Despite the importance of credit
reports to one's overall financial picture, the agencies
that maintain these reports are often less than 100
percent accurate. Millions of Americans may have mistakes
on their credit reports that could affect everything
from getting a loan to getting a job.
|5 ways to dispute errors|
Sometimes these mistakes are innocuous,
something as minor as misspelled personal information,
but sometimes they can have serious financial consequences.
It's our job as consumers to police our information and take
care of mistakes in a timely manner. That means ordering
your free credit reports at least once a year and checking them carefully.
What do you do once you've found a
Regardless of which of the five resolution routes you choose,
you'll need to be able to prove your case. That's why it's helpful to keep your
billing statements and payment records. Don't toss them after you've successfully
disputed a mistake and it gets removed; there is a chance it could come back.
Keep records for as long as the information is on your report, seven years in
most cases. If you're like me and live in New York-sized digs, don't fret. We
live in a digital age and scanned copies work just fine and save space.
Contact the credit reporting agency, or CRA, who reported
the error -- it would be Experian,
TransUnion or Equifax -- and send a letter of
dispute. That agency is obligated by law to notify
the other agencies, launch an investigation and contact
the creditor who reported it. They give the creditor
30 days to verify or dispute the information.
Do this one of three ways:
- Via certified
mail: This is best because you've got the paper trail. Be as detailed as
possible while keeping the letter to one page or less and send copies (not originals)
of receipts or anything you have to back up your case. Make
it easy on yourself with this form letter.
phone: Even though a phone call is faster than snail mail, your chances
of clearing up the issue in one go are better if you send a letter. Even though
you're speaking with a person, chances are they'll reduce your spiel into a three-digit
code that they'll use to put your complaint into an automated resolution system
where the nuances of your argument will be lost. Record the conversation for your
records (you must inform the representative that they are being recorded) or keep
detailed notes and follow up with a letter outlining what you have agreed.
Even though this is the Internet age, you may still want to stick with certified
mail over an electronic form. Online reporting is fastest in the short run, but
chances are better of getting your issue resolved in one try with a properly written
paper letter, because it passes by real human eyes instead of dumping into an