You've taken the first step to review your credit report, and you've found one or more errors. These errors can take the shape of inaccurate, missing or incomplete information. Now how do you fix them?
Start with creditors
Start by contacting the creditors who have supplied the information to the bureaus in question. The creditors' names, addresses and phone numbers are typically listed next to the accounts on the credit report.
If you have documentation that shows that your claim is accurate, like a cancelled check, bank statement, invoice marked "paid," court documents or other proof of payment, you can fax or mail a copy (NO originals) to the creditor to help update their records. You would then request that the creditor send a letter to the bureau(s) with the updated records, asking them to update the credit file on you. It is also helpful to have the creditor send you a signed, dated letter outlining the update with all pertinent information-account number, name, address, date, approving manager, etc., in case the first attempt at correction doesn't get completed for any reason.
Contacting the bureaus
Your next step is to contact the credit bureau(s) reporting the error. Equifax, Trans Union and/or Experian have a set of specific requirements needed to fix errors in credit files, and each bureau has both online and offline methods of processing.
You must inform the bureau in writing as to the specific information you believe is inaccurate. Your letter or online submission should provide the following information for each disputed item:
• Full company name of the disputed item creditor (from the credit report)
• Account number of the disputed item
• Reason for your dispute
• Copies (not originals) of documents that support your position
• You may want to enclose a copy of your report with the items in question circled
• Your current name, Social Security number, address, previous address and phone number so the bureau can contact you and verify your information
• For online disputes: The credit report number by bureau
The bureaus are required to investigate the disputed information and make corrections to your file, and will provide you with confirmation and a copy of the corrected file within 30 days (though it can take up to 60 days depending on circumstances with creditors, documentation or other issues). If the bureau is unable to correct your file, you will be notified and may have to provide additional documentation.
To contact each of the bureaus, use the bureau links or postal addresses below:
Equifax Information Service
P.O. Box 740256
Atlanta, GA. 30339
Experian (formerly TRW)
P.O. Box 2106
Allen, TX. 75002
P.O. Box 390
Springfield, PA 19064-0390
Faster corrections through your mortgage loan provider
Applying for a mortgage? The bureaus offer special expedited correction services through mortgage originators and their approved credit reporting agencies. This service was put in place to help consumers having trouble qualifying for a home loan due to credit report errors affecting the FICO credit report score. The expedited service is referred to as a "rapid dispute process" or "rapid rescore," and with proper documentation, it can correct errors and generate an updated credit report score in as little as 3-10 days. Note that this is a specialized service to the mortgage industry and is not available directly to consumers.
Will all corrections raise my FICO score?
Scoring models are dynamic and there's no guarantee that a certain correction will increase a credit report score. Scores sometimes decrease with corrections. Corrections that are most likely to give you a better score are those that improve the payment history information. If your report shows an erroneous late payment, an account mistakenly sent to collections, or any other information that can be updated to show payments made on time and as agreed, you'll get positive results. Another good correction area is in balances owing; if you've made payments that are not reflected on the report that would show your accounts carrying less than a 50% balance, go after corrections in that area as well.
Another potential report score increase area is in eliminating accounts that continue to report current delinquencies after bankruptcy discharge-they should be eliminated.
More information on credit reports & consumers
The FCRA (federal Fair Credit Reporting Act) regulates the credit reporting industry and protects consumers from harm caused by inaccurate credit information, among other protections. You may want to review a summary of the act online for more details about your specific rights under the FCRA.
What seems like a minor difference in your FICO credit report score can actually put thousands of dollars back in your pocket in saved interest charges. Take the steps necessary to correct your credit report now & get the credit score you deserve.