If your credit report contains errors, you owe it to yourself to clean it up. While it can be somewhat frustrating, this task is very doable. Before we dive in to the particulars, a bit of background is necessary.
There are three large credit bureaus and they collect data on just about every financial transaction we undertake. They get this information from just about every creditor we do business with.
On an annual basis, the creditors and the credit bureaus process billions of data points. No matter how hard they try, a mistake is bound to happen once in a while. If you discover that there is an error on your report, here’s what to do…
Get ready. Get set. Wait.
First, before you call or write to express your anger, slow down. Breathe. Have a glass of wine. If you want to win at this game, you have to do so with your intellect – not with your emotions. Pounding on tables and yelling at customer service won’t get you anywhere – and may just delay the process even further.
And while we’re on the topic of patience, it’s important to understand that creditors and credit bureaus have 30 days to respond to your written communication. There is nothing you can do to change that. You have to let the process take its course. It may even take months to get this issue resolved. Be prepared for the other party to request further documentation from you. That’s OK. Slow and steady wins the race, my friend.
It might be unfair, but creditors and credit bureaus don’t have to prove their claims are right. Unfortunately, it’s up to you to prove it if there is a mistake on your credit report.
That’s why your best ally in this battle is paper or electronic receipts. Do you have evidence that shows a debt was paid or payments were made on a timely basis? Do you have canceled checks or PayPal history that proves the information on your credit report is false?
Please gather your proof before even reaching out to the creditor or credit bureaus. Without evidence, you will find it to be nearly impossible to achieve any positive results.
Contact the creditor who reported the false information
Keep in mind that the credit bureau only posts negative information about you if a creditor reports it to them. That’s why you should first deal with the creditor to try to get them to clean this up.
When you do reach out to the creditor, have the following supporting documents:
- A copy of the credit report that shows the error you are contesting. This should include your account number, the amount of the error and the date it supposedly occurred.
- A letter that explains why you believe the reported information is wrong.
- Any documents that prove you are right and the credit report is not.
If you provide all of these documents, the issue should be easily resolved. Most creditors want to correct such errors. It’s far less expensive to resolve the issue than it is for them to draw out a conflict they can’t win. It’s also better for business to have satisfied customers.
If the creditor does play ball, you want them to write you a letter of acknowledgement that the reported data was a mistake. Also make sure they provide written assurance that they will fix the mistake with all three credit bureaus.
These two written documents are important just in case the creditor doesn’t follow through and forgets to ask the credit bureaus to correct your record.
When to reach out to the bureaus
After the creditor acknowledges that they made a mistake and they promise to get it corrected, wait 30 days and get another credit report. You’ll want to use the federal website AnnualCreditReport.com to do this. Each bureau must provide you with a free copy of your credit report every year through this website.
If the mistake still appears on your report, you have no choice but to take the conflict up a notch and contact the credit bureaus directly.
Fortunately, you’ve already assembled your paper trail. Send each bureau your documentation and the letters you received from the creditor promising to correct the problem. Also, include a new cover letter explaining that the error is still showing up on your credit report (and prove it by including your recent report) and request that each bureau fix this problem.
Here’s where to send these letters:
Online: Equifax Online Dispute
Phone: 866 349-5191
Mail: Equifax Information Services, LLC.
P.O. Box 740256
Atlanta, GA 30348
Online: Manage a Dispute on Your Credit File
Mail: TransUnion LLC
Consumer Dispute Center
P.O. Box 2000
Chester, PA 19022
Don’t waste your time calling these companies and don’t dispute this via email. You may actually waive some of your rights if you do.
If there is a mistake on your credit report, you can get it cleaned up but you have to be organized, disciplined and have fortitude. You also have to be patient.
Creditors and credit bureaus are not evil. They are just huge organizations with deep bureaucracies. You have to jump through the hurdles they set up. As you can see, this is not so daunting a task as it might appear at first!