NOTE: get copies of all three of your credit reports from annualcreditreport.com.
Credit reporting errors are very common. To fix them, you must send a “dispute” about the errors. The goal of a credit report dispute is to make sure that the credit bureaus do everything necessary to insure the maximum possible accuracy of your credit report. Many people make the mistake of not providing enough information or enough documentation. Here is a list of the top five mistakes we see.
1. Not Providing Enough Information
Sometimes people assume that it’s enough to say “I dispute this debt” or “this isn’t mine”. They think that their dispute will trigger a thorough investigation. This is a mistake because creditors and credit bureaus handle disputes in a highly automated way that is sometimes little more than a box-checking exercise with no real investigation. Don’t assume that your dispute is going to an experienced detective who will perform a thorough investigation. More likely it is going to an office worker who has to handle a hundred disputes every day.
Your dispute has a better chance of succeeding if it:
- Clearly explains what the problem is
- Shows why you’re right and the information is wrong
A good credit reporting dispute will probably be long. That’s because it will offer the proof of why you’re right and your bank, landlord or debt collector is wrong. It will have dates and probably have documents attached. That way even if your dispute doesn’t fix the problem, it will prove that you did everything possible to give them the information needed for them to do an investigation to insure the maximum possible accuracy.
2. Not Sending the Credit Report Dispute by Mail
It’s tempting to do online disputes. The credit reporting agencies certainly want you to, and various other websites encourage you to do just that. This can be a mistake because online disputes often limit how much you can say and what documents to attach. The design of the online system encourages short, vague disputes that often won’t be properly investigated. They also often force you to pick a category for your dispute from a drop down menu. Picking the “wrong” category can have serious consequences because it can cause the credit bureaus to create the wrong dispute code.
For example, if you don’t even recognize an account, should you pick “not mine”; “not liable for account”; or “account fraudulently opened”? Which option you pick determines how your dispute is investigated. If you choose “not mine” it will not be investigated as “fraudulently opened” when it fact maybe it was fraudulent. Giving them a written dispute with supporting documents avoids this problem.
3. Not Keeping a Copy
Another problem with online disputes – and some written ones – is failure to keep an exact copy of what you sent. You might think that, surely the credit bureaus will keep a copy, but you can’t rely on that: mail gets lost, pages in the middle of a document don’t get scanned, only one side of double sided pages get scanned, etc. In short, all sorts of things can go wrong with someone else’s copy. So keep your own copy that you can swear under oath is what you sent out. It should have a date on it, too, so that you know when you sent it. The best method: 1) print, date and sign your letter: and 2) scan or photocopy and EXACT COPY of what you stick in the envelope: the signed letter and every page of every attachment; 3) send one copy of the credit report dispute by first class mail, and a second copy by registered mail, return receipt requested so that you can prove they received what you sent.
ARE ERRORS IN YOUR CREDIT REPORT CREATING STRESS AND WORRY IN YOUR LIFE?
Find out more how we can help you solve your credit reporting errors
4. Not Attaching All Relevant Documents
There are some cases when you really won’t have any documents to attach. But usually, there are documents you can send that will help your credit report dispute. If you’re a victim of identity theft, you probably have a police report or an FTC Identity Theft Affidavit to send. Or, if you have fraudulent charges on a genuine account, you probably have statements showing them, which you can highlight. Likewise, if you paid the account off, you should have a letter, or a paid check, or a bank account statement showing that you paid.
Remember that just because the credit reporting agencies and the creditors are supposed to investigate disputes, they aren’t necessarily on your side. If all you do is say it’s not your account, they might not do a reasonable investigation. If you only say you paid, and their computer says you didn’t, they’re probably going to believe the computer. That’s why sending documents with your dispute is so important.
5. Not Disputing Every Inaccuracy
If a bank is reporting something that’s wrong, it’s tempting to just contact the bank, particularly if you actually do have an account there. In a rational world, that might be enough. But, in the real world you must send your disputes to the credit reporting agencies. Disputes to the credit bureaus are important because they preserve your right to sue over your disputes if they aren’t handled properly. Disputes to creditors don’t give you that right. If you want to send a copy of your dispute directly to the bank that is fine, but that is not a substitute for sending it directly to the credit bureaus.
Similarly, when you find a great big error on your credit report, like an account you don’t have, it’s tempting to just dispute the big error you see. However, it’s important to check everything on your report, and dispute everything that’s wrong. You should dispute addresses, phone numbers, misspellings of your name, and “hard pull” inquiries that you didn’t authorize because each of these is a possible red flag for identity theft, a “mixed file” or some other problem.
CONTACT US: If you have disputes about the accuracy of your credit reports, feel free to contact us for a consultation.