How to Correct Errors on Your Credit Report - dummies

How to Correct Errors on Your Credit Report

By Steve Bucci

With any luck, the information on your credit reports is accurate. However, mistakes happen. The good news is that those mistakes don’t have to remain a part of your file.

Credit-reporting agencies are required to investigate all disputed listings. They must verify the item in question with the creditor at no cost to you, the consumer. The law requires the creditor to respond to and verify disputed entries within 30 days, or the information must be removed from your credit report.

The credit bureau also has to notify you of the outcome. If information in the report is changed or deleted, you get a free copy of the revised report. You have two options for fixing errors that you find on your credit reports: contact the credit bureau or contact the creditor who reported the incorrect information.

Contact the credit bureau

If you notice incorrect information on your credit report, contact the credit bureau. Each of the three major bureaus allows you to dispute information in your credit report on its website, or you can call the bureau’s toll-free number. If you make your dispute online, you need a copy of your credit report available, because information on the report enables the bureau to confirm your identity without a signature.

If you opt to call the toll-free number, you’re unlikely to get a live person on the other end, but you’ll be told what information and documentation you need in order to submit a written request. Either way, after you properly notify the credit bureau, you can count on action.

Contact the creditor

Another way, and sometimes a better way, to remove inaccurate information from your credit report is outlined under the FACT Act: Deal directly with the creditor who reported the negative information in the first place. Customer service contact information appears on your billing statements from that creditor, and the general address and phone number are on your credit report.

After you dispute the information, the creditor must look into the matter and can’t continue to report the negative information while it’s investigating your dispute. This approach is more direct and eliminates the possibility that a bureau employee may not follow up with a creditor as aggressively or as quickly as you would.

It’s recommended that you contact the creditor directly, in writing and through the mail, requesting a return receipt for every piece of correspondence you send.

For new delinquencies, the FACT Act requires that you be notified if negative information is reported to a credit bureau. That said, you may have to look closely to even see this new notice.

Anyone who extends credit to you must send you a one-time notice either before or not later than 30 days after negative information — including late payments, missed payments, partial payments, or any other form of default — is furnished to a credit bureau. This includes collection agencies, as long as they report to a credit bureau. The notice may look something like this:

  • Before negative information is reported: “We may report information about your account to credit bureaus. Late payments, missed payments, or other defaults on your account may be reflected in your credit report.”

  • After negative information is reported: “We have told a credit bureau about a late payment, missed payment, or other default on your account. This information may be reflected in your credit report.”

Receiving notification about what a creditor has reported about you to the credit bureaus isn’t a substitute for your own close monitoring of your credit reports, bank accounts, and credit card statements.