Everyone, it seems through mass media coverage, knows how to dispute negative credit listings on a credit report. This is a good thing. However, many people are foiled in their credit dispute efforts because of the way credit bureaus investigate disputes.
If you get a notice from a credit bureau telling you the information you disputed has been verified as accurate, you have a right to request verification. According to the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA), the credit reporting agency is required to give you a method of verification within 15 days of your request. This should be hard evidence that goes all the way back to the original creditor.
Will the Method of Verification Help Your Credit Repair Efforts?
The credit bureaus are not doing their job as far as performing an investigation. You can call them on this by asking for the method of verification. Most times the CRAs simply deny that they have a responsibility to provide the method of verification. The statute is plenty clear, though, and it’s always a good idea to make the request.
How to Know If Your Dispute is Being Investigated Properly
Each credit reporting agency has a different process for handling credit report disputes, but all three use a similar system. The three bureaus collaborated through their trade organization to automate the entire reinvestigation process using an online computer program, e-Oscar. Both the credit bureaus and information furnishers (for instance a bank or a collection agency that reports an account to the credit bureaus) use this system to investigate disputes.
e-OSCAR consists of taking a dispute and “categorizing” the dispute into a two-letter code. According to a 2006 FTC report (“Report to Congress on the Fair Credit Reporting Act Dispute Process”), there are 26 e-OSCAR codes that can be used as a reason for dispute such as “Not his/hers” and “Claims account closed.”
All disputes received by the credit bureaus are done either via written letter, the telephone, or the credit bureaus online dispute service. Even if the credit bureau receives a written dispute highly detailed and with documentation, each dispute is reduced to one of the 26 two-digit codes – the best guess of a minimum wage employee.
The credit bureau will try to resolve the dispute internally (as in a case where the supporting documentation can reasonably determine to be verified as authentic.
If a dispute cannot be resolved internally, the credit bureaus are required to send all of the supporting documentation regarding the dispute to the furnisher of the consumer’s account, but all they receive is the two-digit code.
Writing a Method of Verification Letter
If your credit dispute comes back verified, but with no actual documentation supporting the verification, you can now send them a letter of verification to request this documentation.
- Challenge the listing thru the normal channels.
- If verified, with a copy of the investigation result in hand, call the CRA at the toll-free number listed at the top of the report.
- Give the report reference number and ask for the method of verification per FCRA Section 611.
- They will have never called the original creditor but will have relied on a third-party database to verify, which they may or may not admit to you. If they can’t cite solid evidence like “we called the original creditor and they verified,” ask for their phone number.
- Call the original creditor and ask for the records.
- If the creditor doesn’t have them (they will typically tell you that the collection agency has them and they don’t keep them), get the person’s name and direct line. If they do have them, demand a copy under the new FACTA act.
- If you are sent records, review them and see how good they are. If they are not conclusive, take the next step.
- If the original creditor has no records;
- Call the CRA back and tell them the OC has no records.
- Inform the CRA that they need to open another dispute. The new information for the dispute is the name and number of the person to whom you have just called at the OC.
- If they refuse, inform them you will sue for willful non-compliance under section FCRA ß 616.
- If they still refuse, send the information via certified letter along with an intent to sue letter. If not, they will give you a new confirmation number. This acts as a new investigation, and the CRA has 30 days to get back to you.
- If you have written records proving the OC can’t back up the negative listing(s) they are reporting on your credit report, send them registered mail to the CRA along with an intent to sue letter if the account is not removed.
The credit reporting agency should respond to you within 15 days. If not, and you have told them you intend to sue them, at this point, it would be wise to contact an attorney to help you proceed with the dispute.