It is very important to get a copy of your credit report from each of the three major credit bureaus at least once a year to check for any errors. Errors on credit reports are common, but can usually be corrected fairly easily without seeking outside help. If you do find an error on your report, follow these simple steps to resolve the problem and to avoid some common consumer mistakes.Send disputes by writing
This gives you documented proof that a dispute was sent. Make sure you keep a copy for your records.
Send letters “certified mail” and “return receipt requested.” This will prove the date the credit reporting agency receives the dispute and also marks the start of the 30 day investigation process. Agencies are required by law to respond to your inquiry within 30 days. Important notes when sending written disputesName
. The credit reporting agencies do not use social security numbers as the primary identifier. Usually they are going to check name and address first. And it is important to always give your full name when disputing because there are usually other consumers that share the same name or have similar names. This can cause problems with files becoming mixed. Follow this format: First, Middle, Last&Senior, Junior, I, II, III. Address.
If you are having them mail to a PO Box address, then use the following format: 123 PO Box 123.
When initiating disputes online, they are looking for a house number. To get around this, put the PO Box number in the house number box, and then in the street address box put the full PO Box listing there.
Same thing with rural route addresses: 1 RR 1.
This is how creditors are instructed to enter in consumer addresses when ordering credit reports.
If you get used to using this format, then you won’t have multiple alias addresses showing up on your credit report. Social Security Number
. Always add this because it helps ensure the credit reporting agency pulls the right credit report. In some cases, such as with a father and son living at the same address, someone else may have the exact same name and address. Date of Birth
. Like your social security number, this is just another way to make sure the correct credit report is pulled. Driver’s License
. Get in the habit of including a copy of your driver’s license every time. This will prevent delays in ordering a credit report and disputing errors. Always provide as clear a picture as possible so they can identify what you look like. This will help if you are ever a victim of ID Theft, or if someone is ever so bold to try and order your credit report without an ID - then the credit bureau will know something is up if they don't see it.
Make sure your Drivers License or State ID Card is up to date reflecting your correct name and address.
They don't need your driver’s license number. If it makes you feel better, then just mark it out. However, if you apply for a loan, quite often regardless of your efforts these companies do collect and report the driver’s license numbers to the credit reporting agencies. And YES the credit reporting agencies resell driver’s license numbers.In the body of your dispute letter
- Give the name of the creditor or collection company. If you don't know the name, then just use the spelling as you see it listed on the credit report; or you can call the credit reporting agencies yourself to ask for the full name, address and telephone number of the creditor/company. Please note that you will only be able to call the credit reporting agency if you first obtained a copy of your credit report directly from one of the three major credit reporting agencies and not a reseller.
- If you are listing the name of the collection company, then also list the name of the original creditor below it.
- Give the account number. It is a good idea to use the number you find on the credit report. This way they can match it up easier than trying to figure out the real account numbers that you have with the company. It is in your best interest to avoid disclosing the full account number for protection against ID Theft. Also the credit reporting agencies are going to start truncating the social security numbers (on request) and the account numbers showing on the credit reports.
If the name of the creditor and the account number matches up exactly with another tradeline (account listing) on the credit report, then also add the following: open date, high credit, high balance, current balance, last activity date, type of account, terms, and status.
- Always be sure to include the reason for your dispute and what you want changed. This is required; otherwise, they will not process your dispute.
- If your dispute regards a major loan, then let the credit reporting agency know of your wishes for them to rush processing within a shorter period of time, and that you want the creditor to receive an updated copy of your credit report once updates are complete. In addition, you can request that all creditors dating 6 months back and employers dating 12 months back receive an updated copy of your credit report.
- You can also send a copy of the disputed credit report highlighting all errors. Number each item 1, 2, 3, etc. Then in your letter, for each listing write the number to match on the credit report the listing you are disputing. By doing this you help ensure your dispute is clearly understood.
- Type your dispute letters. You want to avoid the possibility of having your dispute delayed just because someone can not read your handwriting.
- Be sure to sign your letter.Dispute addresses for each of the credit reporting agencies
PO Box 2002
Allen Texas 75013
PO Box 740256
Atlanta, Georgia 30374
The most efficient way to start your investigation is to go online. You will begin by entering your zip code to determine which Equifax office will handle the dispute.
PO Box 2000
Chester PA, 19022-2000
Go online to request a customized form and get the correct mailing address for your state.Additional Information on Disputes
- Once you receive from the post office the green return receipt card, then the 30 day period the credit reporting agencies have for investigating, updating, and returning the results to you starts. Give 5 business days for mail time.
- If you do not receive your dispute within 30 days, it is your right to write back in and request that they complete updating the credit report as you requested. If the disputed creditor fails to respond to the credit reporting agency’s query for update, then, unless they deem your dispute as frivolous, they have no other option but to abide by your request for the update. In that case, you should have received a letter informing you of the determination within the 30 day time frame.
- If your dispute results in the deletion of an item that is later reinserted (which is the creditors right to catch and update even after the 30 day period), the credit reporting agency is obligated to notify you within 5 business days. If you have not received such notice and know reinsertion happened more then 5 business days ago, then it is your legal right to request the item be permanently removed due to improper notice of reinsertion.
- If an item is verified as an error, but remains on your credit report unchanged, then you have a right to initiate another dispute. It is a good idea to wait 60 days between follow up disputes because a credit reporting agency has a right to deem a dispute frivolous and may do so if you dispute the same item within a short period of time. This will result in you being unable to make them investigate unless you forward documented proof of your dispute, showing cause for the change to be made.
- Other options include contacting creditors who are being incorrectly reported and make them aware of the error. Request that they make the corrections from their end. If this does not work, you can contact the Federal Trade Commission and file a complaint with them. You can also request use of their dispute referral system now available to consumers with problem disputes.
- Follow these tips to correct errors on your credit report. This will help ensure a smooth process next time you apply for credit and that you are not a victim of identity theft.
Pammila Phillis has been a staff writer for CardRatings.com since 2004. She has extensive knowledge about consumer credit issues due to work-related experience involving credit bureaus and a keen personal interest in the topic. She is also a moderator of the CardRatings.com credit forum
, which boasts over 25,000 posts.