Dispute Credit Report Errors To Protect Credit Rating

Simple steps eliminate debt mistakes on credit report

SAN MATEO, Calif., June 24, 2009 — A healthy credit score makes a big difference to individuals' interest rates, monthly payments, debt profile and job prospects, and Ethan Ewing, president of free online consumer portal Bills.com, has compiled five steps for consumers who need to dispute an erroneous record on their credit report.

"Not only does a person's credit score affect the interest rate he or she pays on a mortgage or auto loan, but credit reports also might be viewed by prospective landlords, employers and insurers," explained Ewing. "Additionally, the credit report often is the first indicator that identity has been compromised by fraud or theft. For all of these reasons, it is important to monitor your credit report at least yearly to be certain it reports accurate information about your use of credit."

To monitor credit, Ewing suggested every American take advantage of the right to receive a free copy of his or her credit report each year by visiting AnnualCreditReport.com or calling 877-322-8228. Additionally, he suggested guarding against identity theft by shredding all documents that contain personal information.

"Shred all bank and other account statements, and never give personal information to those who solicit it by phone or e-mail," he said. "Consider closing unused credit card accounts to avoid any fraud. Note, however, that closing a long-standing credit card account could negatively impact your credit score. Instead, consider putting the card in a safe place if you are not using it."

Consumers can follow these five steps to dispute an error on a credit report:

  1. The federal Fair Credit Reporting Act requires that credit bureaus provide a procedure for consumers to dispute inaccurate listings on their credit reports. Follow the guidelines provided by each of the three credit reporting agencies on their Web sites. The easiest way to file an effective dispute letter is online. If a consumer disputes an item with one of the three major agencies (Equifax, Experian or TransUnion), the bureau will notify the creditor that the item has been disputed. The creditor then has 30 days in which to respond to that dispute. The Federal Trade Commission also offers a free guide to disputing credit report errors at the Facts for Consumers: How to Dispute Credit Report Errors page.
  2. If the creditor provides substantial evidence that the item is valid, then the listing will remain on the report. If the creditor cannot substantiate the item, then the credit bureau is required to remove it.
  3. If the creditor does not respond to the credit bureau within 30 days, then the credit bureau is required to remove that listing from the consumer’s credit file. This period can be extended by 15 days under certain circumstances. However, even after an item has been removed, if the credit bureau receives information from the creditor substantiating the listing, the credit bureau can replace the item on the consumer’s credit report.
  4. File a complaint with the FTC. If a credit reporting agency refuses to remove a listing that is truly invalid, even after the consumer has provided substantial evidence, the consumer can file a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission and with his or her state’s Attorney General’s office. Legal action also is an option; consumers would need to discuss this course of action with an attorney.
  5. Occasionally, a debt will reappear even after a consumer has successfully disputed it and had it removed. This may happen if a debt is sent to a collection agency that begins reporting the item to the bureaus again. In that case, the consumer must dispute the item all over again.

"The bottom line is that consumer credit reports include whatever information creditors or collectors report to the credit agencies. Unfortunately, that sometimes includes incorrect information. Therefore, monitoring your credit is your responsibility," Ewing said. "Take that responsibility seriously, and you also take charge of protecting a valuable, intangible asset — your credit rating."

About Bills.com

Based in San Mateo, Calif., Bills.com (www.bills.com) is a free one-stop portal where consumers can educate themselves about complex personal finance issues and comparison shop for products and services including credit cards, debt consolidation, insurance, mortgages and other loans. Bills.com holds the No. 257 spot on the Inc. 500 list for 2008, and the No. 3 spot on Entrepreneur Magazine's Hot 100 list of the fastest-growing U.S. companies.

Bills.com and its sister companies, Freedom Debt Relief and Freedom Tax Relief, are wholly owned subsidiaries of Freedom Financial Network, LLC. The company has served more than 50,000 customers nationwide since 2002 while managing more than $1 billion in consumer debt. Its RSS feed is available at News Releases.