The government and the credit reporting industry recognize how important, and how error-prone, credit reports are, so fair credit laws make it relatively easy to dispute your credit report. Relatively. Here are the main steps, discussed in more detail below:
- Step 1: Get a copy of your credit report and review your credit report for errors.
- Step 2: Write a dispute letter or fill out an online form for each error you uncover.
- Step 3: Collect documents that support your dispute claims.
- Step 4: File your dispute through online forms, telephone, or postal mail (certified/return receipt).
- Step 5: Allow 30 days or less to get back the results of the dispute investigation.
The three credit reporting agencies offer both in-common and unique dispute services, tools, and advice. Each bureau’s site explains its error-dispute processes, including:
- Information to include in your dispute letter
- What supporting documentation to include
- How to file your completed dispute package
- How to find updates as your dispute progresses
The agencies urge online filing for more rapid resolution. Each bureau offers information for postal mail and telephone-based filings as well. You can begin the dispute process by obtaining a copy of your credit report from each bureau at annualcreditreport.com, a site established by law and overseen by the three agencies. If you detect errors, experts recommend marking them on the report, which you will copy and include in your credit report dispute package.
Equifax’s site offers a comprehensive list and examples of documents that could help support your case, including personal information, account-related information, and “other.”2 The examples include:
- Driver’s license
- Birth certificate
- Utility bill
- Current bank statements
- Letters from a lender that support your dispute
- Proof of identity theft related to a specific account
- Cancelled checks
- Student loan disability letters
- Bankruptcy schedules or other court documents
These materials, together with your dispute letter stating the facts and requesting corrections or deletions (several examples are available online), are your dispute package.
You can file credit report disputes with one or multiple bureaus, depending on where you’ve found inaccuracies. Experian’s Dispute Center, for example, offers interactive tools to make reports from workstations or smartphones.3 With postal mail, experts recommend certified mail with return receipt, to assure delivery. And, it’s a good idea to record dates and all communications, whatever filing method used.4