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How to Write a Credit Dispute Letter

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If you’ve got an error of your credit report, it’s up to you to find it, dispute it and fix the error. Formally disputing an error involves writing a formal dispute letter to the creditor as well as the appropriate credit bureau reporting the inaccuracy. Sounds like a piece of cake, right? Not always.

Errors are not all created equal—and unless you’re specific and provide evidence for your claim, you risk having your dispute denied. Or worse: the error can actually get re-reported to the credit bureaus if you fail to work directly with the creditor reporting the error in the first place.

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    Here’s what you should know if you’re getting ready to send a credit dispute letter.

    Your Right to Dispute Errors on Your Credit Report

    According to a 2012 study by the Federal Trade Commission, as many as 20% of U.S. consumers has an error on at least one of their three credit reports. A credit dispute letter informs your creditor and the credit bureaus that you believe something is incorrect on your report. You should write one if you find anything that is incorrect, especially if it’s causing your credit score to be lower than it should.

    You can dispute anything that is inaccurate on your credit report, including:

    • Collections
    • Bankruptcies
    • Foreclosures
    • Late payments
    • Closed accounts
    • Personal information

    The Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) ensures that consumers are able to review their credit report for accuracy and dispute any errors, unsubstantiated claims and outdated information. If your dispute is not responded to quickly and appropriately by the credit reporting agencies and your creditors, you can file a complaint with the Federal Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. In most cases, the bureaus are required to investigate your claim within 30 days of receiving your letter and wrap up their investigation within 90 days.

    〉 Tip: Signing up for your free Credit Report Card from Credit.com can give you a head’s up if something is amiss with your credit report.

    You can request your free credit report from each of the three credit reporting bureaus annually. Finding errors on your credit report isn’t as uncommon as you might think. According to the Federal Trade Commission, as many as 20% of people could have an error on their report. That’s true even if you think you’ve already resolved the problem. Request and review them each year to stay on top of the information contained there.

    If you’re not sure whether something could be amiss with your credit report, start by checking it.

    Credit Report Dispute Letters and Your Credit Score

    An error on your credit report—such as a debt reported beyond the statute of limitations, a credit card marked as closed when it shouldn’t be or something related to identity theft—can seriously damage your score. That makes it harder to secure an affordable line of credit.

    A credit dispute letter doesn’t automatically fix this issue or repair your credit. And there are no guarantees the credit reporting agency will remove an item—especially if you don’t have strong documentation that it’s an error. But writing a credit dispute letter costs little more than a bit of time. And when you do have the documentation to make a case for an error, this effort can be well worth it when the bureau corrects the mistake and your credit returns to your accurate and fair credit score.

    〉 Tip: If you don’t feel comfortable filing a dispute on your own, you can hire a credit repair company to do so on your behalf.

    609 Letters

    A 609 letter is a debt validation letter asking for information about an item on your credit report. It’s named after the section of the FCRA that gives you a right to request this information—section 609.

    If you’re not sure whether an item on your credit report is a mistake or you need more information to create a case that it is, a 609 letter can be a good start. You’ll need to include account names, numbers or other identifying details to make it easy to identify.

    In general, you should send a 609 letter to the three main credit reporting agencies. Those agencies must then investigate alleged errors and make corrections as necessary. Send 609 letters via certified mail so you can track them and ensure they are responded to on time.

    609 Letter Example

    YOUR NAME
    YOUR STREET ADDRESS
    YOUR CITY, STATE AND ZIP

    DATE
    ADDRESS OF CREDIT AGENCY
    Re: CREDITOR NAME, ACCOUNT NUMBER

    Please be advised that I’m exercising my rights as spelled out by the Fair Credit Reporting Act in Section 609. I am requesting information about the following items on my credit report.

    •  LIST ACCOUNT NAMES AND NUMBERS

    Please provide me with copies of the original sources for the items reported. That includes contracts or service agreements I signed.

    If this information is not available, please note that the validity of these items cannot be determined. Please remove them from my credit history.

    Sincerely,

    Your signature and name

    How to Write a Credit Dispute Letter

    If you already have proof that an item is an error—or you do once you receive information related to a 609 letter—it’s time to write a dispute letter. The major credit bureaus currently allow consumers to send disputes online, so you can simply follow their online instructions. If you decide to mail a physical letter instead, send your letter via certified mail with return receipt requested.

    Include all of the following information when filing a dispute.

    • Your full name
    • Your current address and all addresses you have lived at over the past two years
    • Copy of a government-issued ID
    • Copy of a utility bill, bank statement, or insurance statement
    • A reference line that begins RE: and includes the name of the creditor and the account number for the item(s) you’re disputing
    • Your Social Security number—or the last four digits of it, for security purposes
    • The reason you’re writing
    • Why you believe the item in question is an error
    • A list of enclosures, including an annotated copy of your credit report
    • The resolution you are requesting from the credit bureau to ensure fair credit

    Some bureaus or creditors may require different information. Check with them before sending anything. Do not send originals—the bureaus will not return documents that you submit to them.

    In addition to a copy of your report indicating where the mistake is, send any document that you think may help you make a case that an item is incorrect. Some options include:

    • Proof of a payment
    • Proof that an account was not in your name
    • Documents that show a matter was settled in your favor

    Credit Dispute Letter Template

    When dealing with mistakes on your credit report, it can be difficult not to get frustrated. Keep your dispute letter as clear, concise and professional as possible.

    YOUR NAME
    YOUR STREET ADDRESS
    YOUR CITY, STATE AND ZIP

    DATE
    ADDRESS OF CREDIT BUREAU/CREDITOR
    Re: CREDITOR NAME, ACCOUNT NUMBER

    To Whom It May Concern:

    I’m writing to dispute information on my credit report. Please see the attached copy of my report. I have circled the information in question.

    This information, namely [DESCRIPTION OF INFORMATION INCLUDING CREDITOR AND ACCOUNT NUMBER], is inaccurate because [REASON YOU BELIEVE IT IS A MISTAKE]. Attached you will find proof in the form of [DESCRIPTION OF ATTACHMENTS AND HOW THEY PROVE THE ERROR].

    I am requesting that [ACTION, SUCH AS “THE ITEM BE REMOVED” OR “THE INFORMATION BE CORRECTED TO REFLECT …”].

    I expect you to perform your investigation of this matter within the statutory time frame of 30 days pursuant to the Fair Credit Reporting Act.

    Sincerely,

    Your signature and name

    Where to Send Your Credit Dispute Letter

    Send your credit dispute letter to the credit bureau that has published the incorrect information. Don’t forget to file a dispute with the original creditor who reported the error as well. You may find that you need to send the letter to all three bureaus if the information is on all your reports. The three major credit bureaus also allow you to submit an online dispute.

    Experian
    Dispute Department
    PO Box 4500
    Allen, TX 75013

    Online

    Equifax
    PO Box 740256
    Atlanta, GA 30374-0256

    Online

    TransUnion
    TransUnion Consumer Solutions
    PO Box 2000
    Chester, PA 19016-2000

    Online

    Follow Up to Fix Your Credit

    If the statement is deleted, you’ll know your letter paid off. If not, you have a couple of options. First, you can add a short written statement to your credit report, which will appear next to the item you disputed. This may help future creditors see your side of the story, but it doesn’t do anything for your credit score.

    The second option is to escalate your dispute and hire a reputable credit repair company to help. Good credit repair companies have experience working with these matters and can often bring additional resources. Keep in mind that a reputable credit repair agency will never promise results and won’t take payment until they’ve rendered services on your behalf.

     

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