One of the most important powers you have as a consumer of credit is the power to utilize a credit dispute letter to dispute any inaccuracies on your credit report.
When you send a credit dispute letter to any of the credit bureaus (Experian, Transunion, or Equifax), by law they must investigate and resolve your dispute within 30 days.
Keep in mind, you are entitled to one free copy of your credit report annually by any of the credit reporting agencies through annualcreditreport.com. There are other companies that offer a free credit report service, but always be cautious about giving your personal information like your social security number or date of birth to any company without proper research first.
Credit report dispute form letters can be sent either by mail or online. Online submissions offer speed and convenience. However, certified mail is always the better option because you can guarantee the credit reporting company has indeed received your credit report dispute letter. Essentially certified mail allows you to track the correspondence through the “return receipt” and maintain evidence to support the start of the 30-day clock.
Anything on your credit report is subject to dispute. This includes credit inquiries, collection accounts, late payments, judgments, and anything other disputed items that might impact your credit score.
When you identify a problem with your credit report, you need to build a compelling case. You will need to do that to have the problem fixed or removed.
Your credit dispute letter is essentially a summary of your argument. You should send it to the credit bureau along with any relevant documents to support your case.
If your dispute is successful and the item is removed from your credit report, you will likely see your credit score improve in a matter of weeks. Fixing credit report errors on your credit account will improve your FICO credit score quickly. Even utility bills can be affected by negative credit scores!
How Do Credit Dispute Letters Work?
The Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) gives you the right to dispute inaccurate information on your credit report. You can do this order to protect yourself from unscrupulous creditors and overworked credit bureaus.
When you suspect one or more credit bureaus are reporting something incorrectly in your credit file, you can send them a credit dispute letter (see our letter template below). That requires them to investigate and resolve your claim within 30 days.
Once the credit bureau receives your claim, they label the item you flagged for review as “in dispute” on your credit report. Over the next 30 days, the bureau must investigate your claim. They will notify you of their findings.
If they find that the disputed information is unwarranted because the reported information is actually verified and determined to be accurate, they will simply remove the “in dispute” label.
They will not take further action. If they are able to confirm the problem of your identity, or if they fail to verify or validate the information that someone is reporting, they must remove the item you are disputing from your record.
It’s certainly possible to dispute something online or even over the phone. However, it’s always a good idea to use certified mail and retain receipts.
You should do this in order to document what you sent and when you sent it. This will help you to hold the bureau to the 30-day timeline required by law.
What Items Can I Dispute on my Credit Report?
You can dispute any item on your credit report. When looking through your report, which you should do periodically, keep an eye out for anything that appears to be erroneous or duplicated.
There are some more common errors to look for. Those include fraudulent accounts, credit card accounts labeled as closed when it shouldn’t be, false inquiries, inaccurate balances, inaccurate late payment records, and inaccurate account statuses.
Sometimes these errors are the result of identity theft (fraudulent accounts). Sometimes they are just mistakes like an incorrect phone number or contact information that the creditors or even the bureaus themselves made.
Identity theft can be a real hassle to dispute. That is because the perpetrators often use forged or stolen documents that “proved” they were you when they opened the account. This can make it very difficult for you to prove that you were not, in fact, the one who opened the account. In fact, the FTC (Federal Trade Commission) completed a study finding over 25% of Americans were dealing with identity theft.
When you have difficult situations to resolve, it may be worthwhile to hire a reputable credit repair company. They will know exactly what your situation needs in order to resolve quickly.
That is because they handle tough problems like identity theft every day. Yes, there are fees. However, it’s usually well worth it. People realize that when they consider all the time and aggravation they would incur by tackling it on their own.
You should make sure that any delinquent accounts haven’t outlived their lifespan on your report. For instance, a late payment shouldn’t be on there if it happened eight years ago. According to MyFico, most delinquencies shouldn’t be showing after seven years, though a Chapter 7 bankruptcy stays on for ten years.
You should also check closely to make sure no accounts are duplicated on your report. It can be tricky to catch sometimes, because loans can be purchased and repurchased over and over again, making it easy for mix-ups to happen. This is especially common with student loans.
What Should I Do Before Sending a Credit Dispute Letter?
The first thing you should do is make sure you have all your facts straight, along with any documented evidence such as court documents or payment records, to support those facts. There is always a possibility of not having enough documentation to support your claim, but it’s never a bad thing to have too much evidence.
If your dispute involves a mistake made by a specific creditor, you should call them first. They are the ones who provided the negative information, so it only makes sense to take up the issue with them first.
The creditor might acknowledge and fix the mistake right away, which could save you a lot of time and energy. They might agree to look into the claim and get back to you on it, in which case you should remind them that they have 30 days to give you an answer and let them know you will be following up with them often during that window of time.
If they dig in and stand by their reporting, you should demand that they send any evidence of verification as soon as possible. That information may help you determine what additional evidence you might need to include with the credit dispute letter that you are preparing to send to the credit bureau(s).
Template: What Should I Include in My Credit Dispute Letter?
At a minimum, you should include your credit report with your flagged item(s) highlighted, underlined, or circled in order to help them be sure what you are disputing.
You should also include any supporting documents that support whatever claims you are making in your dispute letter. You should keep all original documents for yourself and send only copies to the credit bureau.
It’s also advisable to maintain electronic files as a back-up, just in case your original documents are lost or destroyed.
We’ve included the addresses for the credit bureaus:
- Experian: P.O. Box 4500, Allen, TX 75013
- Transunion: P.O. Box 2000, Chester, PA 19016
- Equifax: P.O. Box 740256 Atlanta, GA 30374
Ready for your first (or final) draft? Mail this letter to the credit card company, student loan provider, etc. Here’s our credit dispute letter sample template:
<Your City, State, Zip Code>
<Name of Credit Bureau>
<City, State, Zip Code>
I am writing to dispute the following information in my file:
<Item 1: Name of Source, Type of Item, Account Number or Identifier>
<Item 2 if required, same format as Item 1>
You will also find this item circled on the attached credit report. The item I have identified is <inaccurate/incomplete> because<reason for the issue including any supporting facts/evidence>.
I am requesting that this item be <deleted / adjusted> in order adequately reflect my true credit history on the attached report.
I have attached all necessary supporting documentation to support my claim.
I am asking you to reexamine this item and <remove it from / correct it on> my file at your earliest convenience. I sent this letter via certified mail to ensure this matter is resolved within the required 30-day window.
Enclosures: <List any included files / attachments>
Here’s a downloadable Word Document version of our template:
It’s also a good idea to include two copies of a photo ID. Usually, these are a driver’s license and passport. That is just to make it easier for them to authenticate you. You should always send via certified mail to help you document and track the 30-day timeline.
What is a 609 Dispute Letter?
Unfortunately, 609 letters are not the ‘magic bullet’ many online articles make them out to be. In fact, in terms of the FCRA, a “609 credit dispute letter” isn’t a real thing.
Section 609 of the Fair Credit Reporting Act doesn’t actually have anything to do with your right to dispute information on your report. Section 611 covers your right to dispute information on your report that you believe to be faulty, incorrect or unverifiable.
This section is what makes standard credit dispute letters effective (whether using our template, someone else’s, or if you’re writing your own letter from scratch), not 609. If you’ve found inaccurate or incorrect information on your report, simply stick to a standard dispute template – and don’t worry about advertised quick fixes or special types of letters.
What if My Credit Dispute Letter is Rejected?
Was your letter intended for repairing your credit rejected by the credit bureau? You do have some options available that might help you repair your credit. One of the more common next steps is to file an appeal with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB).
If you decide to file an appeal with the CFPB, you should include all the supporting evidence that you sent to the bureau originally. In addition, include the bureau’s response.
You should also include a detailed account of why you disagree with the bureau’s findings, as well as any additional evidence that might be helpful beyond what you included with the original submission.
If the bureau took too long to process their response, you should be sure to let the CFPB know, and include any supporting evidence. Again, this is why it’s so important to use certified mail and retain all records and receipts.
Finally, it’s worth your time to write a statement summarizing your dispute, explaining exactly what happened and why you believe the item to be erroneous. The statement would be included with your credit report, and while it won’t help your poor credit score, it may provide just enough insight and clarity about the flagged item to help sway a would-be lender to make a favorable decision.