Get your credit report, not your credit score
This is one of the hardest things for people to get over. We as a society are so trained to value our credit score or FICO scores – to the point where we don’t actually care what’s on our credit report. Your score is based on the information in your credit report anyway, so what your credit report says is the important part! You can still spend some money to get your FICO score after this if you really, really want to. There are even a lot of free services out there that are willing to run your information and spit back out a number of some kinds if that makes you feel better. But right now, we’re concerned with the credit report.
The first thing you’re going to want to do is head over to annualcreditreport.com. It’s a site put together by the three major credit bureaus, Experian, Equifax, and the Trans Union, but authorized by federal law. Either way is fine as long as you do it. Anyway, now that you’ve gotten your credit report in hand, it’s time to take a magnifying glass to that sucker. Check for inaccuracies, accounts that aren’t yours, account still reporting open that you closed, accounts that belong to a family member and not you, that one’s really common with people with name suffixes, like a junior or the third basically anything that’s wrong if your report is accurate, then sweet, the airport of the 20 percent of consumers whose reports don’t contain any errors at all. So you’ve got a list of your inaccuracies, right? Then it’s time to write your dispute letter.
Don’t just copy a template you found somewhere
The credit bureaus get thousands upon thousands of letters daily and I know as much as we’d like to think there’s an actual human out there reading each and every letter they receive and giving each case the time and attention it needs, unfortunately, you and I live on the planet Earth and that type of stuff just doesn’t happen on a large scale. In order to cut down on the letters they receive that action has to be taken on, the bureaus and creditors will run your letter through an electronic processor, looking for similarities in structure to other letters. If you’re using a template the electronic processor has seen a billion times before, chances are, it’s just going to reject your letter and mark your dispute as frivolous. So don’t do that.
Put down your name, address, your zip and the date
Explain that the letter is a dispute letter, and list, line by line, each inaccuracy you’re disputing. State that according to the Fair Credit Reporting Act, they have 30 days to either verify the information is accurate, correct the inaccuracy, or remove the item from the report, and then in the letter provide copies of any documents supporting why that information isn’t accurate. Now, don’t get me wrong, its fine to look up a template online to see how others form their dispute and get an idea what info should be included in yours, but don’t just copy paste word for word and insert your information in. Doing that will likely get your dispute rejected and wastes your time and money.
Never, ever, ever dispute online
We live in the age of the internet! It’s never been faster and easier to give or request information, and that includes disputing errors on your credit report. So convenient! But the price you pay for that convenience is the possible lack of an accurately handled dispute request, or even worse, possibly the forfeiture of your rights under the law. Some creditors and bureaus these days are even started saying they’re no longer accepting disputes by mail and you can ONLY dispute online. This is not true. They certainly would like you to dispute online- much easier for them. But they are required to process your dispute whether you do it via snail mail or online form – as long as you do it formally and through official channels. They say this because they want to cut down on the amount of mail they have to sift through. But don’t feel discouraged like you have to play by whatever arbitrary rules they come up with. The law is on your side here.
When you make a dispute online, they’ll typically give you a bunch of options for you to state what your dispute is about. But what if your dispute doesn’t fit neatly into one of those predetermined categories? Then it’s entirely possible they could judge your dispute as being inaccurate and dismiss it just like that. Even worse, you have no paper trail or evidence you even disputed anything at all. They could just not respond back to you over and there would be nothing you could do about it legally. Is it possible to dispute online successfully? Sure it is. But snail mail is the way to go here to protect you. Believe me, I’m a tech head – so this is probably the only time you will hear me advocate using snail mail for anything, but it’s true. As much as it pains me to admit, the best way to dispute an inaccuracy is through a typed letter and envelope.
Send your letter certified mail, with a return receipt
It’s got to be in writing with a paper trail or it didn’t happen, same thing with disputes and inaccuracy. Always send your disputes certified mail with a return receipt, so you have written proof they got your letter. Otherwise, you’re just asking for this to happen. The Fair Credit Reporting Act says you have 30 days from the time you receive my letter to correct the inaccuracy or remove the item. It’s day 31, no response. You’re required by law to remove the item now.