How to Write a Credit Dispute Letter
If you have found false or misleading information on your credit report with Experian, Equifax or Trans Union, the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) gives you the right to ask the credit bureaus to remove, update, or correct that information. This federal statute provides a process for the consumers to make those disputes and sets strict time lines for the the credit bureaus to respond.
These dispute letters put the credit bureaus and their data sources on notice that there is a problem with your report, giving them an opportunity to fix the problem without having to go to court. This article will tell you what you need to put in your dispute letter. You can find more information in our article,How Do I Dispute Inaccuracies on My Credit Report.
Why Do I Need to Write a Dispute Letter?
The credit bureaus regularly make mistakes on consumers' credit reports. Many of the consumers who are the subject of those mistakes want to sue the credit bureaus and the creditors who reported the information for the harming their credit. Unfortunately, in most situations the law requires that consumers send a dispute letter to credit bureau before they can sue.
For most people, this process makes no sense. When the consumer sees the false information in association with a creditor's name, the consumer may want to immediately sue or else dispute that information directly to that creditor. While this process works in some circumstances, it does not always succeed. If the consumers sues without first writing the dispute letter, courts will regularly dismiss those case, leaving the consumer no better off than when they started.
So, the most important thing for consumers to do is make sure that they know how to properly write these disputes and where to send them. You can always send a dispute to the creditor directly, but the law requires that you send the dispute to the credit bureaus that are reportin
While sending a letter to the furnisher will not trigger an enforceable statutory duty, there are other important reasons to send a letter to the furnisher. First, the furnisher still has a duty to conduct an investigation using all materials that are reasonably available to it. This can mean a dispute letter that has been copied to it by the consumer can provide a better chance of holding that furnisher responsible if they do not correct their actions. More importantly, if the letter to the furnisher contains information which no reasonable person could have ignored, that letter may improve your chances of getting the item corrected.
In short, you should direct your dispute letter to the CRA in order to trigger the private right of action, but you should also prepare a cover letter and copy for the furnisher. This two-pronged approach will to improve your chances of successfully disputing, and preserve your rights if you need to sue.
The disputes that you submit to the credit reporting agencies are important for many reasons, not the least of which is that these disputes may become the subject of a lawsuit if you are unsuccessful in resolving the matter informally. As such, these credit dispute letters should be treated as though they will become evidence in your lawsuit.
Write them neatly, with a polite but firm tone. Do not include a long story, resort to foul language or start name-calling. Include any supporting documentation on your credit history or credit repair efforts that you have available. But remember that your audience might later include the judge, jury and opposing counsel. Everything you are drafting may ultimately become a trial exhibit. So, make the letter plain, clear, and easy to understand. It must be absolutely accurate and truthful.
Your dispute should contain enough facts and details to support the credibility of your dispute. The more details you provide, the more credible your dispute will appear. Remember that the details should relate directly to your dispute and the documents that support it. Do not go into side issues that distract. Details like names, phone numbers, email addresses and contact information add to the credibility of your dispute and provide information to help the credit bureau conduct its independent investigation into your dispute.
Include Relevant Documents
Include documentation that supports your dispute. If you are reporting an identity theft, you should be sure to include any information, affidavits or police reports relating the theft. If you have been a victim of a mixed file, you should include copies of whatever reports you have showing the problem, which may include subscriber copies of reports, tri-merges, or consumer disclosures. If you have won a court case about the dispute, include those papers as well.
The important point is, whatever type of item you have to show that you are telling the truth, include it with the dispute letter. Whatever documents you include, be sure to mention the enclosures by name in the body of your letter; bureaus are notorious for losing these documents and claiming they were never sent.
Provide Samples of Your Signature
In those cases where someone has forged your signature, be sure to include samples of your own signature, along with a notary signature where appropriate. Notarization is an attestation that the document actually comes from the individual who signed the document. The fact that the document is notarized, is itself proof of the identity of the individual who signed. Providing these pieces of evidence will invite the CRA to perform a comparison on its own. As always, call out any attachments by name in the correspondence so the CRAs cannot claim not to have received them (which happens often). And keep copies of anything you send!
Invite Further Correspondence and Provide Contact Information
Include relevant contact information, including a cell phone number and email address. Let the bureau know that you are willing to help or provide more information that may be necessary. Make yourself easy to find. If you want fast results, provide the recipients with the ability to contact you quickly and conveniently. While some creditors do not interact with customers over the internet, many have email capabilities. You should invite their use and advise the recipient that you can transmit and receive documents by this means if you have that capability.
Respond to Correspondence Appropriately
Be sure to carefully review and respond to any correspondence returned by the agency. In many cases, the bureaus respond to disputes by either refusing to investigate or by demanding that you take additional steps that may be self-contradictory. If the agency's response is confusing or self-contradictory, point that out in your response and ask for clarification. Again, send your correspondence by certified mail, return receipt requested, and keep copies of what you send.
The credit reporting agencies may notify you that the information provided could not be used or that there was not enough information provided by you. If your dispute is denied for any reason, you should immediately follow up with the bureau and request an explanation. If the materials you submitted were rejected, ask why. If the results do not make sense, explain why they don't make sense to you and ask that the process be done again. Remember, common sense rules the day, and you are free to point this out forcefully, but respectfully.
Refer to Prior Disputes by Date
In many instances, items that you are disputing have been disputed previously, and possibly removed previously. If this is the case, include a reference to the prior credit disputes and results. If the item was removed, incorporate the information that you included previously. If the item was not removed in the previous dispute, summarize that information again and provide whatever additional information you may have assembled. If you have copies of your earlier disputes and corrections, attach those documents as well.
Refer to Prior Account Numbers When Available
In many instances, creditors and debt collectors will change account numbers on your accounts. These changes can play havoc with your ability to track your credit file. For instance, when a credit card account is compromised by fraud, the credit card company will typically close that account, open a new account and transfer all account charges to the new account. At the same time, debt collectors who buy accounts typically assign each account a new number when that account is received. When any of these things happen, the consumer may no longer recognize his or her own account.
By the same token, if an account has reappeared on a consumer report, many times the consumer reporting agencies do not correlate accounts with their prior account numbers. You may have to re-dispute these items. In cases where you know the prior account numbers used to identify a disputed debt, you should include these account numbers in your dispute along with the name of the company that assigned the number.
Ask for Specific Actions
The Fair Credit Reporting Act provides for several informal remedies as part of the dispute process. These remedies can include:
✓ Placing a fraud alert on your file.
✓ Freezing or blocking access to the file for instant credit checks.
✓ Blocking fraud accounts if you provided a police report or a fraud affidavit.
✓ Requiring the consumer reporting agency to explain its processes.
✓ Requiring the consumer reporting agency to provide updated copies of reports.
✓ Requiring the furnisher of information that has been disputed as fraudulent to turn over account documents.
So, when you draft your dispute, be sure to include appropriate requests for help. These requests, while often ignored by the credit reporting agencies, can help to establish that the bureaus have thrown roadblocks into your path.
The credit reporting agencies have, as of late, begun demanding an excessive amount of identification from consumers before providing disclosures. In some instances, they have begun demanding that this identification before investigating disputes. If this happens, your dispute can be delayed by several months. You can head off these problems by including identification in your dispute or request for a report. You should include at least one form of photo identification and a current bank or utility bill. When you send the letter, be sure to keep a copy of all enclosures, and as we've said, name the attachments in your letter as further proof you've sent them.
If you've made it this far, wonderful. You are on your way to asserting your rights under the Fair Credit Reporting Act. Bookmark this blog post and refer back to it when needed, or share it with a friend or family member who needs the information. If you find this blog post helpful, like us on Facebook.
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.