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Use These Credit-Fighting Tips When You Start Disputing Your Credit Report
The quickest way to repair your credit is a feasible task, but requires a lot of attention and maintenance. And disputing your credit report for errors is one of the best tactics you can use. Since your credit report is always considered for many of life’s looming events:
- like getting a job
- financing a car
- taking on a mortgage
- or even opening a checking account.
Lenders and creditors want to know how financially responsible you are, and the credit report is meant to showcase this trait. While paying bills on time, using credit account wisely, and steering clear of over-borrowing all work to your benefit in the credit game, these steps can be worthless if there are errors on your credit report.
One in five consumers has at least one incorrect item listed on their credit report
According to the Federal Trade Commission, one in five consumers has at least one incorrect item listed on their credit report at any given time. Simple errors such as a wrong address or misspelling of your middle name aren’t all that detrimental to your overall credit profile; it’s the big, glaring misinformation such as a late payment or an account which you did not open that plague your overall credit image. Disputing credit report errors is a necessary step for most of us at one time or another, but before diving in, it is necessary to know some basic dos and don’ts.
Do: Know What’s Disputable
Not every bit of negative information on your credit report is disputable. If you legitimately missed a payment or let an account go into collections, neither the credit bureaus or the creditor affected will be compelled to remove the entry. However, the law states that information added to a credit report must be accurate and verifiable – the second being the most important. You’ll want to review your complete credit report for errors or unverifiable data including:
- Personal information – name, date of birth, current and previous addresses
- Accounts – credit cards, loans, and mortgages
- Activity – late payments, payment amounts, and credit limit usage
- Stale data – any information that should have already been removed (for most entries, this is seven years)
If there are errors in any of these categories, you may have cause for a dispute.
Don’t: Dispute Frivolously
To avoid wasting your time and the credit reporting agencies’ time, avoid disputing information which won’t be corrected. For example, if you missed a payment on your credit card four years ago, don’t dispute the entry if you have no reason why the payment was not made on time. The same goes for disputing entries like judgments or bankruptcies – if they are accurate and easily verifiable, don’t waste your time trying to get the entries removed. Focus on entries that are either too old to still be listed on your report or that are not exact.
Do: Send Requests in Writing
Some think the process of disputing erroneous credit entries is as simple as making a phone call to either the creditor in question or the credit bureau reporting the data. In reality, disputing information is only achievable with a written request. Some errors can be disputed directly through each credit bureau directly with the online dispute process; others must be sent in letter format to the credit bureau and the creditor with documentation to prove the error is indeed an error. Once received, the creditor in question has 30 days to verify that the information is either an error or is accurate, and they must report the change to the credit bureau if it ends up being an error.
Don’t: Use the Online Dispute Process Alone
Each of three credit bureaus have made it relatively simple to submit a dispute online, which satisfies the written requirement. However, individuals who rely on this method alone don’t always achieve the best results. Part of the issue with the credit bureau dispute system is they are only required to reach out the creditor and request verification of a report entry. If the creditor does not look into the actual dispute – which happens often – and simply respond the inquiry with a “yes, it’s accurate” response, you won’t see the entry changed or removed.
Contacting the creditor in writing … is a necessary step most people overlook.
Contacting the creditor in writing at the same time you complete the online dispute process is a necessary step most people overlook. Creditors who receive disputes know you mean business, and are more likely to actually look into your request than those who are simply contacted by the credit bureau.
Do: Have the Right Documentation
Some credit report errors are more challenging than others in terms of the dispute process, but having documentation to back up removal requests is incredibly helpful. Documentation may come in the form of a cleared check or bank statement entry for a payment that was actually on time, or a final statement that shows a debt paid off in full. If you haven’t maintained a paper trail of your financial transactions, you may be able to reach out to your bank or financial institution for assistance with past statements or transaction logs. Submitting additional data to show the error in question is inaccurate helps expedite the process with both the credit bureaus and your creditors.
Disputing incorrect information on your credit report takes equal parts time and patience, but knowing what to do and what not to do eases some of the stress. Evaluate your credit report each year with a keen eye for errors, no matter how small, and know what details you can adequately dispute. Once you know what needs to be corrected, contact both the credit bureau and the creditor in writing to ask that the error is removed. Back up your claim with any documentation you can provide, and make sure to follow up after the 30-day time frame if necessary. Taking the right steps toward removing incorrect information from your credit report leads to a much cleaner, accurate profile of your money management skills.