If you find an error on your credit report you can have it removed by disputing it. You must file a dispute with the credit bureau that reported the inaccurate information. The credit bureau has 30-45 days to investigate the dispute and give a response. But the total timeline of the dispute may be longer. In this article, we’ll talk more about what factors affect this timeline.
If you find an error on your credit report you can have it removed by disputing it. You must file a dispute with the credit bureau that reported the inaccurate information. The credit bureau has 30-45 days to investigate the dispute and give a response. But the total timeline of the dispute may be longer.
The dispute process involves reviewing your credit report and preparing a dispute letter and evidence. Next, the credit bureau will investigate the error and notify you of the result. Then there may be a second dispute or a lawsuit, if necessary. In this article, we’ll talk more about what factors affect this timeline.
What’s Involved in the Credit Dispute Process?
It’s important to check your credit report regularly. Lenders and debt collectors make mistakes. So do credit bureaus. As consumers, we suffer the consequences of these errors. Having negative incorrect information on your credit history reduces your credit score. If you find an error, you must dispute it with the credit bureau that reported it.
Reviewing Your Credit Reports
There are three major credit bureaus: Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion. Different lenders and debt collectors report to different credit bureaus. As a result, the information reported by each credit reporting agency differs. This is why it’s important to review your credit reports from all three major credit bureaus. Checking your credit report regularly is also a good way to guard against identity theft. If you find any fraud or identity theft, you should report it to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). The FTC also provides a link and phone number to get your free credit report.
As you review your credit report, ask the following questions:
Is your personal information correct? Is your name spelled accurately and your address current?
Are the accounts listed complete and accurate in the account information section of your credit report? Are the account balances correct?
Common credit report errors include:
Accounts that aren’t yours;
The same debt is listed more than once;
Incorrect credit limits and account balances;
Mistakes in the status of an account;
Other misinformation, like an incorrect account number or Social Security number; and
Negative items remaining on a report that are older than 7 years.
Getting your credit report is easy. Federal law gives you the right to receive a free copy of your credit report every 12 months. You can get all three reports at the federally approved site AnnualCreditReport.com. During the pandemic, Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion are also offering free weeklycredit reports.
How To Dispute an Error
You can dispute an error on your credit report by phone, through the credit bureau’s website, or by mail. Sending a dispute by mail is recommended because it’s important to have evidence of each step you’ve taken in the dispute process. Written communications between you and the credit bureau help you accomplish this. If you send your dispute letter using certified mail with a return receipt requested, you’ll also have timestamped evidence of when you initiated the dispute. This will help you know whether the credit bureau responds within the legally required time frame.
If you choose to dispute information by phone, take detailed notes of your conversations. You may still need to submit supporting documentation by mail or online. It can be more difficult to prove what each party said with a telephone dispute because everything isn’t in writing, which is why it’s better to dispute an error by mail.
You should also dispute the debt with the party that supplied the disputed information. If something was misreported on your credit card account, for example, you can dispute that information with the card issuer, whether it’s Visa, Mastercard, American Express, or another company.
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The Credit Bureau’s Investigation
Under the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA), the credit bureaus have a legal duty to investigate any disputed information. A bureau has up to 30 days to complete its investigation in most circumstances. But a credit bureau can take up to 45 days to resolve a dispute under the following circumstances:
The dispute is filed after receiving a free annual credit report; or
Additional information is submitted during the 30-day investigation window.
There are two factors that influence how much time it takes to settle a dispute. The first factor is the nature of the information you’re disputing. It’s easier to correct a simple error with your account than an issue of identity theft, for example. The second factor is how long it takes the credit bureau to verify the disputed information with the creditor or lender that supplied it.
If you want to convince the credit bureau to correct the error, it’s important to submit evidence that supports your claim. If you submit additional information after initiating the dispute process it will extend your claim. But it can also improve your chances of getting your desired result. When submitting documentation, always send a copy and keep the original for your records.
To resolve the dispute, the credit bureau will contact the creditor that furnished the negative information. If this creditor can’t verify the information they furnished within the 30-45 day time frame, the credit bureau must remove the negative entry from your credit report.
After completing an investigation, consumer reporting agencies have five business days to notify you of the result. If you are unhappy with the outcome of the credit bureau’s investigation and you have new evidence, you may resubmit the dispute. You can also ask that a statement of the dispute be included in your file and in future reports. If you lose a dispute and disagree with the result, you may need to seek professional legal help to file a lawsuit.
Getting Professional Help
If you are uncomfortable disputing the error by yourself, you may want to seek the advice of a professional, especially before filing a dispute letter. The best professionals to contact are nonprofit credit counselors and attorneys who handle bankruptcy, consumer debt, and debt collection matters.
If you can’t successfully convince the credit bureau to remove a disputed item that you believe is an error, you may have to file a lawsuit against the credit bureau and the creditor that supplied the incorrect information. Depending on the circumstances of your case, you may have a right to money damages. But filing a lawsuit has its drawbacks. It can be time-consuming, adding another 2-3 years to the dispute resolution process. But it may be worth the wait to repair your credit and potentially recover monetary damages for your trouble.
If you discover an error on your credit report, you must file a dispute to remove it. The credit bureau has up to 30 days to investigate. In some circumstances, it may take up to 45 days. The time necessary to settle a dispute is based on the nature of the information disputed and how long it takes the creditor or lender who furnished the information to verify it.
It’s best to file a dispute by mail with certified letters that leave a paper trail of each step of the dispute. It’s important to provide any documentation that supports your claim. A professional attorney or credit counselor can help you with this process. Be prepared to be patient when initiating a dispute. Remember, credit repair is well worth the wait.