Writing A Dispute Letter
The four national credit bureaus — Experian, TransUnion, Equifax, and Innovis — can exert a huge influence on your life. If you apply for a car loan, try to rent an apartment or hope to obtain a credit card, the credit history and credit score reported by those three agencies could be the difference in whether you are granted credit or rejected. Errors on your report can impact your credit score, your credit history, and in some case whether a report can be be issued at all.
So if there are credit reporting errors showing up on those reports, it's important that you dispute the errors with the responsible credit bureaus and creditors so that the inaccurate information is removed from your report.
The Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) provides a path to dispute and remove inaccurate information from your credit reports. Follow these steps to make sure your dispute gets to the right place and has the right information to remove any inaccurate information. If you need additional help writing your disputes, feel free to reach out for help from our team.
Get Your Credit Report
While many people suspect that there may be errors on their credit reports, there is no way to know for sure unless you have a copy and can locate the specific problem. The FCRA requires the credit bureaus to give a free copy of your credit report annually. Experian, TransUnion, Equifax and Innovis must each follow this requirement. These four credit bureaus provide most of the credit data used to evaluate consumers' credit applications. You can request a copy of your credit file using our free request letters.
Make a Markup Copy
First, make a copy of each report that you are reviewing so you can mark up any items that you intend to dispute. You will need this "markup" later as an attachment to any credit dispute. And, in the event that you need to file a lawsuit, you will also need this "markup" copy to help your lawyer build a timeline of disputes.
Review Your Whole Credit Report
Credit reports generally have four sections: 1) identification information, 2) public record information, 3) credit and debt accounts, and 4) inquiries into the report. Review each sections of your report looking for errors, unfamiliar accounts and inquiries by companies that you do not recognize. For any items that stand out, circle the item and make a not about why the entry is wrong or should be investigated. Once you have completed your review and marked up the report, you are ready to write your dispute letter.
Write a Credit Dispute Letter
Your dispute letter has two major purposes. First, it puts the credit bureau on notice of an error or other problem. Second, it provides the supporting information needed for the credit bureau to correct your report.
These letters should be factual, avoid emotion, and state clearly and specifically what is wrong with the report and why. You can use our free template letter and the explanation of how to write a dispute, or Lyngklip & Associates can help you through this process. We have also published a detailed article on how to write dispute letters.
Ask to Opt Out of Pre-Screened Offers and For a Security Freeze
In addition, disputing information, you can also request other specific actions from the credit bureau while they investigate your claim. These actions may include:
- Placing a fraud alert on your credit file. Lenders who look at your file while it has a fraud alert are required to confirm your identity before granting credit.
- Placing a credit freeze on your file. During a freeze, lenders may not pull reports or grant credit at all. This may make things more difficult for you in the short term, but if you are dealing with chronic identity theft, this could be the right move. Use our free, self-help letter.
- Opting out of pre-screened offers of credit. By opting out, you prevent the credit bureaus from selling your report to creditors who may want to sell you credit or insurance. This can help reduce the junk mail to your home and lesson the chances of identity theft. Use our free, self-help letter.
Attach Proof Documents
If you have any documents that can help prove that you are right, you should include those with your letter. For instance, if you are disputing your date of birth or current address, you should attach a copy of your drivers license or other photo ID. If you are disputing whether you paid off a loan, attach account statements showing the balance. You should attach any document that you think would help someone determine whether you the information on the report is inaccurate or misleading.
Send by Certified Mail
While you can send your dispute by first class mail, credit bureaus regularly deny having received credit disputes. As such, you should send the dispute by certified mail, return receipt requested. This will allow you to verify that the dispute was sent and received. The return receipt will serve as proof that the credit bureau got your dispute, triggering their duty to respond.
Send Your Dispute to the Bureaus and Responsible Creditor or Debt Collector
One of the most common mistakes people make is sending the dispute to the wrong place. The FCRA requires that consumers send their dispute to the credit bureaus before that consumer can hold anyone accountable for failing to dispute. Consumers can, and should, also send their disputes to the responsible creditor, but the most important thing is to send the dispute to the credit bureau. Once the credit reporting agency receives that dispute, it is their job to forward the dispute to the responsible creditor.
Keep a Copy of Your Letter and Attachments
Do not rely on the credit reporting agencies to keep copies of your disputes. (They do not even keep copies of the reports that they publish about you.) Often, these disputes are misplaced and never acted upon by the bureaus. Your dispute should be sent certified mail, return receipt requested. Additionally, the bureaus may only keep records for two years, and the history of your dispute may extend over five or ten years. You should make a complete photocopy of the dispute in the exact form that it was sent to the bureaus, signature and exhibits included. Store these copies in a safe place so that it can be easily retrieved if you have to refer to it again or need it for evidence. Better yet, scan copies and keep them safe on your computer and a backup site.
Be Patient and Persistent
If sending a single credit dispute letter was all that it took to clean up credit reporting errors, more people would certainly do it. But the FCRA requires credit bureaus to do their own investigation of your dispute, and many times those disputes do not not turn out in favor of the consumer.
If the credit bureau rejects your dispute, review the response and try to determine if there is any additional information or documentation that can support your dispute. It could be that you didn't provide enough information to convince the agency that their information is incorrect. You may re-file your dispute letter with additional supporting documentation; keep in mind, however, that re-filing the same dispute repeatedly could be considered frivolous and hurt your chances of getting the item removed later.
If there is additional information or documents that can support your position, submit another dispute and ask that the investigate using the new information or documents. Once you have provided all the information you have available, you should ask that the credit bureau provides a detailed explanation of its reasoning for refusing your disputes. You should continue to dispute as long as you have new information or documents to provide to the credit bureaus in response to their investigations. Once you have responded to all their concerns, you are done disputing.
Credit Restoration, Compensation, and Your Fees Paid
If you have completed the dispute process and you still can't get the credit bureaus to correct your report, the FCRA allows you to sue agencies. In most cases we are able to remove the false credit, get compensation for the consumer, and have the other side pay all the fees and costs.
Our experienced identity theft and credit reporting lawyers can let you know if you are ready to sue the credit bureaus and banks who have ruined your credit.
How We Can Help You
No matter where you are in the dispute process and how much help you need, Lyngklip & Associates is ready. If you need help drafting your own dispute, you can use our self help resources or you can call us to help coach you through the process. If you have already finished your disputes, you may be ready to file a lawsuit. Lyngklip & Associates, Southfield consumer law attorneys, offer free consultations to those who are struggling to have credit bureaus fix incorrect information on their credit reports. Call us at (248) 208-8864 or complete our online form to schedule a consultation.