How to dispute credit report errors

by Dan Krell © 2010

Recently I told you about the growing importance of your credit report and why you need to ensure it’s accurate. The accuracy of your credit report is more important today than it ever was, not just because mortgage lenders have tightened credit qualifying guidelines, but also because of the growing reliance on credit reports from employers, insurers and other creditors to get information about you.

It is not unusual to find discrepancies or incomplete information within the report, including old credit accounts and outdated personal history. Errors in personal information and credit history sometimes occur due to transposed social security numbers and confusing people with similar names (including confusing the Jr and Sr name suffix). The Fair Credit Reporting Act (FTC.gov) requires accurate and complete data about to be reported by credit reporting companies and those providing information about you.

The first step in correcting errors is to review your report. As I have previously described, you have the opportunity to receive a free credit report from each of the three credit repositories (other factors may allow you to receive additional free reports). Additionally, since fraud and identity theft is a serious threat to your credit history and a growing concern among law enforcement; a regular review of your credit report is a good idea even if you have previously deemed the information accurate. You can contact each of the three credit repositories directly Equifax (equifax.com), Experian (experian.com), and Trans Union (www.transunion.com), or you can visit annualcreditreport.com (a central credit service created by the three credit repositories). The Office of the Maryland Attorney General cautions people when entering website addresses; when entering website addresses, accuracy is important because of the many similar commercial websites that charge for similar services.

If you determine that errors exist in your report, you must notify the credit reporting company in writing to dispute the information. To document your letter delivery, the Federal Trade Commission suggests that your letter be sent via certified mail with return receipt requested. Besides showing your complete name and address, your dispute letter should clearly identify all disputed items with an explanation of the facts as to why the information is disputed along with a request to remove the information. Additionally, your dispute letter should contain the report with disputed items circled, as well as any copy of supporting material to defend your claim.

The credit reporting company has thirty days to investigate the disputed items. The credit reporting company will forward your dispute, along with any supporting materials, to the provider of the disputed information to initiate an investigation of their own. If the disputed information is found to be inaccurate, then the provider must report the corrected accurate data to all three credit repositories. The credit reporting company must provide you notice of the outcome of the investigation along with an updated report showing any changes.

Sometimes credit reporting companies will determine a dispute is “frivolous” (often when insufficient information is provided) and will terminate an investigation. If your dispute was determined to be “frivolous,” the credit reporting company must notify you along with the reasons for this determination.

Additional and updated credit report dispute resolution information as well as resources are offered by the Federal Trade Commission (ftc.gov/bcp/edu/pubs/consumer/credit/cre21.shtm), and the Office of the Maryland Attorney General (www.oag.state.md.us/consumer/edge121.htm).

This article is not intended to provide nor should it be relied upon for legal and financial advice. This article was originally published in the Montgomery County Sentinel the week of January 11, 2010. Using this this article without permission is a violation of copyright laws. Copyright © 2010 Dan Krell