January 22, 2009


Errors on a credit report are about as common as spots on a dalmatian. Information on your credit report (accurate or not) will impact your ability to obtain credit, insurance, and possibly your job. Unfortunately, many consumers are unaware of how to remedy these mistakes…

Begin by obtaining a current copy of your credit reports (Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion are the three primary credit reporting agencies). Make certain to avoid the gimmick “free credit report” websites (these places typically provide you with one report and then stick you with costly fees for a credit monitoring service of questionable value). Always use the government -sanctioned website to get your free reports: www.annualcreditreport.com. You are entitled to one free report per agency every 12 months.

Before going on, let’s be certain we are clear on some important points:
-- Errors are mistakes (inaccurate information) on your report, NOT merely negative information. You have a legal right to have wrong information corrected. If information is accurate and verifiable, it will remain on your report as part of your “credit history” for the allowable duration (typically 7 years; there are exceptions – inquiries, some instances of bankruptcy, tax liens, etc.). This information [if negative] will be removed after the expiration time window; if it has not been removed (and should have), it can be disputed and removed.

-- It is CRITICAL to understand that the vast majority of “credit repair” agencies are scams! Most will do nothing for you that you can’t do on your own (legally) at no cost. Companies seeking a fee prior to rendering any services are a good tip-off to the rip-off.

While there are multiple methods of initiating a dispute – mail, online, and phone – the most convenient and efficient means is online.

- Locate the “report number.” This can be referred to by different names. It is the number on the top center of your report. This number provides the reporting agency with a ‘snapshot’ of the report you are viewing.

- Dispute the errors directly to the agency whose report you are reviewing:
o Equifax (www.equifax.com/online-credit-dispute)
o Experian (www.experian.com/disputes)
o TransUnion (annualcreditreport.transunion.com/entry/disputeonline)

- Specify the information you believe is inaccurate (i.e., current account shown as delinquent, account shown that consumer never opened, information from someone else’s report …) and enter any additional information that further explains the problem. (You can submit multiple errors in the same dispute). Know that it is not your responsibility to prove they are wrong; it is their job to prove they are right.

After your dispute is submitted, the credit reporting agency will contact the provider of the data asking them to verify the information. They will typically have 30 days (can be up to 45) to verify the accuracy of the information in question. If the information is unable to be verified [or if they do not respond in this timeframe], it will be removed from your report. If they are able to verify the information, you will be notified of that and will want to contact the company directly to seek closure (the credit report will provide contact information to do so). If the dispute is initiated online, you will be notified (typically within 3-5 days of the outcome) by e-mail and you can immediately view the results. You will also receive an updated credit report that reflects all changes made. If requested, the credit reporting agency must send notices of any corrections to anyone who received your report in the past 6 months. You can also have a corrected copy of your report sent to anyone who received a copy during the past 2 years for employment purposes.

What if that does not resolve the problem?
If you disagree with the results of the investigation, you have the right to add a 100-word statement to your report that explains your side of the story. This consumer statement gives you an opportunity to explain why a negative item is listed on your report. Creditors and potential lenders may review this information and take it into consideration when making credit decisions. It will remain on your report until you request that it be removed. Some credit reporting agencies will provide assistance [if desired] in drafting your statement.

While it is in the best interests of the credit reporting agencies to ensure the information they maintain is accurate, mistakes/errors are common. Ultimately, it is YOUR RESPONSIBILITY to ensure that the information in your credit report is accurate!