If we could pinpoint the absolute easiest way to repair your credit and break it down into its simplest terms, it all boils down to one key aspect: disputing errors that have appeared on your reports. Far from being rare, these errors crop up on reports all too often. While different studies have produced wildly variable results, some studies have placed the error rate as high as 80%. That means it’s more than likely that your credit report has an error on it, and errors can only be one thing: bad, bad, bad (OK, that was three things, but they’re all the same).
So how do you get those errors off of your report? You dispute them, with whichever company filed them with the credit bureau in the first place. Of course disputing an error might sound a lot easier than it actually is. In most cases, the reporting companies have at least some evidence to back up their claims, though in some way or another, that evidence is wrong. To counter it however, you need evidence of your own that proves your side of the story (and there are always two sides aren’t there?).
In this section, we will provide you with a comprehensive tutorial on how to go about disputing errors on your credit report, whether you’re using a credit repair agency, or going it alone. Let’s begin the journey of wiping those dastardly errors from your credit report once for all.
Naturally, the first step to disputing any errors on your credit reports is to actually get your credit reports and have a look at them to find those errors. Unfortunately, it’s not as easy as getting your hands on one credit report either.
There are three credit reporting agencies in the United States: Experian, TransUnion, and Equifax, and while it would be great if they all contained the same information, that sadly isn’t the case. Not only do they calculate your scores differently, but one of them may even have information that the other ones do not.
You can have a free report sent out to you once per year from each of the agencies, and from there, begin the process of finding errors located on your reports.
While you’ll need to acquire all of your credit reports at the same time initially, it’s a good idea to stagger when you receive your reports afterwards. You can get one free report annually from each of the agencies, and they will generally contain the same information. So it’s wise to receive one report every four months to keep yourself as up-to-date as possible on your credit report situation, and monitor what is being added to your files.
U.S Credit Bureau Agencies and Contact Information:
Request Your Reports Online: https://www.annualcreditreport.com
Now that you have your credit reports, let’s dig into them. The reports are broken down into four key sections, which are: personal information, credit history, public records, and inquiries.
The personal information section is rather self-explanatory. This is where your name, address, current and former employers and the like are all listed. This section is relatively unimportant, as the information on it will have no bearing on your credit score. However, if there are any errors, you may wish you update that bureau.
Next is credit history, and this is the section you’ll want to go over with a fine-tooth comb. In here you’ll find listings for most lines of credit you’ve received from creditors. You have even have multiple listings from a single creditor if you have more than one account, or you moved to a new location and dealt with a different branch of their company. Credit listings will include the type of credit, the total and available balance on the credit line, it’s current status (active, closed, paid, etc.), the amount of the monthly or fixed payments, and how well you’ve generally paid the accounts.
Depending on your credit history, this section may be loaded with quite a deal of information to sift through, or it could be relatively straightforward. Study all of the information presented and make sure it’s accurate, as even small discrepancies like your available balance for an account being inaccurate could negatively affect your credit score.
Next up on your report is public records, which will hopefully be free and clear. Anything that shows up in this section usually amounts to a major strike against your credit, such as bankruptcies or liens.
Lastly are inquiries, which lists your attempts to get new lines of credit, and for you, lists inquiries to receive your credit report made by other parties. The information in this section does not affect your credit score.
Pay particular attention to ensuring there are no listed accounts that are not actually yours, whether or not they reflect badly on you. Strange accounts could indicate identity theft has taken place, and someone has managed to open one or more accounts in your name.
If you’ve read your credit reports and found some information that is wrong and likely damaging to your credit score, you should begin the process of disputing that information immediately. You’ll find links in the resources section below that will get you started with filing disputes with each of the three agencies.
Alternatively, you can consider mailing a dispute letter directly to the agencies using the address information also found in the resource section. Don’t forget to make copies of any documentation that proves your contention and include that along with letter. Make sure you clearly indicated which information you are disputing.
Once a dispute is launched, the information being disputed will be marked as such within your credit report, though your score will otherwise be unaffected. The agencies at this point have 30 to 45 days to contact the creditors who first filed the information under dispute. If the creditors do not respond, the information will be removed.
Once the investigation is complete, you’ll be contacted via mail. You can also view the results of the investigation or its progress online.
It was reported by the FTC that was many as 70% of people who had previously filed disputes had no resolution and had essentially given up, despite the belief that their report still contained errors. 40% reported never even having heard back from the credit bureau. This emphasizes the value that can be found in credit repair agencies, who don’t let credit bureaus or creditors off the hook so easily, and force them to respond and make corrections as necessary.
Equifax Disputes - https://www.ai.equifax.com/CreditInvestigation/home.action
Experian Disputes - http://www.experian.com/disputes/how-to-dispute.html?intcmp=INTUTL4252011_dishcr
TransUnion Disputes - https://dispute.transunion.com/dp/dispute/landingPage.jsp
If you filed a dispute, and even presented evidence to back up your claims, and yet the disputed item was not removed from your report, your final option is to launch a complaint. This can be done through either the Federal Trade Commission or the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, links to which are below.
You can launch these complaints in regards to either the creditors or the credit agencies themselves if you feel you are being mistreated, or that your dispute hasn’t been given due diligence. Both the FTC and CFPB will look into the matter and the contact the agencies to determine why the dispute wasn’t resolved and whether or not there was any wrong doing.
As with filing a dispute, you’ll need to provide the agencies with whom you file your complaint all of the information available to you. In the case of filing a complaint with the CFPB, they have a robust form that guides you step-by-step through the process of specifying what your complaint is, and ensuring you supply them with all of the necessary information.
As with disputes, you’ll also be able to track the status of your complaint through both the FTC and CFPB websites.
Before resorting to this final step, you may want to have a credit repair agency make contact with these companies on your behalf. The level of co-operation that is shown by credit reporting agencies and creditors when they know they are dealing with a relentless agency that won’t let them ignore their requests, is much higher than it otherwise is. As we detailed in our above tip, 40% of dispute filers never even hear back from the credit bureau. Credit repair agencies ensure this will not happen. They’ll also pressure creditors on disputed credit report entries, and when the information is accurate, work out deals with them that benefit both sides and the situations resolved. Here are links to our top 3 credit repair companies: