So you found a mistake on your credit report. Maybe it says you paid a bill late, or didn’t pay one at all, but you have proof that you did. What can you do to fix the problem?
It’s time to dispute.
Starting a dispute on your credit report might seem intimidating at first, but if you follow these steps it doesn’t have to be. In fact, the first step is to simply write a dispute letter. Although you can skip this if you dispute online, choosing to write the letter instead gives you the room you might need to explain more details about the error. And you can still check the status of your dispute online even if you send in a letter by mail.
Ready to get started? Here’s how to write your dispute letter and fix your credit report.
How to Write a Credit Report Dispute Letter on Your Credit Report
This letter is going to serve as your proof that something is wrong on your credit report. Therefore it’s imperative that it be clear, direct, and detailed. And format matters as well.
For those who haven’t seen a properly formatted letter in years (or perhaps ever, depending on your age), here’s an example that the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has on its website:
In short, according to the FTC, the body of your dispute letter should include:
- The item on the credit report that you’re disputing
- What type of item you’re disputing
- An explanation of whether the item is inaccurate or incomplete (and why)
- The change you wish to see on your credit report
- A request that the issue be resolved
Pretty straightforward, right? Well, there’s one more thing to consider — and it will affect what should be included in your letter: where it’s going.
Where to Send a Dispute Letter on Your Credit Report, and Extra Details to Include
If you received your credit report for free after visiting AnnualCreditReport.com, then you had to choose to see your credit report from one or more of the three credit reporting agencies (CRAs). Whichever one you chose that’s showing the error is the CRA that should get the letter. If you’re seeing errors on more than one report, then you have to send more than one letter. If you purchased your report directly from a CRA and it had an error on it, then that CRA should get the dispute letter.
Before we go on, it’s important to note that you should really be reviewing your credit report from all three CRAs. That’s because lenders don’t have to report to all three, which means your three reports could show different information. And that leaves room for different errors to pop up. If you’re only looking at one report, you’re missing two-thirds of the puzzle.
Back to the error. You only need to send a dispute letter to the CRA showing the error. If two CRAs are showing perfect credit reports and one is not, that’s the one the letter should go to. But before you finish your letter, you should know that each CRA might require a bit more than what the FTC spells out above.
Equifax explains that what they need from you might vary based on the type of error you’re disputing. Here’s a general list to get started:
- Copies of your driver’s license, birth certificate, and utility bill
- Statements regarding the account with information in dispute
- If you had your financial institution correct information on their end, include a letter from them stating that the change had been made
After you have your letter and documents printed and ready to mail, you can send them to the following address: Equifax, P.O. Box 740256, Atlanta, GA 30374-0256.
Experian expects a bit more. Here’s what you’ll need on your dispute letter and in addition to it:
- Your birthday, social security number, and name spelled out with middle initial if you have one
- All addresses you lived at for the past two years
- A copy of your ID and a copy of a utility bill or bank statement in your name
- Everything else listed in FTC’s example above
Once your bundle is complete, you can mail it to Experian at P.O. Box 4500, Allen, TX 75013.
This one might be the easiest of all. Here’s what TransUnion expects to see:
- Your TransUnion file number
- Birthday, address, and social security number
- Everything else listed in FTC’s example above
All finished? TransUnion will take your letter via mail or fax at P.O. Box 2000, Chester, PA 19016-2000 or (610) 546-4771.
Stop Before You Drop Your Letter in the Mail
The FTC and other experts advise that you don’t just drop your letter in the mail, but that you send it via certified mail with a return receipt requested. That means you’ll get to find out if and when the letter arrives at its destination.
Never heard of certified mail? It’s simple. Just go to your local post office, grab the certified mail forms at the counter, and follow the instructions on them to fill them out. You can also ask for help at the post office if you prefer to have someone walk you through it.
When you’re finished, give the letter to a post office employee to process it and charge you. Sending a letter via certified mail does cost more than a stamp — but those few dollars give you peace of mind and proof you might need later that the letter arrived where it needed to go.
Although you only have to send the dispute letter to the appropriate CRA, you can opt to send it to your financial institution as well (the one with an account showing an error on your credit report) if you want to. Finally, if you have more than one error, they might be easier to track if you send individual dispute letters for each one.
Once your CRA gets the letter, they have 30 days to resolve the issue. In the meantime, you’ll be able to check their website for updates.
A Paper Trail Never Hurts
Knowing you can do this online, you might be wondering why it’s worth the extra effort to do it by mail. In reality, it’s just another step you can take to prove your case. A literal paper trail might not be necessary, but it certainly can’t hurt. Whatever route you take – digital or paper – it’s important that you document everything you do and keep those records.
Never take an error on your credit report lightly — these errors can affect your credit score. And the more you put yourself in the driver’s seat of the dispute, the better you can make sure you end up with an accurate report and the score you deserve.
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