Five Steps: How to Correct a Credit Report Error
The Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) requires credit reporting agencies such as TransUnion, Experian, and Equifax to provide accurate information to lenders. If information appearing in your credit report is inaccurate, the FCRA gives you the right to challenge that inaccurate information. The process to dispute negative erroneous information on your credit report is as follows:
- Check your Credit Reports for Errors.
First, you need to obtain a copy of your credit report. If you have been denied credit, the lender who denied you is required to mail you a letter telling you why it turned you down and include the name of any credit reporting agency it relied upon in making that decision. That letter gives you the right to obtain a free copy of your credit report from the credit reporting agency stated in the letter. Just follow the instructions in the turn down letter from your lender to obtain a free copy.
Even if you did not get turned down from credit, you are still entitled to one free copy of your credit report each year. Every year consumers have the right to a free credit report from TransUnion, Equifax, and Experian, the three biggest credit reporting agencies. AnnualCreditReport.com is the website that they maintain for the purpose of getting you a free copy of your credit report. AnnualCreditReport.com conveniently gathers all your free credit reports for you, and easily allows you to compare and review your credit reports for errors.
- Determine which debts are inaccurate.
After you get a copy of your credit report, look for errors. Check for wrong debts, wrong addresses, misspelled names, inaccurate bank information, errors in your payment history, false records of missed or late payments, and wrong public records. Bankruptcies, foreclosures, and repossessions are examples of public records that can appear on your credit report only if they are accurate.
The most common reason you may find errors on your credit report is because of merged files, which leads to mistaken identity. Consumers with common last names and the same first name who are living at the same address (Junior and Seniors) are easily confused and are often victims of credit report errors.
- Gather evidence to prove inaccuracy.
After you determine what errors need to be corrected, we recommend you gather any evidence you have to prove the error is not correct. While this is not required under federal law, it is helpful from a practical standpoint. Bank Statements, records, and receipts of bigger purchases are good examples of documents that might be helpful. For people with similar names (Junior and Seniors), you should include copies of social security cards along with licenses to demonstrate the identities of both people. The more information you can provide to demonstrate the error should not appear on your report, the more likely you are to have it resolved quickly.
If you are mailing in your evidence, you should also make a copy of your driver’s license and a recent utility bill that shows your name and current mailing address. This speeds up the authentication process with most bureaus.
- Contact the credit reporting agency that is reporting inaccurate information.
Once you know what debts you want to dispute and you have the evidence necessary to support that dispute, then send a copy of that documentation to the bureau that is incorrectly reporting on your credit report. We recommend you include a cover letter that identifies:
- Your name
- Your social security number
- Your current address
- The order number of the credit report (if applicable)
- The name and account number of any erroneous debt appearing on the credit report
- A statement why that debt is incorrect
- Your signature
Send the cover letter with supporting documentation by mail after making a copy of the letter and the documents for your records. Remember to include a copy of your license and a utility bill so your identity can be easily verified. We recommend you send the letter certified mail so there is no doubt it was sent to the bureaus.
- Allow 30 days for the correction.
Credit reporting agencies have 30 days to investigate the claimed error and verify that it is accurate. If any agency is unable to verify the accuracy of the debt within this time period, the credit bureau must delete the information from the credit until such a time that it can be verified. If the bureau determines the information is accurate (disagreeing with your position), then it must provide you with a reason why it will not change the information. Of course, if it can verify your claim that your credit report contains erroneous information, then it must correct that information and mail you confirmation of the same.
If the error is not corrected , escalation may be necessary.
If a credit reporting agency refuses to correct errors on your credit report, you can write to them again with further evidence of the error and make another request to make the correction. They will be obligated to respond unless they determine the request has provided no new information and is simply repetitive.
If the credit reporting agency does not correct your erroneous information that you can prove is wrong, then you should contact a consumer lawyer like Doucet & Associates Co., L.P.A. A consumer lawyer can likely assist in getting the correction made while being paid by the credit reporting agency that is not following the law. The FCRA allows for you to recover attorneys’ fees should you sue and win. You can contact a consumer lawyer at Doucet & Associates Co., L.P.A. at (614)944-5219.