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Dispute Credit Report: Ways to Dispute Credit Errors

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Dispute Credit Report Errors

Credit reports have increasingly become consumers’ passport to the financial world. Whether you want to rent an apartment, get car insurance or apply for a credit card, the data in your credit report will be one of the crucial measures used to judge you.

That’s why you want to ensure that the information in your report — which is used to formulate your credit score — is free of any inaccuracies. Even if you’re not denied credit, a small error here or there can cost you more in interest.

The three big credit bureaus — Equifax, Experian and TransUnion — and the entities that provide them with data (like lenders) are required to investigate any potential errors. But, as I reported in a recent story, their investigations aren’t very thorough.

So as with most everything else, you need to be your own advocate. Here are several tips on the right way to file a dispute, compiled from consumer attorneys, credit experts and consumer advocates.

Get your report. There’s only one place you should go to get a copy of your credit report: AnnualCreditReport.com. All consumers are entitled to one free credit from each of the three major credit bureaus through this site. (In fact, you can forgo the credit monitoring services many of them sell by creating your own: simply order a report from one of the agencies once every four months.)

Create a paper trail. The credit bureaus allow you to file your dispute online, and it’s probably the fastest and simplest way to go. But don’t. Experts say it’s better to send a written dispute via certified mail (return receipt requested).

Sending a written complaint may not help resolve your problem any more than filing an online dispute. But it will help later on, say, if your problem isn’t resolved or if you eventually need to show a record of your efforts in court.

Don’t be restricted by the dispute forms that the bureaus recommend you use. Experts recommend coloring outside of those lines. Attach a letter that explains the problem, and provide copies (not originals) of any supporting documentation, like a canceled check illustrating that you made a payment. The Federal Trade Commission has a sample dispute letter on its Web site.

The credit reporting bureaus are required to forward all relevant information to the organization that is the source of the error, though consumer advocates and lawyers told me this never happens. (In fact, the system the bureaus use to communicate with creditors doesn’t allow them to forward any attachments. Instead, workers boil down all the information you send into a one- to three-digit computer code — for instance “account not his/hers.” That’s what is forwarded to the creditor, who must then perform an investigation of its own.) More at How to Dispute Credit Report Errors

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Disputing Credit Report

“Sometimes, it’s not easy disputing a credit report. Read these tips, as they are sure to help. Check them out now!”

Ways on Disputing Credit Report

Checking the accuracy of your credit report is important, given recent reports that 5 percent of consumers may have errors in their reports that can result in higher interest rates on a loan.

The National Foundation for Credit Counseling has developed a list of “do’s” and “don’ts” for managing your report, which tracks your individual borrowing history. The major credit bureaus — Experian, TransUnion and Equifax — use information in the reports to create a credit score, which lenders use to decide if you are a good candidate for a loan and what interest rate you qualify for. Scores can also be used to determine eligibility for other financial products, like insurance.

Here’s the foundation’s list:

Review your report for accuracy at AnnualCreditReport.com. You’re entitled by law to one free report from each of the three major bureaus every 12 months, so you can check a different one every four months. Despite the availability of free reports, few consumers check them, the foundation says. Reviewing your report at least three months before a major financial move gives you time to dispute any errors and have them corrected.

Understand your rights. The federal Fair Credit Reporting Act provides protections for the accuracy and privacy of information in your credit file. The credit bureaus have dispute resolution processes in place. But it is up to the consumer to initiate the process by submitting the dispute form, either online or by phone.

Tara Siegel Bernard, writing for The Times, found that it’s better to submit a dispute in writing, to create a paper trail in case you need it later and to submit disputes to all three bureaus.

Credit reporting companies are required to investigate the items in question, usually within 30 to 45 days of the dispute being filed. The bureau receiving the dispute must forward all relevant information to the source of the information to begin the investigation process. After the provider’s investigation is complete, the results are sent back to the bureau. If the information provider finds the disputed information to be inaccurate, it must notify all three credit reporting companies, allowing each of them to correct the information in their files.

Not all errors have an equal impact. Some mistakes are more serious because they may have a negative impact on your credit score, like accounts that don’t belong to you, or credit lines listed with lower limits than they actually have or negative information that has stayed on the report longer than allowed. Those sorts of errors should be addressed immediately. More at Tips for Disputing Credit Report Errors

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How to Get a Free Annual Credit Report

“Where and how can we get a free annual credit report? Read this now to find out!”

Getting a Free Annual Credit Report

All Americans are entitled to a free credit report every year, from each of the three major credit bureaus. The free credit reports, which used to cost as much as $9.50 each, come as a result of the passage of the 2003 Fair and Accurate Credit Transactions Act.

Thanks to the law, the three major credit reporting agencies, Equifax, TransUnion and Experian, are each required to provide consumers, upon request, a free copy of their credit report once every 12 months from a centralized source. This centralized source includes a Web site, a toll-free telephone number and a postal address.

The reports will not automatically be sent out. Consumers who want their credit reports must initiate the request in one of the following three ways.

1. Online:
Go to www.annualcreditreport.com, which is the only authorized source for consumers to access their annual credit report online for free. Be careful not to make a mistake in the URL — some opportunistic entrepreneurs have staked out the URLs that are close in spelling, and they’ll try to sell you the reports, instead of giving them for free.

2. By phone:
Call (877) 322-8228. This may be the choice for those who aren’t Internet-savvy.

3. By mail:
You may complete the form on the back of the Annual Credit Report Request brochure, and mail it to: Annual Credit Report Request Service, P.O. Box 105281, Atlanta, GA, 30348-5281.

You’ll be able to order all three credit reports at one time, or at different times throughout the year. It’s your choice. But be sure to order from the centralized agency. If you go directly to the credit reporting agencies, you will be charged unless you fit another criteria for a free report.

The 2003 law did not eliminate the other ways to receive a free credit report. You’re still entitled to a free credit report if: you’ve been denied a loan, insurance policy or job based on your credit report; you’re applying for unemployment or receive public assistance; and you currently reside in a state that already offers an annual free credit report from each credit reporting agency (Colorado, Maine, Massachusetts, Maryland, New Jersey and Vermont. Georgia residents are entitled to two free annual credit reports from each credit reporting agency). More at How to get your free credit report

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