How to correct a credit report error

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Dear Credit Card Adviser,
I have read articles about credit ratings and repair, but I was unable to find an article with advice on correcting credit reports. I know I can send an explanation to the credit bureaus, but how can I get the organization (such as a hospital) to send a correction for an error they made and send to the credit bureau?
— Beth

Dear Beth,
Consumers have two ways to go about a credit report dispute: They can contact the creditor or the credit bureau that has the error on file. When a company has reported negative but inaccurate information about a debt, you may want to file a dispute with the data furnisher and the credit bureau.

Contacting the source first can save you the frustration of having your dispute through the credit bureau coming back verified.

“If you dispute through us, through the credit reporting company, we’re going to go back to the source of the information and ask them to verify it,” says Maxine Sweet, vice president of public education at Experian, one of the three major credit bureaus. “And if they are just going to look at the same documentation that they looked at originally to send their information to us, then they’re going to not change (the data).”

Although you may want to formally dispute the error in writing, a phone call to the creditor may resolve the problem, depending on what it is. At the very least, talking to someone will help you determine which supporting documents to send.

Whichever contact method you choose, don’t ramble in your description of the problem. If the issue is a delinquency on your credit report and you have a perfect payment history, say so. Ask the company to update or stop reporting the erroneous information.

To ensure that your credit report reflects the new information, file a dispute with the credit bureau that provided your credit report — Equifax, Experian or TransUnion.

“If you don’t dispute it with the credit reporting agency you don’t trigger your full rights under the Fair Credit Reporting Act,” says Evan Hendricks, author of “Credit Scores & Credit Reports: How the System Really Works, What You Can Do.”

When you dispute an item on your credit report through the credit reporting agency, it must forward your request to the data furnisher that provided the information. The Fair Credit Reporting Act, or FCRA, requires that information deemed inaccurate, incomplete or unverifiable be corrected or deleted from your credit report usually within 30 days of your dispute. The agency will send you the results of the investigation.

Check your credit report for specific instructions on disputing information with the consumer reporting company. Experian, TransUnion and Equifax all accept online disputes.

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