Going Three Rounds With The Credit Bureau

boxing You got into the ring, applied for credit and everything seemed to be going according to plan — name, address, phone number, income, SS number, CHECK! Then, out of the blue, you were knocked down by a cheap shot when the ref wasn’t looking. Now what? Get back up, square your shoulders, and head to the post office (or your computer)! It’s time to contact the three credit bureaus to get a free copy of your credit report — just make sure it’s within 30 days of the date on your “Credit Declined” letter so you can find out why you were turned down. Have you even seen your credit report in the last 6 months?

The Big Three Credit Bureaus

Equifax TransUnion Experian
Information Services Consumer Relations NCAC
PO BOX 740256 PO Box 2000 PO Box 9556
Atlanta, GA 30374 Chester, PA 19022-2000 Allen, TX 75013
www.equifax.com www.transunion.com www.experian.com

When you contact a credit bureau, make certain to provide the following information as well as a copy of your “Credit Declined” letter. And remember to sign your request for an investigation! You should also provide:

  • Your full name, including any nicknames or maiden names
  • Birth date
  • Social Security number
  • Current address
  • Previous addresses in last 5 years or so
  • A copy of your driver’s license with your current address
  • A copy of your Social Security card

You should receive a copy of your credit report in 10 to 30 days.

The credit bureaus are required by law to investigate and correct inaccurate or incomplete information in your credit report once they have been notified of the errors (generally 30 days or less). For the record, accurate information CANNOT be removed except by the passage of time or the benevolence of the creditor. Anyone who convinces you otherwise is simply after your money. Attempting to remove accurate information could be considered fraud and could be prosecuted. Inaccurate information CAN be removed and the credit bureaus will willingly remove it once the inaccuracy is substantiated.

Follow these three steps to make sure the credit bureaus resolve any problems with incorrect information in your report:

  1. File the dispute: Complete and return the dispute form that came with your credit report, or file the dispute online at the credit bureau’s website (listed above). Include any documentation that supports your claim. Avoid disputing more than three items per form: disputing too many entries at once may cause the credit bureau to dismiss your claims as frivolous. Instead, wait until your top three most egregious errors are corrected, then move on to the next three.
  2. Wait for a response: The credit bureau is legally required to conduct an investigation into your claim and respond to you within 30 days. If your claim is verified, the credit bureau must correct the information and provide you with a free copy of your updated credit report.
  3. Verify the changes: After any errors have been corrected, wait a few months and then request your credit report again. Check to make sure that the disputed information has been removed.

How to Add a Brief Statement to Your Credit Report

If you file a dispute and the resulting investigation does not verify your claim and correct the inaccuracy, you have the right to submit a statement explaining why you believe the information is wrong. The credit bureau is required to include the statement (up to 100 words) in your file.

These statements aren’t worth much, though. For one thing, it may be impossible to explain the dispute fully in 100 words. Also, many creditors don’t read through entire credit reports but instead depend on a computer generated credit score, which often ignore such statements entirely. You may have better success simply explaining your situation in person when you meet with a creditor to apply for a loan.

How to File a Dispute with a Creditor

If the credit bureau doesn’t verify your claim and correct the error, you can contact the information provider directly. The process of disputing credit information with an information provider is similar to the process of submitting a dispute to a credit bureau:

  1. Write a brief letter explaining the problem. Be precise about what you’re disputing and include any supporting documentation. Send your dispute to the address specified for such disputes—not to the address where you send bill payments.
  2. The provider is legally required to investigate your claim. If the provider determines that the disputed information is indeed inaccurate, the provider must notify all of the credit bureaus to which it subscribes and provide them with the correct information.
  3. After errors have been corrected, wait a few months and then request your credit report again, this time using www.annualcreditreport.com (it’s FREE!). Check to make sure that the disputed information has been removed or corrected.

Note: It’s always a good idea to send ALL correspondence via registered or certified mail, return receipt requested, so you have proof the credit bureau or creditor received your request. Registered or certified mail generally costs only a couple of dollars. And make copies of everything, I mean EVERYTHING for your own records.

If you’ve successfully disputed something in your credit report, please tell us what happened and the outcome in the comments below.

Photo by reway2007