Credit can be a fickle thing. It takes many people years of practice, study, and trial and error to build their credit to a stable level, and then it can be an incredibly delicate balance to maintain from there.
A seemingly countless number of things can negatively impact one’s credit, from a single missed payment to an ill-timed credit card application. Many of these events can be avoided with proper effort, education, budgeting and balance, but there are still things that can severely impact a person’s credit, no matter how financially vigilant he or she may be.
Identifying and disputing credit report errors can significantly improve your credit.
According to a 2012 study by the Federal Trade Commission, one in four consumers identified errors on their credit reports which could impact their scores. These can range from simple identity errors (such as a misspelled name or incorrect phone number) to incorrectly reported accounts (such as wrongly reported delinquencies or outdated information that is more than seven years old). All of them could bring down the score you may have worked years to build.
If you have identified one or multiple errors on your credit report, it is important to act quickly. By disputing credit report errors, you can have your information corrected and negative reporting events removed. Below are a few tips to consider when disputing information on your credit report.
1. Decide whether to dispute online or write a physical letter
If you want the process to be relatively simple and convenient, disputing items online is the way to go. Each major credit bureau – Transunion, Equifax, and Experian – provides an online dispute option from its website.
However, the online forms tend to pigeonhole disputes into a few categories which may not fit your exact situation. They also usually include an arbitration agreement in the fine print, which can take away your right to sue if the dispute is refused.
Writing and mailing a physical letter may be more time-consuming, but it also provides you the ability to customize and explain your specific circumstances as to why you are disputing credit report errors. You can find dispute letter templates online, but these should only be used as a starting point, as many contain unnecessary legalese and confusing language.
Another alternative to the traditional letter or online dispute options, credit repair software such as DisputeBee combines the convenience of the online method with the customization of the personal letter. This method is especially beneficial for those with several items to dispute across multiple credit bureaus.
2. Gather the necessary evidence
Just because you dispute an item does not mean that it will be removed. Once you have submitted your dispute, the credit bureau will have a certain amount of time – usually 30 days – to investigate. While it is largely up to the reporting agency to provide the necessary evidence of the disputed item’s validity, it is your responsibility to provide evidence to the contrary.
Gather any items such as receipts, checks, letters, or anything else that can help prove your dispute, and include copies of these items with your letter or attach them to the online dispute.
3. Be patient
Sometimes this step can be the most difficult. While the credit bureau’s investigation process is usually completed within 30 days, it can take a bit longer before you are notified of the results. Furthermore, it can take several months before the errors are removed or corrected and even longer for your credit score to be positively impacted.
You will need to be patient, but you must also stay on top of the process after disputing credit report errors. You can usually follow up with online disputes from the credit bureaus’ websites, and be sure to check your mail and email regularly for updates. It is also important to stay vigilant moving forward, continuously checking for errors on your reports from each bureau to help remedy and avoid issues in the future.