Your credit report tells creditors, potential lenders or employers how you pay your bills, whether you have been sued, filed for bankruptcy, where you live and where you work. Because businesses and employers may use this information to determine whether to lend you money or offer you a job it is important that the information in your report is accurate and complete.
The first thing you need to do is order a copy of your credit report. The three major national credit bureaus are:
Equifax, PO Box 740241, Atlanta, GA 30374-0241; (800) 685-1111.
Experian, (formerly TRW), PO Box 2002, Allen, TX 75013; (888) 397-3742.
Trans Union, PO Box 1000, Chester, PA 19022; (800) 916-8800.
When ordering a copy by mail, make state your name, current address, addresses where you have lived for the last five years, your social security number, date of birth and a include copy of your driver’s license. You are entitled to a free copy of your credit report once a year if you state that you are unemployed and plan to look for a job within 60 days, or you are on welfare, or your report is inaccurate because of fraud. Otherwise, the credit bureau may charge you up to $9.00 for a copy of your report.
If after reviewing your credit report you discover an inaccuracy you should first write to the credit bureau and let it know what item is disputed and why. Make sure to include copies (never give the credit bureaus originals) of any documents that support your claim that the particular item(s) listed is inaccurate. Ask that the matter you dispute be corrected or deleted from your report. Send your letter by certified mail, return receipt requested, so you will have proof that the credit bureau received your letter. Make sure to keep a copy of the letter you send for your records.
Once the credit bureau receives your letter it has 30 days to investigate your claim, unless it deems your request frivolous. It will forward your letter to the entity that provided the information that you dispute and ask that entity to reinvestigate whether the information is accurate. That entity must report back to the credit bureau the results of its investigation. If an inaccuracy is found, the entity must notify all the credit bureaus of the mistake so they can correct their records. If the entity cannot determine whether the information is accurate, it must be deleted from your report. If the information listed was not complete, the credit bureau must revise the report so that it contains all the relevant information.
You will receive a free copy of the revised credit report after the investigation into your dispute is complete. The disputed information may not be put back in your report unless the entity reporting the information provides the credit bureau with evidence supporting its claim. You have the right to ask that the credit bureau sends a copy of the revised report to anyone who received a copy of your previous report within the past six months. If you are seeking a job, you can ask the credit bureau to send a copy of the revised report to all prospective employers who received a copy of the original report within the past two years.
If the investigation does not result in a change in the report, but you believe the report is still inaccurate, write a letter, 100 words or less, to the credit bureau explaining why you believe the item is not correct and ask that your letter be included in all future reports.
Besides writing the credit bureaus regarding a mistake in your report, you should also write a letter to the entity that reported the item. Make sure to include any documents (again, not originals) to support your claim. The entity will investigate the claim and correct the mistake and report the mistake to the credit bureaus.
Below is a sample dispute letter suggested by the Federal Trade Commission:
Your City, State, Zip Code
Name of Credit Bureau
City, State, Zip Code
Dear Sir or Madam:
I am writing to dispute the following information in my file. The items I dispute are also circled on the attached copy of the credit report I received. State the items disputed by name of source, such as creditors or bankruptcy court, and identify the type of items, such as credit account, judgment, etc..
This item(s) is (inaccurate or incomplete) because (describe what is inaccurate or incomplete and why). I am requesting that the item be deleted (or corrected).
Enclosed are copies of (describe the papers you have attached such as payment records, canceled checks, court documents) supporting my position. Please investigate this matter and (delete or correct) the disputed item(s) as soon as possible.
You may visit www.ftc.gov/os/statutes/fcra.htm to review the entire Fair Credit Reporting Act.