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Dispute Credit Report: Ways to Dispute Credit Errors

“Listing down ways to dispute a credit report and more. Read it now!”

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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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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How to Check Your Credit Score

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Tips on How to Check Your Credit Score

Credit scores can be a scary thing. In a nutshell, they’re a specific number credit bureaus assign to you, one that quickly encapsulates your entire credit history and assesses your financial credibility as an individual. Although they’re merely comprised of a three-digit number between 300 and 850, they directly influence some of the most important financial facets of your life, from the mortgage rates on your home to the potential loans available to you as a student or a first-time car buyer. If that wasn’t enough, bad credit scores also make it tougher to start a small business, obtain insurance, and even obtain a job in some situations — an issue that has only become more pervasive since the economic collapse of ’08 and a general tightening of credit standards by regional banks.

Like most scores, you credit score is a culmination of multiple components (in this case five). The first and largest portion of your scores relies on your payment history — whether you’ve paid your bills on time or neglected them — but it’s quickly followed by the amount of money you owe, the amount and type of credit you possess, the length of your credit history and how long it has been since you last opened a credit line. Your given score is a crucial factor, if not the most important factor, potential money lenders use to evaluate your risk level. The higher the credit score or rating, the less risky you’ll likely appear and the greater the economic opportunity afforded to you will be. Or, you hope so, anyway.

However, although each of three major credit reporting agencies — Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion — offer a free copy of your credit report once a year in compliance with the Fair Credit Reporting Act of 1970, none of them offer free access to your official credit score unless you pay an upwards of $5. Thankfully, credit-monitoring websites like Credit Karma and Credit Sesame offer free estimates of your credit score without adversely effecting your credit, whenever you’d like and as often as you’d like. It’s the closest thing to an official FICO score as you’re going to get.

Here’s our quick guide on how to check your credit score.

Check your credit report (and score estimate) using Credit Karma
Step 1: Create a Credit Karma account — Navigate to the main Credit Karma homepage, click the orange Get started now button and enter your appropriate email address and password before click the blue Next Step button to create a user account.

Step 2: Enter your personal information — Once directed to Step 2, enter your personal information in the resulting text fields, quickly listing your name, current address, birthday, and the last four digits of your social security number among other information. When finished, click the blue Next Step button to create a user account.

Step 3: Confirm your identity — Once directed to Step 3, confirm your identity by correctly answering the three or four resulting questions in order. To do so, check the bubble directly left of the correct answer below the corresponding question. Questions vary, but they often include information regarding your previous county of residence, loans and other pertinent information.

Step 4: View your credit score — Once properly completed, your TransUnion Credit Profile will be properly linked and verified. Generally, a score hovering around 650 is considered okay, with a score an upwards of 700 being good. Anything below 600 is trouble. More at HOW TO CHECK YOUR CREDIT SCORE

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