An error on your report can be devastating. Not only can it negatively impact your ability to obtain affordable credit, but it can also impact your insurance rates and your chances of being offered a job.
Everyone is entitled to one free report from each of the three major bureaus per year. It is a good idea to request it from one of them every four months. This will serve as your own monitoring service to ensure no negative or incorrect data is being provided. To request one, visit the annualcreditreport website. This is the only site that truly offers you a free copy according to federal law. You can also call 1-877-322-8228 or fill out the required forms and submit via mail to get your free copies.
Once you receive them, make sure all of the information is correct. If you find an error, you must contact both the bureau and the entity that provided the inaccurate information. Under the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA), both are responsible for investigating and correcting the record if found to be incorrect or incomplete.
The first step is to contact the major bureaus. You can choose to submit a dispute online, but it is not recommended. It is better to submit it in writing and send via certified mail with a return receipt requested. Write a letter which clearly states what information you believe to be incorrect and why, as well as what corrective action you would like taken, i.e. deletion or correction.
Include copies of any documents you have to support your position, but do not include originals as you need these for your files. It is also a good idea to include a copy of your file from the bureau with the items you are challenging circled so that there are no questions. By law, they must investigate within 30 days. They must forward all relevant data to the provider, who also must investigate and provide a statement back to the agency. Further, if they find that you are correct, the item must be deleted.
In addition to correcting your record, the reporting agencies must notify you in writing of the changes and provide you with an updated copy of your file. This does not count as your yearly free copy. If you request, they must also notify anyone who received it in the past 6 months of the corrections, and you can also request to have this information sent to anyone who has looked at it for employment purposes in the past two years.
Errors can have a huge impact on you financially. It is important to remember that you have the right to ensure your record is correct. While disputes can be time consuming and stressful, you must remain focused as an incorrect item must be erased according to federal law.