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The Fair Credit Reporting Act is again your friend when it comes to fixing errors in your credit report.
Errors in your credit report include mistakes but they also include omissions. It's possible that actions you've taken to pay off a debt or clear up a delinquency, for example, are not showing in your credit report.
A useful rule of thumb is to review your credit reports from all three major credit bureaus at least once a year.
One reason to review the reports from all three credit card bureaus is that each bureau has a slightly different version of your credit report. You may find an error or omission exists in one of your reports but not others. Credit bureaus compete with each other, which can result in them having disparate information about you.
Under the law, credit bureaus are required to investigate your claim, usually within 30 days. A credit bureau must forward all information you give it to the creditor or other "information provider" that is reporting an error on your credit report.
If the creditor or information provider determines an error exists, it must correct it and notify all major credit bureaus. In turn, the credit bureau that reported the error must send you a free credit report to show that it has been corrected.
To request an investigation of an error or omission:
- Document your claim. Write a letter to the credit bureau with a clear explanation of what item on your credit report is erroneous. Be sure to phrase your request as a dispute of an item in your credit report. Send all available information to substantiate your claim and request the error be corrected.
- Inform both credit bureau and creditor. At the same time you contact the credit bureau, you should also inform the creditor or information provider. After all, it is responsible for the error being reported to the credit bureau. Be sure to phrase your request as a dispute.
- Send copies. Most likely, a credit report will have tipped you off to an error. Keep the original report and send the credit bureau and information provider a copy instead. In case you decide to litigate, original documents hold up better in court than copies.
- Keep records. You will want to keep records of all correspondence with the credit bureau and information provider. Be sure to record vital information of any and all conversations. Include dates of the conversations and with whom you spoke.
- Use certified mail. Using certified mail may cost a few extra dollars, but you receive notification from the deliverer that your letters have been received. The clock begins ticking for an investigation once the credit bureau receives your dispute.
If the credit bureau considers your request as frivolous, you may wish to contact the U.S. Federal Trade Commission's consumer help-line (877-FTC-HELP).
- Notify any soft inquiries of corrections. If an error does exist, request the credit bureau to notify any parties that may have reviewed your credit report in the past six months. You can also request any corrected credit reports be sent to prospective employers that have accessed your credit report in the previous two years.
If information in your credit report is accurate but negative, or your claim cannot be substantiated, you will be at the mercy of the calendar. Under the law, credit information can remain on your credit report for seven years, and 10 years if you've filed for personal bankruptcy.