I received the following question from a Minter via the Mint.com Facebook page:
Question: “John, I just got all of my credit reports for free and there are some items that are old, accurate, and just downright bad. I’d love to get rid of them. The materials that came with the credit reports make it pretty clear that I can dispute information that’s incorrect and get it corrected.
But I have a different dilemma: I have information that I know is correct that I’d like to get removed. Is there any downside to disputing information on a credit report that you know to be accurate? Can I get in trouble?”
Answer: First things first, the Fair Credit Reporting Act gives each of us the right to challenge information on our credit reports with which we don’t agree. There’s nothing in that law that prohibits consumers from disputing information on their credit reports for any reason.
Further, “accurate or inaccurate” is not the only variable that can cause the credit reporting agencies to remove something from a credit report. Your credit report information must be able to be verified, right or wrong.
So, if you disputed something from your credit reports and the furnishing party failed to respond to the credit bureaus, the item would be deemed unverifiable and would be removed.
It may have been perfectly accurate, but because the lender couldn’t or wouldn’t confirm its accuracy – bye, bye negative information!
Is it wrong to dispute correct information?
I’m not the morality police, and you can do what you want to do, but you do have the right to challenge any information on your report — whether it’s correct or not.
It’s your right to have correct and verifiable information on your credit reports. I can’t speak for them, but I imagine they’d also want your credit report to be fully accurate and verifiable.
How to file disputes with the credit bureaus
If you do file disputes with the credit bureaus, you should think about how to word your letter. I’m not sure I’d go so far as to tell them you want accurate information removed. I’d simply ask that they verify what’s already being reported.
After you file your dispute, the credit bureaus will contact the furnishing party, normally a lender or a collection agency. These parties are formally referred to as “data furnishers” or “furnishers” for short.
It’s their responsibility to investigate your claim and get back to the credit bureaus, normally within 30 days, but there are some scenarios when it can take 45 days.
If they confirm the accuracy of the credit reporting, then you’ll likely have to live with it until the credit bureaus have to remove the item, which normally takes 7 years for the bad stuff.
How to re-dispute an item
You can certainly choose to re-dispute the item with the credit bureaus. They’ll likely send another dispute form (called an “ACDV”) to the furnisher asking them to investigate the item again.
However, unless you’ve contacted the furnisher and convinced them that it’s wrong, they’ll likely send the same response to the credit bureaus.
If you choose to dispute the item again, you should be aware that the credit bureaus do not have to honor your request unless you provide some new information.
The Fair Credit Reporting Act allows the bureaus to consider repetitive disputes to be frivolous and ignore them.
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John Ulzheimer is the President of Consumer Education at SmartCredit.com, the credit blogger for Mint.com, and a contributor for the National Foundation for Credit Counseling. He is an expert on credit reporting, credit scoring and identity theft. Formerly of FICO, Equifax and Credit.com, John is the only recognized credit expert who actually comes from the credit industry. The opinions expressed in his articles are his and not of Mint.com or Intuit. Follow John on Twitter.