If you discovered an error on your credit report, your first reaction is undoubtedly one of frustration. You pay your bills on time, live within your means, and avoid charging too many expenses to your credit cards. Despite your best efforts, inaccuracies or complete mistakes have appeared on your credit report and are dragging down your score.
Consumer protection laws in the United States have been formulated over the last 40 years to help protect you from predatory lending, set strict rules for debt collectors, and provide you with options when it comes time to dispute errors on your credit report. What steps can you take to dispute a mistake or inaccuracy you’ve found on your credit report?
Establish the Validity of Your Claims
Before you contact a creditor with any dispute about information on your credit report, you need to understand whether or not an item is actually wrong. A common example that leads to frustration in many people is the ding your credit score takes from a standard credit inquiry from a lender or other creditor.
In reality, credit reporting agencies are legally obligated to report any inquiries made regarding your credit. You can dispute those claims, but it is difficult to have them removed. Another common issue revolves around closed accounts. If you notice an account on your credit report you know to be closed, federal law permits that information to remain on your credit report for up to seven years. Ensure that it is listed as paid and make sure the rest is correct.
If you find that something is inaccurate, such as an account listed on your report that is in fact not yours, you can contact the credit reporting agency. Before you reach out to a credit reporting agency, make sure you have the proper documentation to back up your claims.
Never Settle for Verbal Assurances over the Phone
Assuming you have found an error on your report and called the credit reporting agency, it is important not to stop at that phone call. In order to protect your legal rights under federal consumer protection laws, it is important to send a written copy of your claim to the credit reporting agency. Once a written complaint is received, credit reporting agencies and creditors are legally obligated to investigate.
Dispute Errors Online or Via Mail
When you order your credit report online, you will have the option to dispute an error online or by mail. Like all other online applications, disputing an error on your credit report online is quick and convenient, but it may be difficult to include documentation to validate your claim. Again, it is critical that you establish a paper trail by submitting a formal, written claim to your creditor or credit reporting agency.
5 Common Mistakes to Avoid
As mentioned earlier, it is very easy to get upset and frustrated by inaccurate information on your credit report. If you submit a dispute without taking time to cool off and approach the process wisely, you risk making mistakes that will damage your ability to correct the error. When you dispute an item on your credit report, avoid these five mistakes:
- Dispute only with a creditor: Don’t limit your dispute to an individual lender, because if they ignore your claim or fail to rectify the situation, you won’t be able to correct the issue. The law requires you to send a dispute to the credit bureaus as well.
- Skip terms of agreement: If you buy your credit report online from one of the three credit bureaus, take the few extra minutes to read the terms of agreement. There is often a requirement that you mail an opt-out letter to the bureaus within 30-60 days to preserve your right to dispute claims in front of a jury, if necessary.
- Lose evidence: Never send lenders, creditors, or credit bureaus the original copies of any of your supporting evidence. You may need to submit it to multiple parties, so make copies and keep the originals for yourself.
- Not descriptive enough: Avoid being vague, and present all the information you can to support your case.
- Listening to debt collectors: Don’t allow debt collectors to pressure you into paying off debts you find suspect on your report. Exercise your rights under the law and avoid the pressure by asking the collectors to end all collection calls.
Disputing items on your credit report can be a time consuming task. If you’ve noticed errors, but find the process overwhelming, the legal experts at Vullings Law Group can help. Contact us to learn how we can help guide you through the process, from filing a dispute to following up with lenders and monitoring resolution of your claim.