How Credit Report Disputes Repair Your Credit
Inaccurate negative information hurts your credit score. Checking your credit report is the first step in credit repair. Removing inaccurate information is the next step.
What Information Can Be Disputed?
Technically, you can dispute anything on your credit report. Federal law requires the credit bureau to remove information that’s incomplete, inaccurate, or unverifiable.
• Your social security number (sometimes only the last four digits of your SSN appear on
your credit report)
• payments reported late that were actually paid on time
• Negativeinformationthat’spassedthe credit reporting time limit can be disputed for
• Accounts being reported by two collection agencies at once
• Accounts that don’t belong to you
• Accounts reported as closed that are actually open
• Accounts discharged in bankruptcy that are reported delinquent or charged-off
How to Make a Credit Report Dispute
If you order your credit report online, you might be inclined to make your credit report dispute online as well. However, this leaves you without the paper trail you’ll need if the credit bureau doesn’t follow the law.
The best way to send your credit report dispute is through the mail. Write a letter and send it certified mail with return receipt requested. That way you have proof of when the letter was mailed and received.
If you have multiple errors for your credit repair list, you should dispute them one at a time. Be careful not to bombard the credit bureau with several dispute letters at once. Instead, send a few, wait, and send a few more. If you send too many disputes at once, the credit bureau might decide your disputes are frivolous and refuse to investigate, which they can do legally.
In your dispute letter make sure you include the reason for the dispute, e.g. the payment
reported as late was made on time. It helps to include a copy of the credit report you’re
disputing with the error highlighted. You should also include copies of any proof you have supporting your claim. Keep the original copy of your proof for your records.
Send your dispute to the credit bureau that provided the report you’re disputing.Here are the mailing addresses for all three credit bureaus:
P.O. Box 7404256
Atlanta, GA 30374-0256
P.O. Box 9701
Allen, TX 75013
P.O. Box 2000
Chester, PA 19022-2000
Once you send your credit report dispute, the credit bureau typically has 30-45 days to do an investigation and send a letter alerting you to the result of the investigation. If your dispute results in a change to your credit report, you’ll automatically receive a free copy of your updated credit report. Otherwise, the bureau will send a letter telling you why your dispute was rejected.
Negotiate with Creditors Directly
You have the option to negotiate a settlement with your creditors directly. It is advised that part of your negotiation process involves an agreement by the creditor to stop reporting information to the credit bureauor request that the account be listed as ‘paid as agreed’ instead of being listed as ‘settled’ on the credit report. This can help raise your credit score as well as improve your chance of loan approval. There is no guarantee a creditor will agree to the request but it certainly can help you credit-wise if they will.
How to Construct a Credit Dispute Letter to Your Creditors
After discovering any information you would like to dispute, you’ll need to follow through
by filling out the appropriate forms provided by the credit bureaus to dispute the
Once received by the credit bureaus, each dispute must be investigated and contact will be made with your creditors.
If the creditor does not reply to the request for information, the credit bureau may drop the data from your report entirely if the debt is not verified. If the creditor does respond within the 30 day period, the information will be updated or left as is on your report. The credit bureaus will also send you written correspondence about the results of the investigation. If information is verified by the creditor to the credit bureaus that you do not agree with, you’ll need to construct a letter directly to the creditor.
Below is an example of what your letter to your creditors may look like:
City State Zip
Attn: Dispute Department
City State Zip
Dear Disputer Supervisor:
This letter is to dispute the following information that is being reported to my credit file. I have attached a copy of the report that contains the information and have circled it for your convenience.
The information in question is not accurate because (describe why the information is not accurate or incomplete as well as any action taken to resolve the matter). I am now requesting that the information be removed from my credit report (or ask for a specific change to update to correct information).
I have enclosed copies of relevant documentation that proves the information contained on my credit report is erroneous. I respectfully request an investigation into this disputed matter as soon as possible and that correspondence of results be forwarded to me at the conclusion of the investigation.
Enclosures: (provide list of what documentation are included with the letter)
Once the letter has been completed and the documents are attached, send it via
Certified/Return Receipt Requested through the US Post Office. This will ensure your dispute letter was delivered and you will have a confirmation of that receipt. Once you receive confirmation, wait three to four weeks before following up on with the creditor by phone if you haven’t received any other correspondence.
No Reply on a Dispute
Credit bureaus have the legal obligation to reply to your correspondence within a 30-day time frame. The Fair Credit Reporting Act states that the bureaus must have their investigation completed on your behalf within four weeks. In some cases, things do not go as planned. So what do you do now?
Put on the Pressure
In the event you get no reply, the credit bureau must remove the negative information you disputed effective immediately. This will benefit your credit score and attempts at credit repair. It is up to you to stay on task and follow up with the credit bureaus. You can send them a letter via Certified/Return Receipt Requested. Keep a copy of the information you are sending.
What to Include in the Letter
Be sure to create a professional-looking letter that contains your return address. You’ll want to inform the credit bureau that they have failed to reply to your initial correspondence and list the date of your first contact. Restate the FCRA law pertaining to the 30-day rule and put them on notice that they will be in violation of the law if they fail to remove the data. Let them know you have kept detailed notes and copies of all correspondence pertaining to the matter.
Keep a professional tone and request that the matter receive immediate attention. Enclose copies of your original correspondence that verifies the 30 days has passed. You should relist the accounts that should be deleted from your credit report due to the lack of response. Be sure to include your name and Social Security number for easy tracking.
Dispute a Consumer Dispute
Many consumers working hard to repair their credit will receive a reply from the agencies that their dispute is being disputed. A reply letter may indicate a frivolous dispute so it will be up to you to take further action.
What To Do Next
If you have received a letter stating the credit agency finds your disputes irrelevant or frivolous, you’ll need to take further action. Review your original dispute documentation and see what the reason was for your dispute. Plan to re-file the dispute using other reasoning that is still accurate and sound. The following lists of inaccurate information may help you find the most relevant for your situation:
• This is not my account
• I didn’t pay late during…(list date)
• Wrong amount listed
• Wrong account number listed
• Wrong original creditor information listed
• Wrong charge-off date listed
• Wrong date of last activity noted
• Wrong balance listed
• Wrong credit limit amount listed
• Wrong status listed – there are about 20 possible statuses
• Wrong high credit limit amount listed
What You Should Not Do
While it is imperative you dispute erroneous information, you should remember not to hit the credit bureaus with a mountain of disputes all at once. You will only be wasting your time. Follow through with only legitimate disputes and don’t attempt to challenge the credit bureaus with every entry in the hopes of having them all removed to boost your credit ratings. Once the credit reporting agencies consider all your disputes irrelevant, they are not legally obligated to change any data, leaving you back at square one.
What is a Charge Off?
A charge off lets lenders know you did not meet the financial obligations with your original creditor and that you still owe a balance on the account. See how much you still owe on the account and how much of it is listed as“past due”.Can you pay the account in full now? If so, contact the creditor and find out how to make payment and how long before the information is corrected on your credit report.
If you do not have enough money to pay for the account in full, contact the lender or the
collection agency handling the account and find out what your options are. Sometimes they will accept a payment plan toward paying off an account in charge off status; other times they require a lump sum payment. If they do accept payments, ask whether or not they will also update the account on your credit report to show you are making payments. This would show any other companies viewing your credit report that you are making good on this debt – although your credit score itself would not likely improve until the account is paid in full.
Pay for Delete
Considerusingapayfordelete.That’s when you pay off an account in exchange for having it
deleted from your credit report. It isn’t always successful as creditors and debt collectors aren’t required to remove any accurate information from your credit report. In fact, credit bureaus encourage businesses to leave this information on your credit report. Ultimately,it’sup to the business whetherto report an item on your credit report. So that’s who you approach with a pay for delete.
Which Accounts Are Best for Pay for Delete?
Pay for delete strategy won’t work with every account. It’s a better use of your time to try this negotiation on the entries that are most likely to get a good response. For example, don’t try a pay for delete on accounts that are current, but have past delinquency or accounts that have already been paid off. The accounts that are best for a pay for delete are collections and charge-offs.
Negotiating a Pay for Delete
Getting a pay for delete is all a matter of negotiation.Theagreement you’re looking for is
this: I’ll pay this account if you remove it from my credit report upon receipt of payment.
Anytime you make an agreement with an account, you should get that agreement in writing, even if the agreement is made over the phone. Get a signed copy of the agreement before you send payment. A signed copy of your agreement is the only leverage you have to make sure the creditor or debt collector holds up their end of the deal.
You can try to negotiate a pay for delete over the phone, but it’s often better to send a letter. In your letter, state that you’re willing to pay the debt in exchange for having the account removed from your credit report. In your letter, it’s very important that you don’t acknowledge that the debt is yours or make a promise to pay it off other than in exchange for deletion.
If you can’t afford to pay the entire debt, and the debt is owned by a collection agency, you can try to offer a lower lump-sum payment in exchange for deletion. Debt collectors often buy debts for less than 10% of the face value, so they’re like to go for a settlement offer. This is especially true if the account has been through several collection agencies.
Sample Text of a Pay for Delete Letter
Here’s a sample body of a pay for delete letter.
In checking my credit report, I discovered your claim that I owe $XXX for an alleged debt. I would like to make an offer on this debt that would serve both our interests.
I am aware that your company has the right to report this debt to the credit bureaus as you see fit. I am willing to pay $XXX as full satisfaction on this debt if you agree to remove the listing from my credit report.
This is not a promise to pay or an acknowledgment of the debt. I am aware that I have the right to dispute the validity of this debt and request that you send proof of this debt. I believe my offer works in both our interests.
If you accept this offer, sign, and date a copy of this agreement and return it to me. I will make payment only if I receive a signed and dated copy of this agreement.
Removing Public Records from your Report
You may have to work with an attorney to get public records like foreclosure and repossession removed from your credit report. If you can show that there is something about the entry which is questionable, you may be able to successfully remove it from your credit report. But, the hard part is finding the necessary loopholes. That’s where an attorney who’s knowledgeable about your state’s laws comes in.
Using Debt Validation
The credit reporting agencies are required to remove any collection records which cannot be validated from your reports. When you send a validation request, you request the debt collector to send proof of the debt you allegedly owe. It is worth noting that some debt collectors don’t bother with validation requests and their lack of action will result in the record being removed from your credit report. That does not mean that you no longer have to repay your debt, it only means that it will not be used to calculate your credit score because the information given to the credit reporting agencies couldn’t be validated. While the validation takes place, the collector can’t collect on the debt or put it on your credit report until the proof has been sent. Again, send these requests via certified mail with return receipt requested.