Dispute Credit Report Errors
Many people discover that they have credit report errors from either applying for financing and getting denied or they monitor their credit report on an annual basis and see items pop up that are not correct. This article will discuss how to properly dispute credit report errors from start to finish. The first step is to obtain a copy of your credit report to review it. If you applied for financing and are denied credit then you can either write to the credit bureaus to get a free copy of your credit report or the lender may have a report they can share with you. The other option is to order one from one of the three major credit bureaus. These are Experian, Equifax, and Trans Union. You are entitled to one free credit report per year but you can also access a report for free and online at annualcreditreport.com. Make sure to save your report if you order it online.
Once you have the credit report it could be difficult to understand but there are common errors or mistakes to look for to ensure you have an accurate credit profile. Often times people get caught up in they see there is an address or phone number listed that does not belong to them or they do not recognize. These items do not matter as they do not hurt your credit. However, if you notice accounts appearing that are not yours then this is cause for concern. They would either be listed under public records (ie Bankruptcies), accounts (ie credit cards), or hard inquiries, meaning multiple lenders have run your credit without your permission. To dispute annual credit report errors like these, it is important to know if you are the victim of identity theft or if your information is mixed with someone who has a similar name and social security number. Usually, with identity theft, consumers get calls and letters from the lender stating they owe them money. A mixed file often times the consumer will have never heard of the company before and have no idea what it is.
Types of Credit Errors
Other types of credit errors that you can dispute are if an amount was never owed or if an account was paid. An example of this would be if you went to a medical provider and your health insurance paid the bill yet they still send you to collections. You clearly do not owe the bill because it was paid so this is an error you can dispute. Another common example is if you have a credit card that is charged-off and you settled the account. The credit card should be showing as a 0 balance, with no more late payments and reflecting that the account was settled or paid. A substantial portion of the time the credit card company does not update your credit report to reflect this. You can dispute credit report errors like these because there is an objective inaccuracy. Accounts you can not dispute are ones that are accurate.
What Can You Dispute?
Although the Fair Credit Reporting Act allows you to dispute any item on a credit report the law only mandates that they must fix credit report errors. If an account is accurate then odds are the credit bureau and furnisher will not delete or modify the account. Examples of this include a credit card debt that you signed for but did not pay because of hard times and now owe a bunch of extra interest and fees. Alternatively, if you have an account in collection (ie cell phone, utility, medical) and you feel you do not owe it because of bad service then you would not be able to dispute credit report errors like these because they are subjective. That does not mean perhaps you could not make a case out of it without a little extra work on your end but the law only allows you to dispute credit errors that are objectively inaccurate. So now that you know what you can dispute how exactly do you dispute credit report errors? It is rather simple.
You need to gather all written documentation to show that credit report error is actually an error. For identity theft and mixed file cases usually this entails either a police report, FTC fraud affidavit or a copy of a driver’s license and current utility bill. This will help establish that either the account does not belong to you or that credit bureaus do not have your proper identity and the ID and utility bill will help them to properly locate your true accounts. To dispute credit report errors for objectively accurate accounts you should gather proof of payment (ie bank draft) if it was a paid account. If the account was not owed then a letter from the furnisher, collection agency, health insurance showing that it was not owed. If the account was never in your name, then you need to get a copy of the original contract or bills to show it was not your signature or the bills never came to your address. There is not a specific right or wrong document to get but the better you can paint a picture with your narrative and exhibits, the better case you will have.
How to Write Dispute Letter
Once you have all the exhibits, you need to write a detailed narrative (one or two pages max) that explains what the error is, why it is an error (reference exhibits) and to tell the credit bureaus how to conduct their investigation. This means when you send the written dispute to the credit bureaus they must investigate your claim. Your letter can tell them how to investigate the credit error. Are there certain documents to look at or certain people they should talk to? You can be as descriptive as you want but you need to tell them how exactly to conduct their investigation. This will help you dramatically when you dispute credit report errors. Once you have your documents in order and all the exhibits you need to write a letter to all three credit bureaus. You can include or copy the furnishers or collection agencies if needed, but it is not necessary. Make sure you save a copy of all documents.
It is important to only write the credit bureaus and to not dispute the account online or over the phone. The online disputes do not properly allow you to explain your complaint and may not allow for you to provide any documents. The same goes for over the phone disputes. The agent often does not take down the dispute and there is not a way for you to provide the agent with your exhibits. Written disputes, mailed via tracking from the post office, are the best disputes to the credit bureaus? This is proper way to dispute credit report errors. After you mail your dispute letter the credit bureaus should respond within 30 days. Sometimes it may take them a bit longer.
Credit Bureaus Response
When the credit bureaus respond to your dispute package they will tell you what they did in response to your letter. They would have either modified, deleted or done nothing at all to the account. It is also important you save copies of the credit bureau response. In order to properly exhaust all your channels in dispute credit report errors it is recommended to sent at least two to three dispute letters. Often times a later dispute can get the results that you want. Most of the time though if a credit bureau or furnisher does not want to delete or modify an item they will not. It does not matter how many dispute letters you send off. Does this mean that sending dispute letters is a futile exercise…absolutely not. It is what the law requires.
All credit reporting is governed by the Fair Credit Reporting Act. This federal law states that if you identify some type of objective accuracy in your credit file you have the write to dispute it. We discussed above how to properly dispute credit report errors. You can not just sue the credit bureaus and credit furnishers for an inaccuracy. You have to put them on notice first of the error and give them an opportunity to fix it. If they do not fix the account after the dispute then you have a case against them under FCRA.
When to Hire a Lawyer
The thought of a lawsuit or hiring an attorney to help is often a scary thought for most consumers, mainly because of the potential cost of litigation. However, if you have properly set up your case then a lawyer such as Cook Law, LLC could take your case contingent. This means no direct out of pocket expenses from you. The companies that you sue would pay for your attorney’s fees and court costs. If you lose then there is also generally no fee to the client. It is important that if a lawsuit is filed to stay in touch with your lawyer through all processes of the lawsuit as it can take time to resolve. The other advantage of a lawsuit, and why it is necessary is because after the dispute letters do not work this is your only avenue to getting your credit fixed. You could write 100 letters to dispute credit report errors but if the credit bureaus do not wish to modify or delete your account they will not do any thing. The lawsuit will help get a decision maker on the other end to get the results you need.
The other advantage to a lawsuit is you could be entitled to financial compensation, meaning the companies who maintained your inaccurate information after your disputes could owe you money. The amount depends on the severity of your damages, how many disputes you filed and a myriad of other factors. An experienced attorney such as Cook Law, LLC can help explain this to you and guide you through all faucets to dispute credit report errors and into litigation if necessary. Having a lawyer on your team can help put your mind at ease and alleviate some of the stress that goes with dealing with a credit report error attorney.
If you believe you have any credit report errors or questions contact Cook Law, LLC for a free consultation. Cook Law can also help you with either obtaining free copies of your credit report or guide you in writing the dispute letters. If you need assistance in gathering documentation to show the inaccuracies on your credit report Cook Law can also assist with that or point you in the right direction. The attorney can help you dispute credit report errors and get the results that you want. Call now for a free consultation or with any questions.