Home > Credit 101 > 8 Rules of an Effective Credit Report Dispute Letter

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Discovering and resolving mistakes on credit reports can be complicated. We often hear from users of our Credit Report Card who’ve noticed a sudden drop in their credit score accompanied by an unexplained delinquency. That leads to more digging and finding an error on one or more of their three bureau credit reports. That’s where it all starts. Once you’ve confirmed there’s a mistake on your credit report, you’ll need to make two important decisions.

The first is whether to dispute the information with the credit reporting agency or the company giving the information to the credit reporting agency.

The second decision you’ll need to make is whether to send in your complaint via snail mail (make sure to send it certified mail) or file it online. Both have pros and cons, but if you’ve decided to dispute a credit report mistake by mail here are some important rules to follow:

1. Include identification information. Your name, current address and last four digits of your Social Security number should be at the top of your letter. Also include the credit report reference number, if one is available.

2. Identify the item that’s wrong. Clearly describe the account with the information that’s wrong; for example, “Visa credit card account number ending in 5678 opened 6/18/2006.”

3. Be brief, clear and to the point. The average credit report dispute is processed in a matter of minutes so don’t expect the person processing your dispute to pour over several pages of narrative. Make sure you clearly state the reason for your dispute close to the top and put any other relevant information into bullets. If your letter is more than one page, it’s too long.

4. Write clearly or type your complaint. If your handwriting is legible, feel free to handwrite your complaint. If it’s not, type it.

5. Don’t quote credit protection laws. You don’t need to reference the section of the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) that applies to disputes. The credit reporting agencies know they have to investigate consumer disputes. Reference the FCRA and it may sound like you are being coached by a credit repair firm.

6. Include copies of documentation, if available. If you have something that documents your side of the story, feel free to include a copies – not originals. Highlight any particularly relevant parts; for example, a statement from the credit card issuer that it would remove certain negative information from your reports.

7. Let them know you’re speaking up. If you have tried to resolve your dispute but are getting nowhere, you may want to put a CC: at the bottom of your letter, indicating you’ll also be sending a copy to the Better Business Bureau, your state attorney general’s office and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. There’s no need to do this the first time you complain, but if you aren’t getting results, getting others involved may help your dispute get the attention it deserves.

8. Ask a friend or relative to proofread it. Ask someone you trust to take a quick look at the letter to get their opinion on whether the reason for your dispute is clear. If they don’t understand it, the person reading the letter may not either.

Sample Credit Report Dispute Letter

Jane Q. Consumer
123 Main Street
Anytown, USA 12345
SSN: xxx-xx-1234
May 21, 2012
Ref #: 000-111-2222

To Whom It May Concern:

I would like to dispute the following item on my credit report:

Big Bank Mortgage Services.
Partial account number 5678.
Opened 6/3/2000

My credit report shows a 30-day late payment in the amount of $631.75 for May 2011. However, I was not late. I have enclosed copies of my statements for April, May and June 2011 that together clearly show my payment for May was not 30 days late.

Please correct this as soon as possible. Thank you,

Jane Q. Consumer

Jane Q. Consumer

Where To Go To File a Dispute

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  • tamika

    how do i dispute something that is closed and 8 years old

  • John Doe


    I recently applied for a credit card, as I haven’t had one for some time and was looking forward to the incentives. I directly inquired about approval standards as I’d been denied a similar card years before (2 different times). I WAS declined, but was told I’d have to wait up to 30 days to receive the letter of explanation before they could discuss the reasons why further. After receipt and calling they couldn’t tell me anything, but to speak with the CRA! I requested a free hard copy (per denial) of the report, which I will be waiting for 2 weeks to receive. I did a soft inquiry prior to and post the hard check and found that my score dropped 7 points due to their inquiry. I also verified my (soft) score to match the CRA, yet the creditor reported 41 points lower on the denial (that’s after the 7 point drop). Only information I seem to have is 8 credit cards all CLOSED, 6/8 prior to & last reported from 2008, and 7/8 listed as no missed payments… But, half showing closed by grantor. There are 2/8 posting as late as 2011, with only one (black plague) posting as: Closed – Derogatory, Charged off as bad debt, Canceled by credit grantor, in the amount of $22.00!!! I believe I know which card it is but don’t know that I have any information regarding this card as it was paid in full and I haven’t used it in years. What’s my best course of action to rectify and improve my credit from Fair/Poor within the next 60 days so that I can reapply for the card? Can I prevent the Bureau or CRA from subtracting points due to the same company’s repeated inquiry?

    • http://www.Credit.com/ Gerri Detweiler

      Unless someone either has wrong negative information that can be removed or high debt usage and can pay it down quickly, I never feel comfortable advising on steps that can significantly boost the score in that short time frame.

      However, going forward it sounds to me like you’re going to want to get a card that will report so you have at least one open account. Even if that means getting a card that’s not as “rewarding,” it sounds like it would be a good idea for you to get one.(Perhaps even a secured card if necessary.)

      And sorry I wasn’t clear about who is doing the repeated inquiry or why…?

      • John Doe

        The only negative on my report seems to be that half of the cards are incorrectly showing closed by grantor and one card that is posting a $22 debt that is incorrect. I guess I’m puzzled as to how I could be perceived as not worthy credit risk? I’ve always either utilized the introductory 0% interest period or paid my cards in full. I wrote off using credit altogether some years ago though. What steps can I take to rectify the debt mis-posted? Is there any way to rectify who closed the accounts (them or me) and would that make a difference? Is there anything else I could do besides open up another card (which would knock my score a bit) to improve my credit? Though I’ll do my research, as I don’t do annual fees, do you have any specific card suggestions?

        Citi bank is the card issuer that denied me credit and they would have to do another hard inquiry upon reapplying once I was able to correct the mistakes – causing my score to drop again, but this seems like double jeopardy. Isn’t there some way of protecting consumer’s score from taking a hit from an inquiry by the same creditor?

        • http://www.Credit.com/ Gerri Detweiler

          The fact that the accounts were closed by the creditors shouldn’t make a difference. You can try disputing them but I doubt it will do anything for your scores.

          With regard to the $22 debt–not sure what that’s about but if you think it’s incorrect by all means dispute it. More details in this article: A Step-By-Step Guide to Disputing Credit Report Mistakes

          Without seeing your entire report it sounds like the lack of current open credit references is hurting you the most.

          Unfortunately I don’t know a way around the hard inquiries issue. If you get your free credit score from Credit.com, though, you will be presented with offers from card issuers that match your profile. It’s not guaranteed, and there is a hard inquiry when you apply but it should narrow the field for you. Also a card like Capital One’s secured card which earned top place in our Best Secured Cards in America should be easy for you to get.

  • Ella

    Gerri: I took out multiple student loans when I first started college. Throughout college, the loan companies changed multiple times. All were supposed to be sent to me under MOHELA. One of them, an ACS loan was not bought out by MOHELA . I randomly checked my credit score in November and discovered it was greatly affected. Turns out, my info has been sent to collections since June of 2013! Is there ANY way to remove that from my history as I was not aware of it?! Otherwise my credit history is great… Please advise.
    Thank you,

    • http://www.Credit.com/ Gerri Detweiler

      Ella – I believe you’ll need to consult with a consumer law attorney who knows student loan law. As much as I’d like to help I don’t know what your recourse would be here. if you need help finding one, you can visit the website of the National Association of Consumer Advocates or The Student Loan Lawyer website.

  • Robert G. Palmer

    A few years ago, I was notified by an attorney that I owed the state of Ohio over 1700 in State taxes from 2006. I informed them that I never lived in the state of Ohio, and sent them my W2’s to prove it and offered a copy of my Page 3 of my military enlistment to show where I had been stationed every year starting in 1996.I was never informed they needed my tax paperwork from that year. I have been a Michigan resident my whole life not an Ohio resident. I have been in the military for over 19 years and have never been stationed in Ohio. They informed me that it would be taking care of. Now I should of been more proactive with them since they did nothing about it, but they said that it does not hit my credit report. So I deployed and didn’t put much thought into it. They have changed law firms 3 times since I found out so I have to start over every time the state of Ohio does this. Recently a court ruled I owed the money although I was never notified that it a judgement was going to be ruled against me. I can not find my 2006 tax records. I got divorced in 2006 from my then current wife who moved back to Ohio. I informed them of it and offered to send them my divorce decree that shows I lived the entire year in VA separated from my ex-wife. I was informed that it would not help. I know I am at fault for this not getting taking care of sooner and I accept my failure to do so. I am in the middle of buying a new house and would like any advice that you can give me.

    • http://www.Credit.com/ Gerri Detweiler

      As much as I’d love to help, I will have to suggest you get help from a tax attorney who is licensed to practice in Ohio. Since this is now a matter that has gone to court, it sounds like you will need to get legal advice.

    • Oldparatrooper

      You should have been covered by the soldiers and sailors relief act, This barr’s any type of default judgement aginst you while you are on Active duty. You can easily have this judgement reversed based on the relief act.

  • JeffandChristine

    I have 3 paid medical collections on my credit report. These bills are not mine, they are my ex wife’s daughters doctor bills. Being military, she was allowed on my insurance. When her mother didnt pay her part owed they sent it to collection in my name. We are already separated by the time the bills were made. Can they legally send the bills to collection in my name? Is a cease and desist letter appropriate? If not, how do I proceed to get these removed?

    • http://www.Credit.com/ Gerri Detweiler

      Was your ex wife’s daughter your daughter? Please read this article: Medical Bills and Minors: What You Need to Know

      • JeffandChristine

        I disputed the items on my credit report and the “validated” them. I asked how and was told they knew your names and address

        • http://www.Credit.com/ Gerri Detweiler

          I’d recommend you talk with a consumer law attorney that handles credit reporting and debt collection cases. You can visit the website of the National Association of Consumer Advocates to locate one. The first consultation will likely be free, and they may be able to help you at no out of pocket cost to you. The other option would be to file a complaint with the CFPB.

      • JeffandChristine

        She is not my daughter.

      • JeffandChristine

        No, she is not my daughter, only a step child at the time allowed to be on my medical,insurance through the military

        • http://www.Credit.com/ Gerri Detweiler

          It sounds like they probably should not be on your credit reports (though I can’t say for certain). I’d suggest you dispute them in writing with the credit reporting agencies. Keep records of your disputes. If they are not removed consult a consumer law attorney. These articles explain more: Medical Bills and Minors: What You Need to Know and A Step-By-Step Guide to Disputing Credit Report Mistakes.

          • JandC0723

            Update: I filed a complaint with the the consumer protection bureau, the collection agency wouldn’t budge saying they have the right to go after a step parent, dispute no longer being married to the child’s mom. I then filed a complaint against the original medical clinic with the bbb. I received an apology letter from the medical group and all three collections were off my report the next business day.

          • http://www.Credit.com/ Gerri Detweiler

            very interesting! I am sending you an email.

  • David D.

    If you use a “credit repair company” to dispute for you, they are asking me to send copy of my ID and SS# as they say recently the CRAs have been requesting them. If they do not have them on file, they claim it is a way for the CRA to slow down the process until they get the info….ADVICE?

    • http://www.credit.com/ Credit.com Credit Experts

      We’re told that the credit repair businesses are required to supply this type of authentication.

      It’s important to make sure the address the docs are being sent it truly the correct address for the bureau in question. Is it possible for you to send those documents yourself?

      If you want to go the DIY route, here’s advice: A Step-By-Step Guide to Disputing Credit Report Mistakes

  • alexis smith

    My husband and I tried to buy a house last year, his credit report came back with his fathers mortgage on it. They denied him the mortgage until we get his fathers name off. Would this be the way to go about getting it off his report?

  • Al Jefferson

    Should we include our full SSN, or only the last four digits?

    • http://www.credit.com/ Credit.com Credit Experts

      The last four should be sufficient.

  • Ravi

    I had Surgery some time 2013 June and Hospital send bill to old address couple of times even i provided new address and they never call to my cell or send bill to collection department. But wehnI want to see Doctor about similar problem then they told me I have 1000 due and need pay immediately to provide further service. That time I had two insurances and amount can be covered easily. Now If I call second insurance to cover bill they are saying they will not have record more than 15 months and they will not able to cover since not finding my record. So I should suffer for hospital mistake ?

  • Fredalorraine

    I have been put into collection for an apartment rental. I gave them my 30 day notice and the following month the payment I made was the difference from my deposit. On the 3rd or 5th of the month I received a letter stating that my deposit could not be used toward the last month’s rent. Days after I received a letter on their letterhead stating that I needed to pay my rent full including late fees and court fees or vacant the property in 7 days. I moved on the 7th day and stop payment on the partial payment. I lived at the property for 15 days; there were no damages to property. My security deposit covered the days I was there plus a missing key fee with actually $25.00 left over. They are now charging me for the partial payment, late fees, stop payment and court fees. I offered them the partial payment amount and they declined what should I do?

    • http://www.Credit.com/ Gerri Detweiler

      You need to clarify what landlord tenant laws in your state say about the situation. In some states, the security deposit cannot be used to pay last month’s rent without written agreement from both the landlord and the tenant. Regulations vary by locality. Here’s a resource for state landlord tenant laws.

  • http://www.Credit.com/ Gerri Detweiler

    We wrote about that problem here: Credit Report Double Jeopardy Means Double Damage. You should be able to dispute all but the most recent collection accounts.

  • http://www.Credit.com/ Gerri Detweiler

    Yes, the original debt plus the collection account may be reported. However the information must be accurate. If it is not, you can dispute it.

  • Reds67

    My other questions, if when you pay a creditor, collection agency, etc, you write on check, money order “Upon cashing this payment you are agreeing that this debt will be removed from all three credit bureaus within 30 days” are they obligated to remove debt if they process payment?

  • Reds67

    Can someone please help. Just reviewed my Experian credit report and was shocked to find five negative items. The first is capitalone, found out they are reporting for HSBC bank, but they show a report date of 2/2012. I have an old credit report from 11/2010 which shows report date of 11/2008, due to come off report 7/2015. The odd thing is the address for capitalone on credit report dated 11/13/2014 is the exact same address and phone number for HSBC shown on my credit report with date 11/2008. Are creditors allowed to just change report dates and doesn’t the report date determines how long debt will be on credit report?

    • http://www.credit.com/ Credit.com Credit Experts

      No, creditors can’t just change dates at will. The date should be when the account originally went late (assuming there has been no account activity since then.) If you think the report is in error, you should dispute it. Here’s how: A Step-By-Step Guide to Disputing Credit Report Mistakes,

  • http://www.Credit.com/ Gerri Detweiler

    Very interesting. I am surprised you were able to get it removed. My experience with most consumers is that when it’s in the public record it continues to be reported. But that’s good to know it can be done! Thanks for sharing your experience.

    • Randall Parker Mba

      Generally, all you need is an “Abstract of Judgement” from the court, which backs your story. Sending that in along with your explanation can get the public record item removed.

      There are other ways to trick the system on this, but I’d rather keep those methods out of the public domain.

      I have had instances when one item was disputed this way and other, valid public records came off at the same time. I guess even those intelligent monkeys at the CRAs get confused sometimes.

      • http://www.Credit.com/ Gerri Detweiler

        Thank you!

  • http://www.Credit.com/ Gerri Detweiler

    Do you have recent copies of your credit reports? If not, I would recommend you order them. When you do, you will be provided with both the address for the credit reporting agency as well as a credit report number that will make it easier for you to file a dispute. Here’s how to get your free annual credit reports.

  • Alfred Zeiler

    During my divorce, Citimortgage filed a lis pendens action in Sept 2011. In Jan 2012, the home was sold via regular sale and Citimorgage was paid in full (i.e. home sold for more than was owed). I received a Payoff Thank You letter from Citimortgage, as well as a Release of Mortgage, and a Notice of Dismissal Without Prejudice & Cancellation of Lis Pendens. My credit reports now show “Account paid after foreclosure started”. Other than this blemish, my credit is nearly perfect. My score is still above 750, but I can’t get a small home equity loan with the word foreclosure in my credit file. Since there was no actual foreclosure, can I have the credit bureaus remove any references to foreclosure?

    • http://www.Credit.com/ Gerri Detweiler

      The legal action the lender took against you is probably part of the public record maintained by the court. The credit reporting agencies hire companies that gather this information from the court to be included with credit reports. There may not be a specific code for a lis pendens and therefore it is falling under the foreclosure code.

      Have you tried disputing it?

      • Alfred Zeiler

        It was initially listed as a foreclosure. After disputing it the first time without providing any documentation, it was changed to “Account paid after foreclosure started”. I’m currently disputing it again, but providing all the documentation in hopes they will remove any references to foreclosure. I just don’t know what the rules are in this situation.

        • http://www.Credit.com/ Gerri Detweiler

          The main problem is that they truthfully aren’t that interested in the fact that it was sold for more than you owed and the loan was paid off. They are more interested in the predictive value of the action that was originally filed. I know that’s incredibly frustrating, especially since the lender was made whole.

          • Alfred Zeiler

            It’s too bad that doing what’s right isn’t considered an equally, or more important, predictive value. Not discounting the fact that payments were not made, the coding aspect of this is a flaw in the system. If they don’t remove the word foreclosure, I’m considering taking this to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) and the corresponding Senate and House committees that oversee the CFPB.

  • http://www.Credit.com/ Gerri Detweiler

    I am so sorry to hear that. It doesn’t sound to me like you have failed at all, but tried to do the best in a very difficult situation. You don’t mention how much you owe but if it’s a large amount have you looked into bankruptcy? If that’s not an option then negotiating your bills will be your best bet though that’s not easy, especially when you are dealing with all the stress you are under.

  • http://www.credit.com/ Credit.com Credit Experts

    Yes, you should be able to. You will need to dispute it as “not mine,” explaining that you are an authorized user. The tradeline will be removed from your credit report, but you will still be able to use your card, says David Blumberg of TransUnion.

  • Herman

    Hello, my question is “Should I dispute negative credit and inquiries in one dispute letter or separate letters?”

  • http://www.Credit.com/ Gerri Detweiler

    Unfortunately this is a huge problem with medical bills. There is no law that requires them to stop reporting them while the insurance or lawsuit is settled. You may want to try asking the collection agencies if they will remove them given the circumstances. If not, you may want to dispute them via your credit reporting agencies in a few months – if they don’t confirm them they will be removed. You may also want to file a complaint with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau which is looking into these issues.

    We’ve written about these problems here: The Ultimate Guide to Solving Your Medical Bill Problems

  • Chicky

    Hi, I have payed off several things that were on my credit report, but they will not remove them. I have sent verification letters to the companies and disputed them with the response from the companies and they keep saying they have the right to report them for two years. The letters from the companies clearly state that I dont owe anything and these things can be removed from my credit report. What do I do?

    • http://www.Credit.com/ Gerri Detweiler

      I am sorry but I just don’t fully understand your question. What types of accounts are you talking about? Generally paying a debt doesn’t remove it from your credit reports. It should show a zero balance but the account itself can be reported. That’s certainly true for collection accounts which can be reported for 7.5 years from when you first fell behind with the original creditor.

  • Angie Turner

    I am trying to find out how to dispute all of my medical bills on my credit report. I am wondering if I even owe the full amounts they were billing me for. I need fully itemized statements as well as the remittances from the insurance company. What is the best way to go about this? Thank you!

    • http://www.credit.com/ Credit.com Credit Experts

      You can try contacting the hospital to request a bill. And do the same with your insurance company. (For future reference, this is better done right away.) This Credit.com resource may be useful to you: An Insider’s Guide to Fighting Medical Billing Mistakes

  • PLBG

    Hi Gerri, after being told by the car salesman that I would only have 1 inquiry on my credit report, I checks my report 2 days afterwards and found out there are 7 inquiries on my report and my score went down 50 points, can I have these inquires removed? I have the email where the salesman told me it will be 1 inquiry only, please help as I am trying to improve my credit.

    • http://www.Credit.com/ Gerri Detweiler

      I am emailing you. Please check your email.

  • http://www.Credit.com/ Gerri Detweiler

    I am confused. Is this a creditor or collection agency? Did they send you a collection notice?

  • http://consumerrecoverynetwork.com/ask-a-question/ Michael Bovee

    Daquila – Disputes with a credit reporting agency are, more often than not, separate from disputes with a collection agency.

    Have you disputed anything directly with the collection agency in question (verbally or written)?

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  • roni0300

    Gerri, I am divorced and have been for 7 years. I made the mistake of recently checking my credit report and found that the car awarded to my ex was repo’d. I have my divorce decree that clearly states this car is not my obligation. Will this document with a letter be strong enough to send to the creditor and the three agencies to get this off my credit report? What are my chances? Thank you for your column and advice.

    • http://www.credit.com/ Credit.com Credit Experts

      Unfortunately, the divorce decree doesn’t release you from the original terms of the loan. This happens often in divorce cases and is the primary reason why divorce causes so much credit damage.

      To explain in more detail:

      “The divorce decrees do not supersede the original contracts with your lenders. That means that just because the court orders one of you to pay a loan obligation, it doesn’t release the other spouse from liability on the account if it was originally opened as a joint or co-signed account. The lender doesn’t recognize that order as an amendment to the contract that both spouses signed. Both parties are still as equally liable as when the account was opened.

      Since both parties are liable, it’s likely that the account is being reported on both individual’s credit reports. And, if the account goes delinquent, regardless of the reason, the delinquencies will be reported on both spouse’s credit reports. This will severely damage the credit reports and credit scores for up to 7 years.”

      You can read more about this issue in the following resources:
      Can You Force Your Ex to Pay a Loan You Co-Signed?
      Getting a Divorce? Here’s How to Protect Your Credit
      Credit Tips While Going Through a Divorce

  • Sharon Edquist

    Hello Geri. How old is too old for debt to sit on your credit report? I had fantastic credit before my child got sick and eventually passed away. Through iout her time, my credit suffered something terrible. Its been almost 12 years since then, and the old debt will not go away. Even after requesting it several times.

    Trying to start over!!

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  • shirley

    i have 2creditcard out there for 12 year. i need help get them out please help me

    • Credit.com

      Shirley – if the credit cards are open accounts, they’ll remain in your credit reports indefinitely until they’re closed. If the accounts are closed they’ll remain for 10 years if the account was in good standing. If the account is closed and had derogatory or negative payment information, it will remain for 7 years from the date of the most recent delinquency. If it’s been 12 years, the credit reporting agencies must remove it from your credit reports — usually, this happens automatically. Unfortunately, we cannot remove the information for you — only the credit reporting agencies can, so you’ll need to file a dispute directly with the credit reporting agencies in order to have the issue resolved and the accounts removed. A couple great resources on how to do that are:

      1. How to Order Your Free Annual Credit Reports — http://www.credit.com/credit-reports/article/2010/08/00017/how-to-order-your-free-annual-credit-report

      2. A Step-By-Step Guide to Disputing Credit Report Mistakes – http://blog.credit.com/2013/02/a-step-by-step-guide-to-disputing-credit-report-mistakes/

    • Gerri Detweiler

      Shirley – I am not sure what your question is but it sounds similar to Sharon’s question above. If you need more information, let us know.

  • nene

    I also forgot to mention that I live in California.

  • nene

    Hello, thx for the info
    Dish network is reporting on my credit report so I called the company that it was sold to to find out specifics and come to find out the account is in my mothers first name and we have the same last name but with my SS#. Is this disputable? And how should I go about it? Thanks for the advice

    • Gerri Detweiler

      Nene – Yes. It is wrong so you can dispute it. Follow our instructions for disputing it in this article: A Step-By-Step Guide to Disputing Credit Report Mistakes. Be sure to dispute it first with the credit reporting agencies to protect your rights. Just state the account isn’t yours. If they don’t fix it, try going directly to the creditor or collector as listed on your credit report. If they don’t fix it, let us know and I will refer you to a consumer law attorney.

  • Prasad

    Hi Gerri
    I have a different situation. A company in which I was an officer in 2004 and no longer associated with the company from Starting 2005, has failed to pay some taxes. (Now the company has paid in full though). But State of NJ filed a petition with Supreme court, NJ showing my name also as defaulter. I disputed and sent several letters to NJ Tax department as well as all CBA documenting I was not at all associated with the company in the year in which the case was filled. Yet, since 2009 all CBA are still reporting court judgement against my name and this is hampering my credit and obtain refinance.
    Can you please help me how to resolve this

    • Gerri Detweiler

      Prasad –

      You can first follow our steps for disputing a credit report mistake here: A Step-By-Step Guide to Disputing Credit Report Mistakes.

      If that doesn’t work, I suggest you talk with a consumer law attorney who handles Fair Credit Reporting Act cases for advice. It shouldn’t be too expensive to get a consultation and if the credit reporting agencies don’t correct it, you may have a credit damage case.

  • CM

    I received a 1099-c from Citibank which cancelled a debt on 9/08/2011. I already paid the tax on the debt cancelled. They are still reporting a balance on my credit report. I disputed it online and they didn’t change it. My question is: If they cancelled the debt and I already paid the IRS taxes shouldn’t it be reported as a $0 balance on my Credit Report? By issuing the 1099-c aren’t they saying that the debt was forgiven and they wrote it off for tax year 2011? How can I get them to change this?

    • CM

      Sorry, forgot to mention I live in NJ. Not sure if that matters as far as Credit Reporting goes. Thank you

    • Gerri Detweiler

      The fact that you received a 1099-C in and of itself doesn’t mean the debt is cancelled. (The IRS says as much in their publications.) Whether or not the creditor can still come after you for that debt is a matter of state law and the contract. Having said that, if the creditor has charged off the debt and sold it to a collection agency (rather than just placing if for collection) then it would seem that the balance should be zero. You might try sending a copy of the 1099-C to the credit reporting agency with a written dispute asking them to report a zero balance. Be very specific in your letter.

      I have to warn you, though, that it probably won’t do a lot for your credit scores since the negative information – the charge-off or however it is reported – will still be there. In addition, if you do get a collection notice for this debt I would suggest you talk with a consumer law attorney to find out whether the collector can still try to collect it.

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  • Anne Drago

    I wrote to several furnishers asking what their reports were about because I didn’t know what the debts were for. Some replied that they needed more information from me to answer my questions. What does that mean and how should I proceed? Seems like if they don’t know I shouldn’t have to help them and they should remove it from my report.

    • Gerri Detweiler

      Hi Anne –

      I checked with consumer law attorney Robert Brennan who handles both credit damage and debt collection cases in Southern California, and here’s his opinion:

      Here, it depends on the type of information being requested.

      To me, the threshold question here is, did the consumer have an account with the creditor/furnisher? If the creditor/furnisher is having trouble locating an account or wants to verify that the person making the inquiry is in fact the account holder, I think some amount of background information, such as the information requested on a credit application, would be appropriate. This could include social security number if the creditor/furnisher indexes its accounts by ssn, but the creditor/furnisher should be able to access the account using name and address.

      If the consumer knows he/she has an account, which number would be listed on any full credit report, then the consumer should be able to request the information of his/her account. The creditor/furnisher should have in place some security questions to make sure that it is not giving out account information to a stranger or an identity thief, and this would be reasonable. Most banks and many creditors have security questions, such as mother’s maiden name or name of high school attended. This is all reasonable and common.

      In general, in my extensive experience with credit reporting, most creditors want the consumer to make a good faith effort to provide the information to the creditor to permit a reinvestigation. If the consumer is not forthcoming with requested information, the creditor/furnisher can take that as a signal of something less than good faith. I would generally advise consumers to provide the requested information so long as the requests are reasonable—name, address, social security number, driver’s license, account number, answers to security questions. If a creditor/furnisher wants more than that, this would raise a red flag, at least for me.

  • Bob Lane

    Great article and great advice. As someone who has done this in the past, one point I found very helpful is send the letter certified with required signature. You are correct in saying that the Bureaus know they have to investigate, and that you don’t need to quote the legal terms. However, it is very helpful to know when they received the letter for dispute.

    Thanks for your insight.

  • http://DivorceVictim Mike Nigro

    Gerri: I’m seeking your opinion regarding how the credit bureaus would respond if I pursue them to try and get a negative item removed from my credit report. A summary of my situation: Overall my credit history is excellent. Ten years ago I obtained a mortgage loan. My spouse at the time was not included on the loan because of her credit history; hence, I was able to obtain a better interest rate if the loan was in my name only. Six years later we divorced. As part of the divorce settlement, I relinquished my interest in the home and property as outlined in the divorce decree with the agreement that she assume all financial responsibilities for the same. A year ago she quit making the mortgage payment, subsequently abandoned the property and I got stuck with a foreclosure on my credit report. I pay her substantial alimony and couldn’t afford to resume paying “her” mortgage payment too. I feel like an innocent victim who is suffering the credit consequences. Do you think the credit bureaus would have any sympathy in my case if I’m able to show them documentation stating she had full financial responsibility?

    • Gerri Detweiler

      Unfortunately, you are stuck since this was a joint account. While you can relinquish your interest in the property, you can’t relinquish your liability for the debt. In fact, the lender may pursue you for the debt if it remains unpaid. I’d suggest you talk with your divorce attorney asap to understand your options.

    • Oscar

      what bank is the foreclosure with?

  • http://News+Advice Ellen Vickers

    I had my name use and stolen from hospital records was sent a letter from hospital and checked my credit report from the three credit places and yried to get them to remove things from my credit and with no luck.I have gotten in touch with the bank who also released my money to someone that was not on my account and do not know them is there any help for me to get it straightned out?Before all of this happened I had perfect credit it seems like the credit places do not want to help so I gave up it was stressing me out too bad.In fact the bank in which I was banking contacted me about some lady was tryingto cash a check on me because the young man knew I didn’t know them but his supervisor told him to cash it.and then they sent him to another one of their branches and I couldn’t talk to him again and the bank said it was my problem I had several accounts at that bank and my money was gone and no help from the bank.But how do you get things off your credit report even if you didn’t apply for certain catds.

    • Gerri Detweiler

      Ellen – Did you fill out a police report? If not, that’s one of the first steps you must take to make sure your id theft case is taken seriously.

  • EMB4215

    I received a collection letter from a collection agency attempting to collect a debt that the original creditor failed to submit to my insurance company for payment. I received a letter from this collection agency previously and informed the billing dept. of my insurance information for submittal of the claim. The time for the original creditor to submit the claim, according to the billing dept. is one year. These charges occurred back in 2009. Please advise.

    • Gerri Detweiler

      There is no simple solution to this kind of situation, I am afraid. I wrote about this in this article: Time for a Fair Medical Billing Act. At the same time, if the medical provider was in-network with your insurance company, its agreement with the insurance company probably requires it to bill in a timely fashion, and if it does not, it is not allowed to hold you responsible for payment. So assuming the provider was in network, I would recommend you do two things:

      1. Send the collection agency a letter (with proof of delivery) stating that you don’t believe you owe this bill and ask them to validate the debt. You don’t need to go into a great deal of detail here; they are required by law to honor your request.

      2. Contact your insurance company and explain the situation. Ask them what their rules are regarding in network providers who fail to bill in a timely fashion. You may have to go up the chain a little if the first person you speak with is not knowledgeable about this.

      Let us know what happens!

  • http://www.Credit.com Gerri

    Unfortunately the fact that you included them in your bankruptcy doesn’t mean they will come off your credit reports right away. My colleague Barry Paperno wrote a really good article recently on how bankruptcy affects your credit scores. It should help you understand how that works.

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  • Co Borrower

    My credit report is full of late pays and charge offs from my childrens loans
    that i co-signed. I have recently filled Bank ruptcy and included all these depts.
    should i be able to have those loans removed from my report.

  • http://yahoo edngo

    I just got a phone call at work from a debt collector that they want to paid for an unknown debt.

    what should i do to stop them to call me at work. Is it illegal to harassing me by calling me at work?

    • http://www.Credit.com Gerri

      If you tell a debt collector not to call you at work they must stop calling you there immediately. If they ignore your request than you may be dealing with a debt collection scammer.

      In addition, the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act gives you the right to request written verification of the debt. They must mail it to you (email is not sufficient). You may want to read: 11 Ways A Debt Collector May Be Breaking the Law.

  • Happy

    Fantastic. Really simple. My question : My account was handed over by my service provider to a collection agency for an amount of $54. This $54 was supposed to be paid by my insurance. However, Inspite of disputing this charge the coll agency put in on my credit history. Now the service provider has realized his mistake and update the same to the collection agency. The collection agency says they have deleted this charge from my credit history, however, I can still see it there, on creditkarma. A) If they have deleted this charge will my score go back to what it was before they put this charge there ? B) If teh charge is indeed deleted, should I wait for a month or immediately send a letter explaining this situation to the 3 credit bureaus ?
    Thank you so much for your advice.
    I actually have drafted my letter which I wanted to snail mail and came to this site in search of a sample letter :)… I wait with awaited breath 🙂

    • Gerri Detweiler

      I don’t know how often the service you are using updates credit information from the credit reporting agency. In addition, there can sometimes be a lag between the time when the furnisher updates and when they actually do. I’d suggest checking again in 30 days and if it’s not there, get your credit reports from AnnualCreditReport.com to see which agencies are reporting what. If it’s still on any one of the three reports, start by sending your letter to the CRAs reporting it.

      I’d also recommend you sign up for Credit.com’s free Credit Report Card. The service you are using now pulls credit information from a different credit reporting agency than ours does, so if you are using both you’ll have a more complete view of your credit.

      As far as your scores go, they are calculated with whatever information is available at the time the score is requested. If all the other information on your reports is essentially the same then your scores should “recover” once this is off there.

      Finally, you may want to check out the Medical Debt Responsibility Act which would give consumers some protection in these kinds of situations.

      • happy

        Thank you so much for responding. I ended up calling the three bureaus and this information was on file with all of them. I have disputed via telephone. Hopefully this will be resolved in 30 days. Interactions with Equifax were the beast-iest of all !

        • http://www.Credit.com Gerri

          Do let us know how this turns out!

  • http://www.improvemycreditusa.com Joshua Belland

    This is a great resource. I especially liked the part where you indicated the information that you should have on your letter of request. It’s extremely important to have all of your identification information on there. Also, I suggest sending the letter certified so that you know who received the letter.

  • Tory

    Thank you for the tips! My situation is that I’ve already “filed a dispute” through one of the credit bureaus. However All they asked was what I was disputing & sent me an email that Bank of America would not change anything on my report. More details on the situation; I had a B.O.A. Credit card that I fell into trouble with & missed a few payments, got on a payment program, then ran into some money & paid it off In Full (I realize now it would have been better to just make payments, instead of over $5000 lump sum) However, the real issue is its showing as Charged off on my report! But BOA accepted my payment in full & paid off the account. They’re claiming payment was due by Sept. 30 & they did not receive/post full balance check until Oct. 1st. It was most definitely dated & postmarked by Sept 27, I feel they chose to not post payment until the 1st, so they could add Charge off to my report. The late payments will cause enough negative impact, I Definitely don’t want a charge off showing, especially when it’s untrue! I appreciate any suggestions on what my next step should be to address this, write a letter as shown above? Thank you for any help!
    Tory B.

    • Gerri Detweiler

      Tory –

      Generally under the Truth In Lending Act, creditors are generally required to post payments the day they were received . This is probably a situation where you are going to have to try to find someone higher up the ladder at Bank of America to help you correct this. The credit reporting agencies are just going to check with the lender to confirm it and until their information is corrected you’re going to keep battling this.

      If you can’t get anywhere with the bank, I’d suggest you file a written complaint with the Consumer Financial Protection Agency.

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  • Steve Body

    You write:

    “The second decision you’ll need to make is whether to send in your complaint via snail mail (make sure to send it certified mail) or file it online. Both have pros and cons … ”

    What are the pros and cons of each, please?

    Also, is there any significant difference between requesting a credit report via snail mail or online?

    Many Thanks,
    Steve Body

    • Gerri Detweiler

      Disputing the mistake online is certainly fast and efficient. But you will llikely be limited in the types of errors they specify and you can’t include the documentation/proof you can include if you mail in your dispute. Whether to go this route depends in part on how simple and straightforward the error is. If you are having trouble correcting a mistake on your credit reports, I encourage you to post in our forums where we have a number of moderators who have a great deal of expertise in credit reporting issues.

  • Pingback: How Much Will One Late Payment Hurt Your Credit Scores? | Credit.com News + Advice()

  • TaShana

    Thank you I found this very informative! I do have a question…I am not sure but can lenders send 180+ continuously even though you begin to pay off your debt amount? Or does this matter in the case of a borrower like myself was on a hardship program and also working with a credit counsel company. Does this make a difference? If so, I think I need to contact the lenders to correct this.

    • http://www.Credit.com Gerri


      I am not sure I understand your question. Can you describe the situation more specifically? Did you have a debt that was charged off that you then started repaying through a credit counseling agency? Or did you start repaying it through the counseling agency before it was charged off? Or did you just make arrangements with the credit card company to enter a hardship program? (Again, was it charged off before this happened?)

  • Peter

    Hi question, thank you for your site, I have found it very very informative. I have tried many of these things myself over the few over the last few years and I wish I had the insight of this site before I had done this. I still have a few creditors that still refuse to change their reports even tough I have shown them to be an error. This has been a especially difficult for me as I have Multiple Sclerosis and I have to keep backing off as I tend to get stressed out and persons with MS do not do well or. should limit stress wherever possible. I do not have unlimited
    sources but I am wondering if you can Recommend help in my situation

    • Gerri Detweiler

      Peter – If your credit reports are wrong and they refuse to fix them then you can either:

      a. Complain to regulators (ConsumerFinance.gov and your state attorney general), BBB, etc. and copy the creditors/credit reporting agencies on those letters in the hopes that it prompts a response, or

      b. Talk with a consumer law attorney about a possible credit damage case.

      And thanks for the feedback on Credit.com. We are so glad you’ve found it helpful!

  • http://MSNMoney Jackie

    I have two problems. I have a work comp bills on my credit report from the doctors never obtaining authorization even when I went to workcomp court to have the visit approved OON. Work comp is not suppost to be reported to credit bureaus. I hvae an on going disput with Verizon Wireless about a horrible phone that never worked and I was charged a termination fee after I was told I would not. I had to give a deposit. Verizon sent part of the deposit back and then charged me ealry terminatio fee and the bill. How do I dispute these after a year of back and forth with out having to fit the bill of an attorney>

  • Gina

    Good morning Geri, I have read all of the above and it is great information, Although I have a company who bought and old debt that was paid in full 3 years prior and I have disouted it to all the credit agancys and the Collection company and nothing has happen to it being taken off my credit report. I have send proof of the payments that were made to the original debtor and still came back information is correct. I dont know where to go from here, could you please give me some advice in what to do now.


    • Gerri Detweiler


      It sounds like you have done all you are supposed to do but the collection agency has not done what is required to do by law, which is correct the erroneous information. Your next step should be to talk with a consumer law attorney. The good news is they will likely help you for free because the if the debt collector violates federal consumer laws it will have to pay your attorney’s fees.

  • http://lexingtonlaw.com Nick Collison

    This is great stuff! You’d be surprised how difficult it is to find simple instructions for submitting a complaint like this and you laid it out in “laymens terms.” Question: what would you recommend to people… to submit the request first to the credit report agency or to the company submitting the information to the agency?

    • Gerri Detweiler

      Thank you Nick!

      I personally handle it case-by-case by the type of error. If you know it’s a flat out mistake being made by the furnisher, going to the company reporting it means they have to share the correction with all the agencies to which they reported it. That means you don’t have to try to get each of the three to correct it.

      But if it’s something where you one of the CRA’s has it wrong, I’d go to the CRA. That’s also the route credit repair firms may take when they know something is accurate but are hoping it will not get verified and be removed from the report. How do you approach it?

      • Nick Collison

        That makes sense. Seems like that would totally save time rather than going to all 3 agencies.

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