Every person has inaccurate information on their credit report that can potentially lower their credit score.
Inaccurate information on your credit report is much more common than more people get to realize. The only way to keep your credit file in order is to check it regularly and correct any inaccuracies immediately. There are many ways to monitor your credit report and they will be discussed in another post but I can’t emphasize the importance of it.
Inaccurate information can vary and some will not affect your credit score but others can significantly affect it. Things like misspelled names, wrong address, wrong employment information may not affect your credit score but when applying for credit may alarm the loan officer when making a decision. Other items like unknow collections or accounts that you don’t have will not only affect your credit score but it could mean theft of identity. It is also very common for a collection agency to report someone else’s bad debt on your credit record just because they have the same name and live in the same city or you just happened to get his/her phone number after they have been disconnected and the agency does not have enough information about the original debtor. If your name is John Smith, please do check your credit report daily.
OK, so I checked my credit report and I found an inaccuracy in there, how do I dispute it? The process of doing it is different for each credit reporting agency and the area where you live. Please check with each individual agency how they deal with disputes. Some will allow you to simply submit a dispute by filling up a form online. Others will ask for the dispute and any supporting documents to be mailed or faxed (Always use registered mail if sending it by mail). And some will actually talk to you on the phone.
Regardless of how they wish to receive the disputes, you need to prepare first. When filing a dispute, the information needs to be short and accurate. Try to include details only for the item you are disputing and nothing else. I repeat, do not give them anything else. If you are disputing something that was reported by a lender that you are currently dealing with, contact them first and try to correct it with them. Keep track of all communications and if that does not work, then file a dispute with the credit bureau. Here are some points about what you should include.
When failing a dispute, in addition to your personal information, you will need to provide them with some information about the item you are disputing.
- Company Name
- Account Number
- Reson for the dispute – Here you should use only two options. Not mine – meaning that you are not aware of this account and it potentially a fraud. Other – Here you will explain what exactly is inaccurate.
- Description – Explain what exactly is inaccurate.
Here is an example. You signed an agreement with Verizon Wireless to port your number from T-Mobile and provide you with wireless services. After 10 days Verizon is unable to port your number and as per their policy stating that you can cancel within 30 days, you decide to cancel and stay with T-Mobile. In couple weeks you receive a bill from Verizon for your connection fee and your first month of service. You ignore it as you already canceled and after 6 months you receive a call from a collection agency telling you that you owe Verizon the amount from that bill that you got plus interest. You explain to them but they don’t care. You call Verizon but the person on the phone does not care either. You check your credit report and there it is, a collection entry and a bad debt/written-off entry from Verizon.
What do you do? You open a dispute with the credit bureau(s) and list The entry from Verizon and the collection agency separately. You include the account numbers as reported in your credit file, and in Other you explain the situation above. As supporting documents, you include your contract with Verizon clearly showing the start date and the contract from T-Mobile showing that you went back to them after 10 days. You also include a printout of the cancelation policy from the Verizon website and a link to it.
What happens after that. Luckily the onus is on the credit reporting agency to prove that there are no grounds for your dispute, so they will need to contact the creditors and get a response from them within a specific time frame. In some cases where the inaccuracy is obvious, the report will be corrected immediately.
In many cases, the dispute process is straight forward and corrections are made fairly quickly. We will go into more details in another article for strategies for how to dispute more complex cases.