How to Dispute Your Credit Report and Win
Have you ever checked your credit report and found mistakes? Inaccurate information can drag down your credit score, potentially costing you thousands on higher loan rates. Luckily, federal law gives you the power to dispute errors on your credit report and get them corrected.
At Ware Law Firm, we regularly help clients remove damaging inaccuracies from their credit history. With the right strategy, you can successfully dispute credit report errors and improve your score. This comprehensive guide will walk you through the process step-by-step.
Why It’s Critical to Dispute Credit Report Mistakes
Your credit report plays a major role in your financial life. Lenders, landlords, insurers, and even some employers review your credit history when deciding whether to approve an application. Just one serious mistake on your report, like an account that isn’t actually yours, can make it difficult to qualify for credit or could increase the interest rates you pay.
Under the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA), the three major credit bureaus – Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion – are required to ensure the information in your credit file is accurate and up-to-date. However, errors do slip through. A Federal Trade Commission study found that one in four consumers spotted an error when reviewing their credit reports. Getting serious mistakes removed from your credit history can provide a meaningful boost to your credit score.
How the Credit Report Dispute Process Works
The three credit bureaus are obligated by federal law to promptly investigate disputes and correct any inaccuracies identified in the process.
Here is an overview of how it works:
- You send a dispute letter to the relevant credit bureau, along with any supporting documents. This starts the 30-day dispute resolution clock.
- The credit bureau contacts the company that supplied the disputed information, like a credit card issuer or collection agency. The data provider reviews your claim and submits a response.
- The credit bureau makes a determination based on the evidence collected. If your dispute is found to be valid, the entry must be modified or removed.
- You will receive written confirmation of the investigation results, along with a free copy of your updated credit report if changes were made.
Under the FCRA, both the credit bureaus and data providers can face stiff penalties for failing to correct inaccurate information identified through the dispute process. The law provides important protections for consumers. Our firm helps clients hold credit bureaus accountable if they violate the law by refusing to fix credit report errors.
Step-by-Step Guide to Disputing Your Credit Report
Ready to get started cleaning up your credit? Follow these steps to dispute mistakes and optimize your chances of success:
1. Obtain Your Credit Reports
First, you’ll need to check your records at each of the three major bureaus – Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion. You can get free copies of your reports once per year at AnnualCreditReport.com. Many consumers make the mistake of only looking at one credit report. Review all three carefully, as the bureaus don’t share data. You will need to dispute errors with each bureau separately to fully clear your credit history.
2. Highlight Any Suspicious or Inaccurate Information
Go through each report line-by-line with a critical eye. Watch for:
- Accounts and inquiries you don’t recognize
- Late payments, collections, or other negative items from more than 7 years ago
- Outdated account statuses (like “late” on an account you paid)
- Misspellings of your name, wrong current address, etc.
Print out the reports and physically mark up any questionable entries with a highlighter. This will make it easy to reference specific disputes in your letters.
3. Compose Effective Dispute Letters
For each error, draft a dispute letter with the following key details:
- Your full name, current address, SSN, and date of birth
- A statement that you are disputing incorrect information on your credit report
- The account name, number, and disputed information (highlight and attach a copy of the inaccurate report)
- A brief explanation of why the entry is inaccurate
- A request to have the item removed or corrected
- Copies of any supporting documents (like account statements)
- Your signature and date
Be brief yet firm in stating your case. Vague dispute letters are easier for credit bureaus to reject. If you provide solid details and documentation, it strengthens your position.
4. Send Dispute Letters Via Certified Mail
It’s critical to create a paper trail proving the credit bureau received your dispute. Send your letters through certified mail with the return receipts requested. Keep copies of all correspondence from the credit bureau confirming delivery. Having certified mail receipts can help if the credit bureau tries to claim it never got your dispute letter. It provides indisputable confirmation that you met the requirements to start the 30-day dispute clock.
5. Follow Up If Your Dispute is Rejected
What if the credit bureau comes back claiming the negative information is verified as accurate? Don’t give up. You still have recourse:
- File an appeal. Mistakes happen, so you can request another manual review of the disputed entry.
- Submit additional proof. If you have more evidence the entry is wrong, like bank statements or a newly corrected report from the lender, present it to further back up your case.
- Complain to the CFPB. The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau oversees the credit bureaus and can help pressure them to properly investigate disputes.
- Hire a consumer law attorney. An experienced credit reporting lawyer can provide guidance on the best way to continue challenging the credit bureau’s decision and get inaccurate items removed.
In many cases, the credit bureaus do not conduct reasonable investigations and simply rubber-stamp the data furnisher’s response. But by being persistent and using regulators like the CFPB for leverage, you can get them to take a closer look and get the inaccuracies removed.
Partnering With a Consumer Protection Lawyer
Is your credit dispute particularly complex? Are you up against unreasonable pushback from the credit bureaus? A consumer protection attorney at Ware Law Firm can provide skilled guidance to improve your chances of success. Our consumer law team has extensive experience advocating for clients wronged by credit reporting errors and unfair lending practices.
Here are some key benefits of working with a lawyer:
- Knowledge of consumer law and the dispute process. We know what constitutes a reasonable investigation by the credit bureaus and when to push back if they aren’t meeting legal obligations.
- Advice tailored to your situation. We’ll review your reports, help identify the best dispute strategies, and craft persuasive letters on your behalf.
- Backing if legal action is needed. If the credit bureaus ultimately won’t correct serious errors, we can take them to court to compel them to comply with the law.
The cost of hiring help is also likely lower than you may think. Many clients recover their attorney fees and court costs from the defendants when we win judgments in credit reporting cases.
The Impact of Successful Credit Disputes
With effort and perseverance, you can get inaccurate marks scrubbed from your credit history. When negative items are removed, you should see your credit score begin to improve within a month or two. A credit score can increase by up to 100 points or more from fixing just one serious error.
Over time, your improved score will unlock better terms for credit cards, loans, insurance policies, rentals, and more. Our clients have used credit disputes as a springboard to qualifying for a first mortgage, purchasing investment property, or finally getting approved to refinance high-interest debt.
Don’t Waste Another Day With an Inaccurate Credit Report
Damaging errors on your credit reports could be needlessly costing you thousands. But you have the power to dispute those mistakes under federal law and quickly boost your credit standing.
As a consumer law office, the team at Ware Law Firm has the skill to help you successfully challenge credit bureau errors and optimize your credit profile. Don’t wait – contact us for a case review so we can start uncovering solutions tailored to your situation today. The sooner you dispute those errors, the sooner your credit will improve.
At Ware Law Firm, we know exactly how to analyze credit reports, identify errors, and compel the credit bureaus to fix inaccuracies. We’ve helped hundreds of clients improve their credit by getting negative marks deleted.