What is a Credit Dispute?

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A big part of credit repair is making sure you do not have any incorrect or erroneous information on your credit reports. If you see something on one or more of your credit reports that don’t look right, you have the right to ask for it to be corrected or removed, whichever is appropriate. The process for making this happen is called a credit dispute and it is something you can do on your own or you can have a credit repair service do it for you. Either way, here is how the credit dispute process works.

Types of Information You Can Dispute

Pretty much anything on your credit reports is eligible for dispute. If any of the following looks wrong to you, a credit dispute is in order:

Using Credit Disputes to Repair Credit Reports
  • The spelling of your name
  • Social security number
  • Date of birth
  • Address
  • Employer
  • Credit accounts
  • Credit inquiries
  • Balances
  • Late payments
  • Charge-offs
  • Collection accounts
  • Bankruptcies
  • Foreclosures
  • Judgments
  • Tax liens

In some cases, a resolution may mean a simple correction – to an address or a credit card balance, for example. In others, a resolution may mean the deletion of the listing entirely – like a collection that should have fallen off your credit reports by now, or a credit account that doesn’t belong to you at all.

How to File Credit Disputes

Start with the credit reporting bureaus – Experian, TransUnion, and Equifax. Of course, you may not have to contact all three. What’s on one report may not be on another, as data furnishers get to choose which agency they report information to.

Once you know which credit bureau to file the dispute with, send them a letter like this one. Just keep in mind that this is a template, meaning you will need to edit it as appropriate to reflect the unique nature of your situation. (The same is true of all other letters linked below.)

In addition to the letter, include copies of any supporting documentation. You may also want to include a copy of the credit report with the items in question circled or otherwise highlighted.

What If the Credit Dispute Doesn’t Work?

If you don’t hear back from the credit bureau, follow up with a letter like this one.

If you hear back, but it’s not corrected, try going directly through the data furnisher (e.g., creditor, collection agency) that reported the information you believe to be incorrect.

If neither the credit bureau nor the data furnisher corrects what you believe to be inaccurate, you can submit a complaint to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB).

Why It Matters So Much

If it’s personally identifying information that is inaccurate, you might consider ignoring it, as these things do not directly impact your credit scores. After all, we see our names misspelled on things all the time. But when it comes to your credit reports, a wrong name or address could be a sign that you have been a victim of identity theft, which is something you cannot ignore.

Then there is the impact of credit information on your credit scores, which can be used to determine:

  • Your eligibility for a loan
  • Your interest rate on that loan
  • Your auto insurance premium
  • Your eligibility to rent a house or apartment
  • Even your eligibility for a job

Bottom line, any inaccuracy on a credit report is a big deal. While there are no guarantees that the dispute will be resolved as you hope, you can (and should) exercise your right – by law – to the credit dispute process.

Not sure what’s on your reports? Request your free copies at AnnualCreditReport.com.

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