Under the FCRA, both the credit reporting agency and the information provider (that is, the person, company, or organization that provides information about you to a credit reporting agency) are responsible for correcting inaccurate or incomplete information in your report. To take advantage of all your rights under this law, contact the credit reporting agency and the information provider.
Q: How can I correct errors found in my credit report?
A: If you find errors in your credit report, you may dispute the information and request that the information be deleted or corrected.
Tell the credit reporting agency, in writing, what information you think is inaccurate. Include copies (NOT originals) of documents that support your position. In addition to providing your complete name and address, your letter should clearly identify each item in your report you dispute, state the facts and explain why you dispute the information, and request that it be removed or corrected. You may want to enclose a copy of your report with the items in question circled. Your letter may look something like the one below. Send your letter by certified mail, “return receipt requested,” so you can document what the credit reporting agency received. Keep copies of your dispute letter and enclosures.
Credit reporting agencies must investigate the items in question -- usually within 30 days -- unless they consider your dispute frivolous or irrelevant. They also must forward all the relevant data you provide about the inaccuracy to the organization that provided the information. After the information provider receives notice of a dispute from the credit reporting agency, it must investigate, review the relevant information, and report the results back to the credit reporting agency. If the information provider finds the disputed information is inaccurate, it must notify all three nationwide credit reporting agencies so they can correct the information in your file.
When the investigation is complete, the credit reporting agency must give you the results in writing and a free copy of your report if the dispute results in a change. This free report does not count as your annual free report. If an item is changed or deleted, the credit reporting agency cannot put the disputed information back in your file unless the information provider verifies that it is accurate and complete. The credit reporting agency also must send you written notice that includes the name, address, and phone number of the information provider.
If you ask, the credit reporting agency must send notices of any corrections to anyone who received your report in the past six months. You can have a corrected copy of your report sent to anyone who received a copy during the past two years for employment purposes.
Tell the creditor or other information provider, in writing, that you dispute an item. Be sure to include copies (NOT originals) of documents that support your position. Many providers specify an address for disputes. If the provider reports the item to a credit reporting agency, it must include a notice of your dispute. And if you are correct -- that is, if the information is found to be inaccurate -- the information provider may not report it again.
About Your Credit File
Your credit file may not reflect all your credit accounts. Although most national department store and all-purpose bank credit card accounts will be included in your file, not all creditors supply information to credit reporting agencies: some local retailers, credit unions, travel, entertainment, and gasoline card companies are among the creditors that don't.
When negative information in your report is accurate, only the passage of time can assure its removal. A credit reporting agency can report most accurate negative information for seven years and bankruptcy information for 10 years. Information about an unpaid judgment against you can be reported for seven years or until the statute of limitations runs out, whichever is longer. There is no time limit on reporting: information about criminal convictions; information reported in response to your application for a job that pays more than $75,000 a year; and information reported because you've applied for more than $150,000 worth of credit or life insurance. There is a standard method for calculating the seven-year reporting period. Generally, the period runs from the date that the event took place.
For more information, see How Credit Scores Affect the Price of Credit and Insurance
Sample Dispute Letter
Date Your Name Your Address, City, State, Zip Code Complaint Department Name of Company Address City, State, Zip Code Dear Sir or Madam: I am writing to dispute the following information in my file. I have circled the items I dispute on the attached copy of the report I received. This item (identify item(s) disputed by name of source, such as creditors or tax court, and identify type of item, such as credit account, judgment, etc.) is (inaccurate or incomplete) because (describe what is inaccurate or incomplete and why). I am requesting that the item be removed (or request another specific change) to correct the information. Enclosed are copies of (use this sentence if applicable and describe any enclosed documentation, such as payment records and court documents) supporting my position. Please reinvestigate this (these) matter(s) and (delete or correct) the disputed item(s) as soon as possible. Sincerely, Your name Enclosures: (List what you are enclosing.)
Q: What happens once I send in information to correct information in my credit report?
A: If you submit your dispute through a credit reporting agency or directly to the company or person that provided the incorrect information to the credit reporting agency, your dispute must be investigated, usually within thirty days. If you provide additional information during the thirty-day investigation, that investigation period may be extended an additional 15 days in some circumstances. When the investigation is completed, either the credit reporting agency or the company or person that provided the incorrect information to the credit reporting agency must give you the written results of its investigation.
If the information provider finds the disputed information is inaccurate, it must notify all three nationwide credit reporting agencies so they can correct the information in your credit report. You can get a free copy of your report if the dispute results in a change. This free report is in addition to your annual free report. If an item is changed or deleted, a credit reporting agency cannot put the disputed information back in your credit report unless the company or person that provided the incorrect information to the credit reporting agency verifies that the information is, indeed, accurate and complete.
You can request that the credit reporting agency send notices of any correction to anyone who received your report in the past six months. A corrected copy of your report can be sent to anyone who received a copy during the past two years for employment purposes.
Q: What if an investigation does not resolve my dispute?
A: If an investigation does not resolve your dispute, you can ask that a statement of the dispute be included in your future credit reports. You also can ask the credit reporting agency to provide your statement to anyone who received a copy of your report in the recent past, but you may have to pay a fee for this service.
Q: What can you do if you are dissatisfied with the resolution of your credit dispute or if the credit reporting agency does not respond?
A: You may contact the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) for assistance.
A consumer may contact the CFPB if, for example, you have issues with:
- incorrect information on a credit report;
- a consumer reporting agency's investigation;
- the improper use of a credit report;
- being unable to get a copy of a credit score or file; and
- problems with credit monitoring or identify protection services.
-- This article is courtesy of the National Credit Union Administration at mycreditunion.gov.