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 items on your credit report. When you send a credit dispute letter to any of the credit bureaus, they are required by law to investigate and resolve your dispute within 30 days.
Credit dispute letters can be a sent either by mail or online. Online submissions offer speed and convenience, but certified mail is the always the better option, because it allows you to track the correspondence and maintain evidence to support the start of the 30-day clock.
Anything on your credit report is subject to dispute: credit inquiries, collection accounts, late payments, judgements, and anything else that might impact your credit score. When you identify a problem on your credit report, you need to build a compelling case to have the problem fixed or removed.
Your credit dispute letter is essentially a summary of your argument, and it should be sent 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.
How Do Credit Dispute Letters Work?
The Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) gives you the right to dispute items on your credit report in order to protect yourself from unscrupulous creditors and overworked credit bureaus. When you suspect something is being reported incorrectly by one or more credit bureaus, you can send them a credit dispute letter, which will require them to investigate and resolve your claim within 30 days.
Once the credit bureau receives your claim, the item you flagged for review gets labelled as “in dispute” on your credit report. Over the next 30 days, the bureau is required to investigate your claim and notify you of their findings.
If they find that your dispute is unwarranted because the reported information is verified and determined to be accurate, they will simply remove the “in dispute” label and no further action will be taken. If they are able to confirm the problem you identify, or if they fail to verify or validate the information that’s being reported, they are required to remove the disputed item from your record.
While it’s certainly possible to dispute something online or even over the phone, it’s always a good idea to use certified mail and retain receipts 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.
Some of the more common errors to look for are fraudulent accounts, false inquires, inaccurate balances, late payments that weren’t actually late, and inaccurate account status. Sometimes these errors are the result of identity theft (fraudulent accounts), and sometimes they are just mistakes made by the creditors or even the bureaus themselves.
Identity theft can be a real hassle to dispute, 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.
When you are faced with difficult situations to resolve, it may be worthwhile to hire a reputable credit repair company, as they will know exactly what your situation needs in order to be resolved quickly, because they handle tough problems like identity theft every day. Yes, there are fees involved, but it’s usually well worth it when you consider all the time and aggravation you would incur by tackling it on your 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 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).
What Should I Include in my Credit Dispute Letter?
As 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.
<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>
It’s also a good idea to include two copies of a photo ID, usually a driver’s license and passport, 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 if my Credit Dispute Letter is Rejected?
If this letter intended for repairing your credit is 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 of supporting evidence that you sent to the bureau originally, as well as 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 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.