The three national credit bureaus — Experian, TransUnion and Equifax — can exert a significant influence on your life. If you apply for a car loan, try to rent an apartment or hope to obtain a credit card, the credit history and credit score reported by those three agencies could be the difference in whether you are granted credit or rejected.
So if there are credit reporting errors showing up on those reports, it’s important that you file a dispute with the bureaus. The Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) provides a path to dispute inaccurate information and potentially remove it to restore your good credit. But you need to understand the right steps, because the bureaus may not make things easy.
Review Your Credit Report
Whether or not you plan to apply for credit in the near future, it’s good practice to obtain a free copy of your credit report annually from Experian, TransUnion and Equifax. They can be requested from these credit bureaus using the free letters on our web site. On each report, undergo a detailed review of both your personal data and your credit history. You can use our form to record any incorrect information, or use a format most comfortable for you.
Write a Credit Dispute Letter
After fully recording any errors on all three credit reports, it’s time to write a credit dispute letter to any agencies with incorrect information, request that they review and then fix that data. These letters should be factual, avoid emotion and state clearly and specifically what is wrong with the report and why. You can use our free template letter and the explanation of how to write a dispute, or Lyngklip & Associates can help you through this process. Additionally, you may also request specific action from the credit bureau while they investigate your claim. These actions may include:
- Placing a fraud alert on your credit file. Lenders who look at your file while it has a fraud alert are required to confirm your identity before granting credit.
- Placing a credit freeze on your file. During a freeze, lenders may not pull reports or grant credit at all. This may make things more difficult for you in the short term, but if you are dealing with chronic identity theft, this could be the right move.
We recommend that you do not initiate disputes through telephone or electronic means. Disputing by telephone makes it more difficult to prove what was said or done. By disputing electronically, you may not have proof that your dispute was received. The best way to initiate a credit dispute is to send a certified letter, return receipt requested. Include any supporting documentation, sending photocopies and not originals.
Be Patient and Persistent
If sending a single credit dispute letter was all that it took to clean up credit reporting errors, more people would certainly do it. But credit bureaus will undertake their own investigation of your claim and it often will not turn out in your favor initially. In the event your dispute is denied, review the response and try to determine if there is any additional information or documentation that can support your dispute. It could be that you didn’t provide enough information to convince the agency that their information is incorrect. You may re-file your dispute letter with additional supporting documentation; keep in mind, however, that re-filing the same dispute repeatedly could be considered frivolous and limit your options.
If there is additional information or documents that can support your position, submit another dispute and ask that they investigate using the new information or documents. Once you have provided all the information you have avail — in writing by certified mail with a return receipt requested — you should ask that the credit bureau provides a detailed explanation of its reasoning for refusing your dispute. You should continue to dispute as long as you have new information or documents to provide to the credit bureaus.
The Fair Credit Reporting Act permits you to sue agencies for willful or negligent non-compliance with the law. That is, there is information that you can prove is false and the bureaus simply can’t or won’t correct it. An experienced identity theft and credit reporting lawyer can review your situation and help you better understand the best course of action.
We Can Help You
Lyngklip & Associates, Southfield consumer law attorneys, offer free consultations to those who are struggling to have credit bureaus fix incorrect information on their credit reports. Call our agency at (248) 965-5751 or complete our online form to schedule a consultation.