep it for your records.
Disputing Directly With a Credit Issuer
When you file a dispute with a credit issuer who provided inaccurate information to the credit bureaus, the process is much the same as disputing the bureau itself. Write a letter that indicates the error you found and explain why that information is inaccurate. Again, if you have proof that supports your claim, send copies along.
You can find an address for the business by looking at a recent billing statement. Make sure you look at the address that's meant for correspondence, as it's usually different from the address where you send payments. If you can't find an address, or you no longer have billing statements, call the company and ask for the correct address for sending correspondence.
The information provider is required to do an investigation, just like the credit bureaus, and update your credit report if the information is indeed an error.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
What do I send to a credit bureau when I'm making a dispute?
When sending your dispute to a credit bureau, make sure to include a government ID, your complete name and address, the mistake that you want changes, copies of the documentation to prove your dispute, and a copy of your credit report. Include a letter stating what is wrong and how it should accurately be reflected or fixed. Make sure to include copies of the documentation that you have to prove your claim. Always keep the original documents for your own records.
What happens after I send my dispute to a credit bureau?
After you've gathered all the paperwork and documentation you need and you send in your dispute to the credit bureau, they have to investigate your dispute within 30 days. Promptly, they will notify the business which initially provided the information, and that entity will perform their own investigation. If they discover that there was an error, your credit report will be updated.