The information in your credit report is used to calculate your credit score. In that regard, since incorrect information can prevent you from obtaining credit, insurance, a home or even a job, you want to make sure that your credit reports are always accurate and up to date. This is why you have the legal right to dispute any errors or inaccuracies.

How to Dispute Errors on Your Credit Reports

Creditors, lenders, insurers, employers, landlords and other businesses will look at your credit and consider it when making a decision. You'll want to make sure that ALL of the information found in your credit reports is correct. Otherwise, you will be evaluated unfairly when it comes to these situations. Here's how you can dispute errors on your credit reports in three simple steps:

Step 1. Order a Copy of Your Credit Reports

To fix any errors, you first have to figure out if there are any. There are three national credit reporting agencies. They are Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion. These agencies are required to provide every consumer with a complimentary copy of their credit report once a year. All you need to do is request it. You can do so by visiting AnnualCreditReport.com and filling out their online form.

Each of the three national bureaus operates independently, so the information on your reports will be slightly different on each. If it has been a while since you have monitored your reports, it may be best to get all three at once and do a careful evaluation. If you are a periodic checker, it's probably best to space out the three reports in four month increments throughout the year. That way you can keep a close eye on them year-round.

Just know that the goal is to make sure you are monitoring all of your reports at all times. Thoroughly read through them and be on the lookout for any false, inaccurate, or incomplete information.

Step 2. Alert the Credit Bureau AND Information Source in Writing

How to Dispute Errors on Your Credit Reports

If you notice any errors, you need to alert the appropriate credit agency. Notify them by sending a letter or by filling out an online dispute form. We would recommend sending the letter because it will allow you to be as detailed as need be.

Your letter should contain your name and address. It should clearly identify each item in your report that you dispute, accompanied by evidence (facts, information, and/or documents) that prove why the information is inaccurate, incomplete or out of date. You should enclose a copy of your credit report with the information in question circled. Lastly, include a formal request to have that information removed or corrected. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has an excellent sample dispute letter on its website.

At the same time, you should send a similar letter to the source of the disputed information. The source of the information is the person, company, or organization that provided your information to the credit bureau. Both the agency and in the information provider are responsible for correcting the information in your report. Again, you can find an example of this letter on the FTC's website.

Step 3. Wait For Their Response

After you have sent the disputes, the agency then has 30 days (for a written dispute) or 45 days (if additional proof is included) to investigate your claim(s). They will do so by contacting the source of the disputed information, who in turn will scrutinize how that information came to be on your report.

Once they get to the bottom of it, they will report their findings back to the credit bureau. If the information does in fact turn out to be an error, the source must notify all three agencies so they can correct your reports.

The original agency you sent the dispute letter to will then notify you of the result in writing. If you were correct in your dispute, they will send you an amended copy of your credit report. This does not count toward your annual complimentary copy. At your bequest, the agency will also send a notice of the correction(s) to anyone who received and/or pulled your credit report in the past six months.

As long as you can prove it, you should never settle for having any errors or misreported information on your credit reports. Just remember to be as detailed as possible, provide evidence and be authoritative with your request to have the information removed. If you aren't up to the task, there are also services who are willing to perform credit report repair for you.

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