Disputing Errors on the Credit Report

If you are in the process of reviewing your credit reports, the first thing to do is make sure that the information contained within the reports is correct.  In June 2004, The U.S. Public Interest Research Group published the results of a survey it conducted involving 200 adults in 30 states to test the validity of credit reporting.  Their findings were as follows:

  • Twenty-five percent (25%) of the credit reports contained errors serious enough to result in the denial of credit;
  • Seventy-nine percent (79%) of the credit reports contained mistakes of some kind;
  • Fifty-four percent (54%) of the credit reports contained personal demographic information that was misspelled, long-outdated, belonged to a stranger, or was otherwise incorrect;
  • Thirty percent (30%) of the credit reports contained credit accounts that had been closed by the consumer but incorrectly remained listed as open.

(Source:  US Public Interest Group Research; One in Four Credit Reports Contains Errors Serious Enough to Wreak Havoc for Consumers, US PIRG Press release, 06/17/04 http://uspirg.org/uspirgnewsroom.asp?id2=USPIRGnewsroom)

If you find that you have errors on your credit report, follow this procedure to correct those errors.

  1. Make a copy of the report and circle the items you are questioning.  Keep your original copy for your own records.
  2. Prepare a letter to the CRA that provided you with the report in question and request to have the erroneous item(s) removed.  If you have proof of payment for an item in question, include a copy of that documentation.
  3. Prepare a letter to the creditor reporting the problem, especially if you feel you are a victim of fraud or identity theft. Inform the creditor that you are disputing an error reported to the CRA, state why the claim is inaccurate, and include any relevant documentation to prove your point.
  4. Send your correspondence via certified mail.

You should receive a response from the CRA within 30 to 45 days.  If the error has been corrected:

  • They will send you a fresh copy of your credit report at no charge to show you that the item has been removed
  • They will also send a corrected report to any entity that received a report that contained errors within the last six months

If you cannot have a disputed item removed, you have the right to include your side of the story on the credit report.  Your statement should be a concise explanation (100 words or less) as to why you are challenging the item in question.  From that point on, this notation will be included in your credit report as long as the item in question remains on your report.