Were you aware that you are entitled to one free copy of your credit report from each of the three credit reporting agencies (Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion) per year? Keeping your credit score as healthy as possible is a vital component of long-term financial planning.
If you're doing a little credit health check-up, and you notice an item on one of your reports that is incorrect or fraudulent, time is of the essence. Disputing erroneous info on your credit report takes at least a month, so if you plan to apply for a home or business loan in the near future, it's crucial that you handle this as efficiently as possible.
Here's how you should proceed:
Gather your supporting documents.
If there is incorrect information provided by one of your creditors, such as a past due amount that has already been paid off, you'll need to gather evidence to support your dispute, such as old receipts or statements that prove the amount has already been paid. If the item on your report is fraudulent, you'll need to file a police report and submit that instead. Be sure to send copies of any documents, and not the original paperwork.
Put your dispute in writing, and contact each credit reporting agency that lists the incorrect info, as well as the company that provided the info.
Tell them what item or items you believe to be inaccurate, let them know why, and request that the item in question be removed from your report. Be sure to follow the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) guidelines for formatting your dispute letter. (You can also find a sample dispute letter on the FTC's website.)
Send everything via registered mail.
Agencies have 30 days to respond to your dispute from the day they receive your letter. It's important to send your letter of dispute via registered mail so that you can see when they've received it, and follow up if they fail to get back to you in a timely manner. Once they have investigated your claim, they should send you the results of that investigation.
If your dispute is not successful, contact the furnisher of the line of credit.
Per FTC guidelines, the business or agency that originated this incorrect information is also legally obligated to investigate any dispute. Provide your full name and relevant account numbers, as well as copies of your supporting documents, and a new letter of dispute stating your case. You'll need to send all of this info to your creditor's designated address for consumer complaints, or their business address, if they don't have one. If you're uncertain which address to send it to, their customer service hotline should be able to steer you in the right direction.