What Are Your Rights When Disputing Information on Your Credit Report?
If you find inaccurate information on your credit reports, it's important to know your rights when disputing it with the credit bureau.
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Your credit report is a crucial document that details how you manage your credit, so it's important to ensure that it's accurate. But according to research by Consumer Reports, 11% of Americans have inaccurate information relating to accounts listed on their credit reports.
Additionally, credit reporting errors are the top complaint the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) receives from consumers. The CFPB recently noted that some consumers were struggling to resolve errors on their credit reports, so they issued clarifying guidance to reinforce consumers' rights.
Erroneous or incomplete information could potentially impact your FICO® Scores, and if you find something amiss on your credit reports you have the right to file a dispute with the three credit bureau, Experian, Equifax and TransUnion. Here's what to know about the process and your rights as you navigate it.
You Have the Right to an Accurate Credit Report
Your credit report is used to calculate your FICO® Scores, and lenders, employers, landlords and even insurance carriers can use your credit reports to make decisions when you apply for credit, a job, a place to live, or a policy.
As a result, you have the right for the information found in your credit reports to be accurate and complete. It's recommended that you review your credit reports regularly and watch out for inaccuracies or fraud that can negatively impact your credit profile and FICO® Scores.
Through December 2023, you're allowed to obtain a free credit report each week from each of the three credit bureaus through AnnualCreditReport.com.
Credit Bureaus and Businesses Must Investigate Your Dispute
Once you submit a dispute, the credit bureaus are given 30 days to investigate it and forward the evidence you provided to the business that reported the information you're disputing, so it can do its own investigation and report back to the bureau.
If the bureau has reasonably determined that your dispute is frivolous or irrelevant, it can end its investigation. Otherwise, it must provide the results in writing and, if the investigation results in an update to your report, a free copy of your credit report.
Additionally, the credit bureau is required to send correction notices to anyone who reviewed your credit report in the past six months. If you'd like, you can request that the bureau do the same for employers who obtained a copy of your credit report in the past two years.
The Bureaus Can't Add Extra Requirements
When you file a credit report dispute, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) recommends that you explain in writing what you believe to be wrong and provide copies of documents to support your assertion.
This may include a payoff statement, past billing statements or anything else that proves your case.
But credit bureaus are not allowed to make the process more difficult by adding extra requirements. For example, you're not required to submit your dispute through the bureau's preferred form or provide specific documents, such as a police report or even your credit report.
You Don't Need to File a Dispute with Creditors
You can contact the creditor that furnished the inaccurate information separately, but it's not required. When you submit a dispute and include documentation and other evidence to support your claim, the credit bureau is required to forward all relevant information to the creditor that provided the disputed information.
In other words, if you've provided all of the relevant information to the credit bureaus, you're not required to resubmit it to the company that furnished the data you're disputing.
If you do file a dispute with the creditor instead of a credit bureau, the business is required to notify the credit bureaus of your dispute. The bureau will then add a notice to your credit file that the information may be inaccurate or incomplete. If the creditor determines that the information is, in fact, inaccurate or incomplete, it must update or delete it.
Not All Disputes Are Honored
If the credit bureau finds that the information is accurate and complete, it won't change or remove it. However, you can request that the bureau add a statement of the dispute to your credit report. You can also ask the bureau to furnish your statement to anyone who's obtained a copy of your report in the recent past, though you may need to pay a fee for that service.
If the information is accurate, but it's hurting your FICO® Score, note that most negative information will be removed from your credit report after seven years.
The Bottom Line
Discovering inaccurate or incomplete credit report information can be a stressful experience, but federal laws protect your rights as a consumer.
If you need to file a dispute with one of the credit bureaus or a creditor, make sure you provide your personal information, as well as the relevant information and documentation about what you're disputing. The FTC even provides a sample letter that you can use as a template.
While the credit bureaus aren't required to approve all disputes, they are required to investigate them promptly and thoroughly to ensure proper reporting.
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