How to Correct All Your Credit Reports - dummies

How to Correct All Your Credit Reports

By Steve Bucci

Not all the credit bureaus have the same information in their files. So, for example, if you look at your Experian credit report, see an inaccuracy, follow the dispute process, and have it corrected, you may not be out of the woods. TransUnion or Equifax may have different inaccurate information. Therefore, you need to get all three reports to see which reports contain which false data.

If the same error appears on two or all three reports, you need to dispute it only once.

Contact the bureaus

Correcting all three reports is important, because some lenders and businesses purchase the three-in-one report that includes a credit score and credit history information from each of the three bureaus. Each bureau has slightly different procedures for filing disputes:

  • Equifax: Call the phone number provided for disputes on your credit report, and be sure to have your ten-digit credit report confirmation number (on your report) available. You can also dispute by mail at Equifax Information Services LLC, P.O. Box 740256, Atlanta, GA 30374.

  • Experian: You can dispute by phone by using the toll-free number on your credit report; by mail at Experian, P.O. Box 9701, Allen, TX 75013.

  • TransUnion: You can dispute information by phone at 800-916-8800; by mail at TransUnion Consumer Solutions, P.O. Box 2000, Chester, PA 19022-2000 (be sure to include the completed request for investigation form found on the website).

Most experts suggest that you keep written records of everything you do to create a trail of documentation that you can point to if things go wrong or get lost.

If you choose to dispute items on your credit report via mail, write a letter stating which item(s) you’re disputing. Include any facts that explain your case, and include copies of documents that support your position. Enclose a copy of your credit report with the items in question circled or highlighted.

Be sure to provide your complete name and address and tell the company what your desired action is. Send your dispute letter by certified mail, return-receipt requested, so you can document the fact that the letter was mailed and received. Keep copies of your dispute letter and enclosures.

Follow through with creditors and the bureaus

The credit bureau must forward all relevant data you provide to the company that originally reported the information. When the company receives the request for verification from the credit bureau, it must investigate, review all relevant information, and report the results to the bureau.

  • If the information is found to be inaccurate, all three nationwide bureaus are notified so that they can correct your file.

  • If the company can’t verify the accuracy of the information you’re disputing, the information must be deleted from your file.

  • If the disputed information is incomplete, the credit bureau must update it. For example, if you were once late in making payments but your file doesn’t show that you’ve since caught up, the bureau must amend your report to show that you’re now current on your payments.

  • If the disputed information includes an account that belongs to another person, the bureau must delete it.

When the investigation is complete, the credit bureau must give you the written results and a free copy of your updated credit report if the dispute results in a change of information.

If an item is changed or removed, the bureau can’t put the disputed information back in your report unless the company providing that information subsequently verifies its accuracy and completeness. Then the credit bureau must give you written notice that includes the name, address, and phone number of the company that provided the verification.

You can request that the bureau send notices of corrections to anyone who received your report in the past six months. If you’ve applied for a job, you can have a corrected copy of your report sent to anyone who received a copy during the past two years for employment purposes.

If you aren’t satisfied with the results of your dispute, you can dispute the item directly with the creditor. Be sure to include copies of all the information you have. You also have the right to include a 100-word statement of the dispute in your report and in future reports. Depending on the bureau’s rules, this statement can stay on your report indefinitely, so don’t forget about it!

Know the rules on negative information

When negative information in your report is accurate, only the passage of time can assure its removal. Most accurate information stays on your report for seven years, but certain exceptions to the seven-year rule exist:

  • Criminal convictions may be reported without time limitation. They are not reported on a lender’s copy of your credit report, but they are reported on credit reports ordered for employment purposes.

  • Bankruptcy information may be reported for ten years.

  • IRS liens remain indefinitely, until removed by the IRS.

  • Student loan delinquencies that are brought current (up-to-date) are reported for seven years and then reported as current thereafter. If the loan is not brought current for seven years, the entire account is dropped from the credit report, and any subsequent positive information is not reported.

  • An inquiry due to an application for more than $150,000 worth of credit or life insurance or a job paying a salary of more than $75,000 has no time limit.

  • A lawsuit or an unpaid judgment against you can be reported for seven years or until the statute of limitations runs out, whichever is longer.

If you’re unhappy with the results of your dispute or think that you’ve been treated unfairly, contact the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). The FTC works to prevent fraudulent, deceptive, and unfair business practices and provides information to help consumers spot, stop, and avoid these practices. To file a complaint or to get free information on consumer issues, visit their website or call 877-382-4357 (TTY 866-653-4261).