How to Dispute Inaccuracies on Your Credit Report

I have derogatory items on my credit report I have paid off. Should I validate the debt? How can I fix my credit report?

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Bill's Answer: Answered by Mark Cappel

Validating a debt is generally something you do before you decide to pay a debt.

You want to dispute the inaccurate derogatory accounts on your credit report. Accurate derogatory accounts on your credit report will be removed 7½ years after the date of first delinquency.

You can dispute inaccurate derogatory accounts on your credit report yourself.

4 Steps to Disputing an Inaccurate Credit Report Yourself

The Federal Trade Commission lists the following steps as the appropriate method for disputing inaccurate derogatory accounts on your credit report:

Step 1: Get Your Credit Report

Under the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) each of the nationwide consumer credit reporting agencies — Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion — must provide a free copy of your credit report, at your request, once every 12 months.

The three nationwide consumer reporting companies have set up a Web site, toll-free telephone number, and mailing address through which you can order your free annual report. To order, visit AnnualCreditReport.com, call 1-877-322-8228, or complete the Annual Credit Report Request Form and mail it to: Annual Credit Report Request Service, P.O. Box 105281, Atlanta, GA 30348-5281. You can print this FTC form (PDF). Do not contact the three nationwide consumer reporting companies individually.

You may order your reports from each of the three nationwide consumer reporting companies at the same time, or you can order from only one or two. The law allows you to order one free copy from each once every 12 months.

You need to provide your name, address, Social Security number, and date of birth. If you have moved in the last two years, you may have to provide your previous address. To maintain the security of your file, each nationwide consumer reporting company may ask you for some information that only you would know, like the amount of your monthly mortgage payment. Each company may ask you for different information because the information each has in your file may come from different sources.

Step 2: Look for Errors

Review the report and compare the information it contains to information you know to be accurate. In particular, make sure the report contains your accurate:

  • Name
  • Social Security number
  • Address and previous addresses
  • Accounts and account numbers

If any of the above information is inaccurate, the consumer credit reporting company may have added incorrect information to your account accidentally. This is very common. Alternatively, someone may be using your identity.

Under the FCRA, both the consumer reporting agency and the information provider (i.e., the person, company, or organization that provides information about you to a consumer reporting agency) are responsible for correcting inaccurate or incomplete information in your report. To take advantage of all your rights under this law, contact the consumer reporting agency and the information provider.

Step 3: Correct the Errors

Tell the consumer reporting agency (i.e., Experian, Equifax, or TransUnion), in writing what information you think 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 that it be removed or corrected. You may want to enclose a copy of your report with the items in question circled. Send your letter by certified mail, "return receipt requested," so you can document what the consumer reporting agency received. Keep copies of your dispute letter and enclosures.

Consumer reporting agencies must investigate the items in question — usually within 30 days — unless they consider your dispute frivolous. They also must forward all the relevant data you provide about the inaccuracy to the organization that provided the information.

After the information provider receives notice of a dispute from the consumer reporting agency, it must investigate, review the relevant information, and report the results back to the consumer reporting company. If the information provider finds the disputed information is inaccurate, it must notify all three nationwide consumer reporting companies so they can correct the information in your file.

Quick Tip: The steps described here should correct false information appearing in a credit report. However, if the consumer credit reporting agency does not delete or correct the false information, see the Bills.com method of verification article describing the next steps you can take to fix your credit report.

When the investigation is complete, the consumer reporting agency must give you the results in writing and a free copy of your report if the dispute results in a change. This free report does not count as your annual free report. If an item is changed or deleted, the consumer reporting company cannot put the disputed information back in your file unless the information provider verifies that it is accurate and complete. The consumer reporting company also must send you written notice that includes the name, address, and phone number of the information provider.

If you ask, the consumer reporting agency must send notices of any corrections 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 an investigation doesn’t resolve your dispute with the consumer reporting company, you can ask that a statement of the dispute be included in your file and in future reports. You also can ask the consumer reporting agency to provide your statement to anyone who received a copy of your report in the recent past. You can expect to pay a fee for this service.

Quick Tip: Problems with debt? Learn if Bills.com’s partners can help.

Step 4: Dispute the Errors

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 reports the item to a consumer reporting company, it must include a notice of your dispute. And if you are correct — that is, if the information is found to be inaccurate — the information provider may not report it again.

To obtain a sample of a dispute letter please visit the Bills.com Debt Self-Help Center.

The three major credit reporting agencies also offer consumers the ability to dispute a credit account online:

Equifax Experian TransUnion
800-685-1111 888-397-3742 800-916-8800
Equifax.com Experian.com TransUnion.com
File a credit dispute online at Equifax File a credit dispute online at Experian File a credit dispute online at TransUnion

I hope this information helps you Find. Learn & Save.

Best,

Bill

Bills.com

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