If you believe there are errors on your credit reports, it is important to dispute those errors. Unfortunately, many consumers spend months disputing because they do not know the best way to dispute errors once they are found on their credit reports.
The first step for the consumer is to get a copy of each credit report from the three major credit reporting agencies (Experian, Equifax & TransUnion).
The second step is to review all three credit reports, making a list of all errors on each report.
The third step is to draft a dispute letter to each credit reporting agency separately. The dispute letter to Equifax should dispute only the inaccuracies on the Equifax report. Similarly, if there are no errors on one of the reports, Experian for example, then it is not necessary to send Experian a dispute letter. Only send a dispute letter to the credit reporting agency that is actually reporting the error.
It is not necessary, and usually not helpful, to send a dispute letter to the creditor, under the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA).
Always send any disputes via certified mail/return receipt. Keep a copy of the letter, and copies of the certified mail/return receipts.
During this “written dispute process”, it is important to not send any other disputes to the credit reporting agencies or creditors via mail, phone, email or website. The one written dispute sent via certified mail is the best way to dispute.
The credit reporting agencies have 30 days, from the date they received the dispute, to investigate and respond to the dispute. Usually, the consumer will receive a response from the credit reporting agency within the 30 day period either correcting the error or “verifying” the account (not making any changes). Sometimes, the credit reporting agency will write back to the consumer requesting more information, such as additional identity validation. This is typically a delaying tactic, but the best practice for the consumer is to send the credit reporting agency the information requested (send all correspondence via certified mail).
If the credit reporting agency corrects the error, then the consumer is finished, although it is best to keep a file with copies of the inaccurate credit reports, the dispute letters and the investigation results. It is common for errors to “pop-up” again several months later, and it will be extremely valuable to have the documentation from the previous dispute. This is commonly referred to as “reinsertion”.
If the credit reporting agency “verifies” the account (doesn’t change/correct the error), then the consumer may be able to file a lawsuit against the creditor and the credit reporting agency for violation of the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA).
If a credit reporting agency refuses to correct an error after having sent them a dispute letter via certified mail, you will likely want to speak to an attorney who commonly handles credit report cases.
There is no need to continue disputing the error numerous time. If the error is not corrected after the initial dispute, the creditor, and possibly the credit reporting agency, is in violation of the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA), and liable for damages and attorney fees.
If you would like assistance with the dispute process, believe you have errors on your credit reports, or think a creditor or credit reporting agency is in violation of the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA), please feel free to contact me for assistance.