When you drop in at Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion’s websites to get a credit report, it’s not super complicated. Where this does get complicated, however, is the instance you find a discrepancy on your credit report which is why you ordered one in the first place. It's always good practice to keep a close eye on your credit report, especially if you want to finance that perfect car. Unfortunately, if you spot an inaccuracy on your credit report it’s not as simple as letting the credit bureaus know of their mistake.
There’s a whole process and it can be quite involved because the bureaus aren’t necessarily going to drop everything they’re doing just to address a flaw in one of the millions of credit reports they handle. That said, it is not impossible to take the helm of this operation.
If you find a problem on your credit report, the recommended way is to complete a form on the credit bureau’s website, wherever you got your report from. You can also go to websites like CreditKarma, which provides a service that lets you dispute with multiple bureaus at once.
It’s recommended by the FTC that if you have something to dispute on Equifax’s report, consult with its website. All three credit bureaus offer a way to submit online your dispute. While this is definitely easy and less time consuming, it is not always effective. According to the Federal Trade Commission, the best way to dispute an element on your credit report is to submit it in writing.
Not only do they suggest submitting it in writing, but also to both the credit bureau that provided the credit report and the lender that provided the bureau with the information. The FTC provides a sample letter to send the credit bureau, as well as a sample letter to send the lender. According to the FTC, the credit bureau in question usually investigates your claims within 30 days.
The order in which to contact first, lender or bureau depends on your situation. The best thing you can do first finds out where the mistake came from. If you know it came from the lender, you can have them contact the bureau and update your credit report. However, the lender can refuse to do this and in that instance, the next step would be to contact the bureau. If the lender isn’t to blame, contact the bureau first so they can help you gather information that they need.
Another thing to remember about filing a dispute against a credit report is you must provide evidence. So with your letter, include copies of your credit report so both the bureau and lender can see what you’re talking about.
In your letter, outline explicitly which part of your report that you’re disputing. It’s important to do this because the bureau or lender could decide your dispute isn’t worth their time. The lender also needs to be in contact with the bureau, or, credit reporting company throughout this process, and inform them of your dispute.
In the event your dispute is agreed upon by the bureau, they must inform the lender of the incorrect information. If your dispute is agreed upon, FTC states that the bureau and lender in question must provide you with the results of their investigation and a new, free copy of your credit report, if a change to the report is necessary.
According to the FTC, your file may not contain information from:
These might not be included because they don’t always report your information to creditors. Negative information, including bankruptcy on your report, could stay on your record for up to ten years. The best way to [fix your credit report, if there are no inaccuracies, is to be patient and stay diligent with paying your bills on time, keep your balances low, your credit active and amount of open accounts low.
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