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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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