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
1. Request credit report
In order to find any errors or unattractive figures to dispute, you’ll first need to obtain an updated copy of your credit report from each of the credit reporting bureaus—Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion.
There are a few ways you can do this. You are entitled to one free credit report each year which you can order from annualcreditreport.com or you can access your credit score right in the Mint app. Many banks and credit card companies will also allow you to pull your credit report on a monthly basis.
2. Identify errors
Once you’ve obtained a recent credit score, you should carefully review the information displayed. Is the credit history right? What about your credit balance? Are there any errors or items that may be inaccurate? If yes, print out the report and follow through with these next few steps to dispute all inaccurate or negative items on your credit report.
3. Fill out a credit bureau dispute form
Each of the credit bureaus has an area of their website dedicated to credit report disputes. Here, you’ll find instructions and dispute forms for each. To make it easy on our Minters, we’ve done the heavy lifting for you and collected all of the resources you’ll need to dispute something on your credit report.
Here’s where to find dispute forms for all three major credit bureaus:
- To dispute Experian, fill out the Experian dispute form
- To dispute Equifax, fill out the Equifax dispute form
- To dispute TransUnion, fill out the TransUnion dispute form
Note: If the information you want to dispute appears on all three reports, you’ll need to file a separate dispute with each of the credit reporting bureaus.
4. Print out your credit report and notate the errors
In step two you printed out your original credit report. Now, you’ll want to notate the errors you noticed on your report by circling the items you wish to have changed. It’s important that the credit bureau knows exactly what your request is about, so be extra careful here and make sure the information you’re citing here matches the description on your credit report dispute form.
5. Send your dispute to the credit bureau(s)
In order to learn how to dispute a credit report and win, you’ll likely want to include as much information as possible to support your case. That said, you’ll need to include some items in addition to your dispute claim and your credit report.
Depending on what type of things you want to dispute on your credit report, your case may require different documents. For example, if you are trying to remove a closed credit card account from your score, you might include a record of the closed account with your documents. If you want to dispute a collection amount, you should provide proof of the settled debt or a receipt that shows you made the required payments.
Once you have all of your documents put together, there are a few ways you can approach the dispute process:
- Online: For many, the easiest way to go through the dispute process is by simply uploading your dispute and relative documents online (you can use the links referenced above to do so).
- By phone: You can also file a dispute by phone with Equifax and TransUnion—Experian does not offer this option.
- Equifax: 1-866-349-5191
- TransUnion: 1-800-916-8800
- By mail: Lastly, you can send your dispute and documents by certified mail with a return receipt.
P.O. Box 9701
Allen, TX 75013
P.O. Box 740256
Atlanta, GA 30374-0256
P.O. Box 2000
Chester, PA 19016
Some words of advice: how to dispute credit report and win
Wondering “does disputing credit work?” Unfortunately, it’s not always that simple…but there are certainly some things you can do to increase your odds. 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
Sometimes deleted credit report items disappear only to come back to haunt you some weeks, months, or years later. 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.
Takeaways: How to dispute credit reports and win
- You’re entitled to accurate and verifiable information on your credit report
- You can file a dispute with the credit bureaus by phone, mail, or online
- When filing a credit dispute, include as much information as possible to support your claim
- If your dispute is rejected, you can choose to re-dispute the claim with the credit reporting bureaus
Do you have a credit questions for John Ulzheimer? Head over to the Mint.com Facebook page and ask away!