Many credit reports accumulate errors over time and some of these errors can be serious enough to lead to a denial of credit. For this reason, it is important to fix any incorrect information as soon as you discover it.
Both the CRA and the information provider have responsibilities for correcting inaccurate or incomplete information in your report. To protect all your rights under this law, contact both the CRA and the information provider. In both cases, include copies of documents that support your position, and send your letter by certified mail return receipt requested, so you have proof that they received it.
First, tell the CRA in writing what information you believe is inaccurate.
Experian’s National Consumer Assistance Center
P.O. Box 2002
Allen, TX 75013
Equifax Information Services
P.O. Box 740241
Atlanta, GA 30374-0241
Trans Union Corporation
P.O. Box 2000
Chester, PA 19022
This letter should include your full name, current mailing address and previous addresses for the last five years, your Social Security number, your date of birth, your spouse’s name and Social Security number (if applicable), the name and account number of the creditor and item you’re disputing, and your explanation of the error. CRAs must reinvestigate the items in question — usually within 30 days — unless they consider your dispute frivolous. They also must forward all relevant data you provide about the dispute to the information provider. After the information provider receives notice of a dispute from the CRA, it must investigate the matter, review all relevant information provided by the CRA, and report the results to the CRA. If the information provider finds the disputed information to be inaccurate, it must notify all nationwide CRAs so that they can correct this information in your file.
When the reinvestigation is complete, the CRA must give you the written results and a free copy of your report if the dispute results in a change. If an item is changed or removed, the CRA cannot put the disputed information back in your file unless the information provider verifies its accuracy and completeness, and the CRA gives you a written notice that includes the name, address, and phone number of the provider.
Second, tell the creditor or other information provider in writing that you dispute an item. Many providers specify an address for disputes. If the provider then reports the item to any CRA, it must include a notice of your dispute. In addition, if you are correct — that is, if the information is inaccurate — the information provider may not use it again.
If the CRA or information provider won’t correct the information you dispute, ask the CRA to include your statement of the dispute in your file and in future reports. If you request, the CRA also will provide your statement to anyone who received a copy of the old report in the recent past. There usually is a fee for this service. If you tell the information provider that you dispute an item, a notice of your dispute must be included anytime the information provider reports the item to a CRA.
Although the Federal Trade Commission can’t act as your lawyer in private disputes, they do investigate complaints to detect patterns. Send your questions or complaints to: Consumer Response Center, Federal Trade Commission, CRC-240, 600 Pennsylvania Ave NW, Washington, D.C. 20580. If push comes to shove, you may sue a CRA, a user, or (in some cases) a provider of CRA data, in state or federal court for most violations of the FCRA. If you win, the defendant will have to pay damages and reimburse you for attorney fees to the extent ordered by the court.