Fix your credit report and raise your credit score by learning how to write a credit report dispute letter. It's easy. And, it's increasingly necessary. Why? Well, if you have applied for a credit card, a car loan, or bought insurance in the past, there's a credit file following you.
If you want to recover from bad credit and rebuild credit history at last, then these files containing information about who you work for, where you live, where you've lived the past several years, how you handle your bills, and whether you've been sued, arrested, or filed for bankruptcy, must be accurate.
Companies that gather and sell this information are called Consumer Reporting Agencies (CRA's). The most common CRA is the credit bureau. The information CRAs sell about you to creditors, employers, insurers, and other businesses is called a consumer report. This report forms the basis of your credit score, so instrumental in giving lenders, employers and insurers a financial "snapshot" of you.
If you don't like the picture, then you must take action and learn how to correct credit report by writing and sending a credit report dispute letter to fix bad credit.
Once you are armed with the facts, you can begin the process of reviewing your credit reports and taking action to challenge inaccurate or outdated credit information contained in these credit reports. (If you are curious enough to want to see your current FICO score, you'll need to pay $5 to $10 at the time of your order. The credit report information is free; the FICO score remains a chargeable item.)
Under the law, both the CRA and the organization that provided the information to the CRA have very strict responsibilities for ensuring your credit report is accurate and up-to-date. To protect all your rights under the law, contact both the CRA and the information provider when you have a dispute.
The three major credit bureaus in the U.S. are:
Experian, P.O. Box 2002, Allen, TX 75013
Trans Union, P.O. Box 2000, Chester, PA 19022
CSC Credit Services, Box 98122, El Paso, TX 79998
All consumers are entitled to one free credit report from each of these credit reporting bureaus every 12 months. Find out how you can access your free credit report online.
First, tell the CRA in writing what information you believe is inaccurate. Include copies (not originals) of documents that support your position. In addition to providing your complete name and address, your letter should clearly identify each item in your report you dispute, state the facts and explain why you dispute the information, and request deletion or correction.
You may want to enclose a copy of your report with the items in question circled. Your letter may look something like the one below. Send your letter by certified mail, return receipt requested, so you can document what the CRA received. Always keep copies of your dispute letter and enclosures.
Sample Credit Report Dispute Letter
Your City, State, Zip Code
Name of Credit Reporting Agency
Their Street Address
City, State, Zip Code
Dear Sir or Madam:
I am writing to dispute the following information in my file. The items I dispute also are encircled on the attached copy of the report I received.
This item (identify the specific items disputed by name, such as creditors or tax court, and identify type of item, such as credit account, judgment, etc.) is (inaccurate or incomplete) because (describe what is inaccurate or incomplete and why). I am requesting that the item be deleted (or request another specific change) to correct the information.
Enclosed are copies of (use this sentence if applicable and describe any enclosed documentation, such as payment records, court documents) supporting my position. Please reinvestigate this (these) matter(s) and (delete or correct) the disputed item(s) as soon as possible.
Your full legal name
Enclosures: (List what you are enclosing)
CRAs must reinvestigate the item(s) in question—usually within 30 days—unless they consider your dispute frivolous. They also must forward all relevant data you provide about the dispute to the information provider. After the information provider receives notice of a dispute from the CRA, it must investigate, review all relevant information provided by the CRA, and report the results to the CRA. If the information provider finds the disputed information to be inaccurate, it must notify all nationwide CRAs so that they can correct this information in your file.
Disputed information that cannot be verified must be deleted from your file.
If your credit report contains inaccurate information, the CRA must correct it.
If an item is incomplete, the CRA must complete it. For example, if your file showed that you were late making payments, but failed to show that you were no longer delinquent, the CRA must show that your payments are now current.
If your file shows an account that belongs only to another person, the CRA must delete it.
When the reinvestigation is complete, the CRA must give you the written results and a free copy of your report if the dispute results in a change. If an item is changed or removed, the CRA cannot put the disputed information back in your file unless the information provider verifies its accuracy and completeness, and the CRA gives you a written notice of its intent to reinsert the items that includes the name, address, and phone number of the provider.
If you request, the CRA must send notices of any correction to anyone who received your report in the past six months. You can have a corrected copy of your report sent to anyone who received a copy during the past two years for employment purposes. If a reinvestigation does not resolve your dispute, ask the CRA to include your statement of the dispute in your file and in future reports.
In addition to writing to the CRA, you should tell the creditor or other information provider in writing that you dispute an item. Be sure to include copies (not originals) of documents that support your position. Many providers specify an address for disputes. If the provider continues to report the disputed item to any CRA after receiving your notice, it must include a notice that you dispute the item. If you are correct—that is, if the information is not accurate—the information provider may not report it again.
These agencies must respond to a dispute sent to them within a reasonable time, unless they feel it is frivolous or irrelevent. Thus, if you've submitted a scrawled letter on the back of an old shopping list demanding "Clean up my credit or I'll sue you!," your request could very well be dismissed. However, by presenting your request in a professional manner, you've started the clock running, so to speak, beginning a research process which will get to the bottom of the
The credit bureaus will allow your creditors 30 working days to respond to their investigation. Therefore, the agency itself may not receive the
information for a whole month when you add in the weekends. If creditors do not
response within this time frame, then the disputed items will usually be removed from your credit report. This is not to say that the item won't mysteriously re-appear after a passage of time, but there's a very good likelyhood that this negative credit report entry will be removed completely. If not, it will be necessary to work directly with the creditor who is reporting the erroneous information to have it removed permanently.
Do not make up a story or tell a lie to have accurate negative credit report entries deleted. Use any of the following sample responses that apply to your circumstances in your dispute letters to prove your case only about the facts. Many experts claim that when you inject your personality into your letters, you will achieve better results.
Sample Dispute Phrases To Use In Your Credit Repair Letters:
1. I do not recall opening this account with _______________. This account is not mine.
2. I was not 30/60/90 days late making a payment on this account.
3. I believe I paid this account with _______ in full as originally agreed. This account was not a charge-off as indicated on my credit report.
4. I do not owe a judgment for $_______ as indicated on my credit report.
5. I did not declare bankruptcy on ________ as indicated on my credit report.
I have never declared bankruptcy.
6. I do not owe a tax lien for $ ___________ as indicated on my credit report.
7. This account was the responsibility of ____________________, whom I was separated/divorced from on _________________. I am not liable for this debt.
8. I do not have a VISA/MasterCard/Discover Card/etc. as indicated on my credit report.
Accurate Negative Information Stays In Credit Report
When negative information in your report is accurate, only the passage of time can assure its removal. Accurate negative information generally can stay on your report for seven years. There are certain exceptions:
Bankruptcy information may be reported for 10 years. Credit information reported in response to an application for a job with a salary of more than $75,000 has no time limit.
Information about criminal convictions has no time limit. Credit information reported because of an application for more than $150,000 worth of credit or life insurance has no time limit.
Default information concerning U.S. Government insured or guaranteed student loans can be reported for seven years after certain guarantor actions.
Information about a lawsuit or an unpaid judgment against you can be reported for seven years or until the statute of limitations within your state runs out, whichever is longer.
Seven-year Reporting Period
There is a standard method for calculating the seven-year reporting period. Generally, the period runs from the date that the event took place.
With regard to any delinquent account placed for collection—internally or by referral to a third-party debt collector, whichever is earlier—charged to profit and loss, or subjected to any similar action, the seven-year period is calculated from the date of the delinquency that occurred immediately before the collection activity, charge to profit and loss, or similar action.
For example, assume that your payments on a loan were late in January, but that you caught up in February. You were late again in May, but caught up in July. You were again late in September, but did not catch up before the account was turned over to a collection agency in December. You made no more payments on the account, and it is charged to profit and loss in July of the following year.
Under the "Fair Credit Reporting Act," (FCRA) the January and May late payments each can be reported for seven years. The collection activity and the charge to profit and loss can be reported for seven years from the date of the September payment, which was the delinquency that occurred immediately before those activities.
Adding Accounts to Your File
Your credit file may not reflect all your credit accounts. Although most national department store and all-purpose bank credit card accounts will be included in your file, not all creditors supply information to CRAs: Some travel, entertainment, gasoline card companies, local retailers, and credit unions are among those creditors that don't.
If you've been told that you were denied credit because of an "insufficient credit file" or "no credit file" and you have accounts with creditors that don't appear in your credit file, ask the CRA to add this information to future reports.
Although they are not required to do so, many CRAs will add verifiable accounts for a fee. However, understand that if these creditors do not report to the CRA on a regular basis, the added items probably will not be updated in your file.
To learn your full rights under the FCRA, visit www.ftc.gov/credit.
Next: "How to read and understand your credit report"
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