You may know what your current credit score is, but when was the last time you looked at your full credit report?
Besides applying for a credit card or a loan, your credit report is used for a myriad of other purposes — including applying for insurance and employment background checks — that you may be unaware of. If you don’t annually review your credit report, there’s a chance it contains errors. If the errors are big enough, they could seriously jeopardize your chances at getting insurance, landing a job or more!
Ordering Your Report
Before you can dispute any errors on your credit report, you need to get a copy to look through. The federal Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) requires all three of the nation’s top credit reporting agencies — Equifax, Experian and Transunion — to send a free copy of your credit when requested, once every 12 months.
Annual Credit Report Request Service
P.O. Box 105281
Atlanta, GA 30348-5281
Since you can receive one credit report from each agency, try staggering your requests so you can receive one report every four months. You can keep a closer eye on any changes this way.
How to File a Dispute
If you discover an error in your report, you’ll typically have anywhere from 30 – 60 days to send them a letter detailing the inaccuracy. It’s not an option for the credit reporting company to simply ignore your letter — they are required by FCRA law to correct any inaccurate information in your report.
You will need to include the incorrect information from your credit report in your letter, as well as the following information and documents:
- Complete name and address
- Copy of the report with the disputed items marked
- Every item you wish to dispute
- The reasoning and facts behind your dispute
- A request that the information be corrected or removed
If you need help formatting your letter, you can use this sample dispute letter provided by the Fair Trade Commission.
You will also need to send a letter to the information provider that furnished the credit reporting agency with the actual data listed on your report. Again, you can use a sample dispute letter template from FTC for this send as well. Similar to the letter to the credit reporting agency, you’ll need to include copies of documents that back up your claim of inaccurate information.
There may be an address for the provider listed in your credit report. Use that address. If, however, there is not, contact the provider (whose name at least will be provided) and request an address.
Be sure to keep a copy of the disputed credit report and all of your letters for documentation purposes. Also, consider paying the extra dollar or two and send your letter by certified mail so you can request a return receipt — this will allow you to document what exactly the credit reporting company and information provider received from you.
How Do I Know When the Matter Is Resolved?
According to FCRA laws, credit reporting companies must investigate your dispute within 30 days (unless they consider your dispute unfounded).
After it finishes its investigation, the credit reporting agency will send you two things:
- A write-up of the results
- A free copy of your updated report (if changes were made)
- A name, address and phone number of the information provider
Be sure to keep your copy of the report if you ever need to refer back to it.
Federal Trade Comission. (2020). Disputing Errors on Credit Reports