How do I dispute an error on my credit report?

Collections--qmThere has been a lot of discussion recently about credit report errors.  First, what are some of the errors that can plague a credit report?  The account is not yours, incorrect address, incorrect date of birth,  name spelled incorrectly, public record that is not yours, incorrect credit limit on credit card, account reported as paid late incorrectly, or negative information over seven years was still on the report (the exception is bankruptcies which are on for ten years)…the list goes on and on.

Credit bureau dispute

The Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) lets you dispute errors with any of three consumer reporting agencies; Equifax, Experian and TransUnion.  In order to dispute the information, you must have a copy of your credit report.  If you don’t have a copy, get it free at www.annualcreditreport.com

Send the credit bureau a letter by certified mail, “return receipt requested” explaining the reason for the dispute with copies of any documentation, including the credit report and highlight the information being disputed.  Make sure you keep copies of everything you send and don’t send originals. Here are the dispute addresses:

Equifax
P.O. Box 7404256
Atlanta, GA 30374-0256

Experian
Dispute Department
P.O. Box 9701
Allen, TX 75013

TransUnion
Consumer Solutions
P.O. Box 2000
Chester, PA 19022-2000

A flag is placed on that account on your credit report to indicate that the account is in dispute. The account is not removed from your credit report.

The credit bureau has 30 days in which to respond to the dispute.  They contact the company that provided the information to get their input into to the investigation. After 30 days, you are informed in writing of the results of this investigation which could remove the information, correct it, or remain unchanged. If it is removed or corrected, the credit bureau must notify the other consumer reporting agencies to make changes also.  You will receive a copy of the changed credit report. The disputed information is not to go back on your credit report.

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If it is unchanged and you still disagree, you can add a statement to your credit report to explain it.  Unfortunately, most lenders ignore the statement because their automated systems can’t read it.

Another reason some people dispute accounts with late payments is to raise their score temporarily.  This is usually for the purpose of being able to qualify for a loan.  They are still advised by an unscrupulous credit repair company or broker.  Lenders are wise to this and often wait until the dispute is resolved before approving credit. Credit bureaus and credit scores have safe guards built in to identify multiple disputes in one credit report.

If information is deleted or corrected, it is best to check your credit report in 60 days to make sure it doesn’t show up on your report.  Unfortunately, the lender may not have made the correction or the credit bureau did not follow proper procedures to make sure it did not go back on your report. You may have to continue to check periodically to ensure that the information is correct.

JRU on 60 Mins SetCredit Reporting Expert, John Ulzheimer, is the President of Consumer Education at SmartCredit.com, the credit blogger for Mint.com, and a Contributor for the National Foundation for Credit Counseling.  He is an expert on credit reporting, credit scoring and identity theft. Formerly of FICO, Equifax and Credit.com, John is the only recognized credit expert who actually comes from the credit industry.  Follow him on Twitter here.