Fixing credit reporting errors is not a quick process. Because it takes so long, it is important to use the correct step-by-step process on your initial attempt.
the formal dispute process
The first step in the credit dispute process is to properly identify the errors on your credit report. As a preliminary matter, it is important to note that your creditors (aka “credit furnishers”) do not have to report a debt to the credit bureaus (Equifax, Experian, Transunion). Therefore, if a debt is missing from the report, this does not mean an error was reported. The inaccuracy must be in the form of incorrect information that is actually present on the report: wrong name, wrong social security number, wrong address, inaccurate payment information, timely payments listed as late, a balance where there should be zero balance, etc. One of the major errors, in terms of harming your overall credit score, is the presence of a “charge off” on the report. If any of your debts are current or have been paid (or even discharged in bankruptcy) and a “charge off” has appeared on the report, this can be a costly error – whether your creditor is to blame or the credit bureau.
The second step in the dispute process is to draft a dispute letter. It is imperative that your letter is as detailed as possible about the error. Your letter should contain specific identifying information (your name, address, birthday, SSN, the credit report # you are disputing, and even a copy of your driver’s license), a detailed description of the error along with the correct information, and a copy of the disputed portion of your credit report. You should sign and date the dispute letter, and then be sure to send it registered/certified U.S. Mail so that you have evidence of when the bureau receives it. Sometimes it is difficult to find the specific address of where to send the dispute. The websites of the credit bureaus have an online dispute process, which you should also use by cutting and pasting the letter into the online form. Each website should have an address listed for where to send dispute letters – be cautious and get the address directly from the bureau because these addresses seem to change frequently. If you cannot find the dispute address on the website, there should be an address for disputes in the credit report itself. NOTE: you should also always send a dispute directly to the creditor.
The final step in the process is to monitor your response letters and results. Sometimes you will receive letters to confirm receipt of the dispute. In other instances, you will not receive a confirmation letter but only a results letter. Either way, it is important to pull your credit report about 2-3 months after the dispute to monitor any changes.
If you have properly disputed credit reporting errors and have been unsuccessful, you should consult with an attorney immediately. Your creditors and the credit bureaus may face liability under the Fair Credit Reporting Act.