Credit Score Disputes

Your credit report is essentially your track record as it reports on your financial and criminal history, and this is why it is so important to make sure that the information reflected is actually yours. When you find discrepancies, you can dispute errors on your credit report. Here’s what you’ll need to do:

• Obtain a copy of your credit report
• Look for and correct accounts that are not yours
• Add accounts you have that are not reflected on your credit report

You have the legal right to obtain a free copy of your credit report once per year from all three major credit reporting bureaus: Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion. All three bureaus use the same system, so don’t contact them individually to dispute credit report errors. To order your report go to: www.annualcreditreport.com or call 1-877-322-8228. Here’s what you will need:
1. Your name
2. Address
3. Social Security number
4. Date of birth
Be prepared to answer a few questions about your financial history that will likely be asked for security purposes. Aside from the annual free credit report, you may request a free copy if a company takes adverse action against you based on information in your credit report. This may include the denial of employment, insurance, loans, credit, etc. However, you must request the copy within 60 days of receiving the denial notice. The notice will provide you with the contact information for the credit reporting company. To buy a copy of your credit report, you can contact any of the three main credit bureaus directly. Note: In Colorado, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, and Vermont consumers have free access to their credit reports. For details on these states click here.

Most financial advisers suggest reviewing your credit report from time-to-time and dispute errors not only because it affects your buying power, leasing ability, and potential employment opportunities, but it can also show whether or not you’ve been a victim of identity theft. Under the Fair Reporting Credit Act (FCRA), both the information provider and the credit reporting company are responsible for correcting incomplete or inaccurate information in your credit report. There are two steps to this process:

  1. Step 1 – You must inform the credit reporting company in writing of any inaccuracies you find in your report. Include copies (don’t send originals) of all supporting documents with your complete name and address. Clearly identify each item you’re disputing, state the facts, and request its removal. It is a good idea to send the letter by “certified mail, return receipt requested” so you know when it was received by the credit reporting agency. Keep copies of all correspondence. The credit reporting agency will research the dispute within about 30 days, sending their research to the information provider who will then investigate it and send their findings to the credit reporting agency. If they find the information is inaccurate, they will notify all three credit reporting bureaus who will correct your credit report. The credit reporting agency will you send you all documentation regarding the changes.
  2. Step 2 – Notify the creditor or information provider in writing that you have disputed the item. As with Step 1, include all supporting documents. The credit reporting agency will research as above and anything found to be in error will be removed.

Disputing errors on your credit report is important, but so is making sure all of your accounts are reported. Check that your credit report reflects all the credit accounts you currently use or have open. Some examples are travel, local retailers, gasoline cards, and others. This may be something to consider if you’ve been denied for “insufficient credit” or “no credit.” However, many credit reporting companies will require a fee to do so as they are not required to add it to your credit report. Also, these creditors may not report to the credit reporting agencies on a regular basis, so your credit report won’t be updated in your file on a regular basis either.