It’s entirely common to find an error on your credit report — and that’s where the credit dispute letter comes into play.
But first things first — to actually file a dispute you will need a copy of your credit report from each of the three Credit Reporting Agencies (CRAs) (Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion). Between now and April 2021 you can check each of your credit reports weekly for free at AnnualCreditReport.com.
It’s important to check all three credit reports separately because lenders and creditors are not required to report information to all three CRAs, so each credit report could have different information (and, potentially, errors).
With your reports in hand and errors spotted, what’s next?
Here are some answers to a few common questions.
Can I Dispute Something on My Credit Report Myself?
Here’s the good news: Under the Fair Credit Reporting Act, you have the right to dispute incorrect or inaccurate items on your credit report. Not only that, your right to dispute doesn’t require you to hire anyone to write a credit dispute letter on your behalf.
Upturn, on the other hand, is a free service that can help streamline the dispute process by submitting TransUnion disputes on your behalf. However, it’s possible to write and send a letter on your own. From there, the CRA reporting the information is generally required to investigate the dispute and deliver results under the Fair Credit Reporting Act, usually within 30 days.
What is a Credit Dispute Letter?
In the credit report context, a credit dispute letter refers to a written communication that is used to notify the CRA of a mistake or misinformation on your credit report. An effectively written letter, among other things, identifies the information in question, provides an explanation of why it’s incorrect, and requests a specific course of action to resolve the error.
There is no guarantee a credit report dispute letter will provide the results you want, but it’s entirely possible to use this as a means to clear up mistakes that are negatively impacting your credit score.
How Do I Write a Credit Dispute Letter?
This letter is going to serve as your proof that something is wrong on your credit report. Therefore it’s imperative that it be clear, direct, and detailed. And format matters as well.
For those who haven’t seen a properly formatted letter in years (or perhaps ever, depending on your age), here’s a sample credit report dispute letter the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has on its website:
Credit dispute letters that work generally have a few things in common. First, the body of your dispute letter, includes:
- The item on the credit report you’re disputing
Identify the exact item you believe is inaccurate, using the name of the creditor responsible for the information (like U.S. Bank, for instance).
- What type of item you’re disputing
This could be a credit account, judgement, or bankruptcy, just to name a few.
- An explanation of whether the item is inaccurate or incomplete and why
Be as clear and precise with this explanation as possible.
- The change you wish to see on your credit report
State whether you believe the item should be removed or edited. If it should be edited, explain how.
- A request the issue be resolved
It’s also important to note, credit report disputes may be more effective if the information you are disputing is in fact incorrect or inaccurate or the information is accurate but incomplete. You generally cannot have accurate information removed from your credit report simply because it’s negative. If you are able to have negative (but accurate) information removed, it’s usually because the data furnisher (e.g. creditor or lender) did not produce requested information confirming its accuracy within the time allotted.
Do I Have to Send a Dispute to All 3 Credit Reporting Agencies?
If you received your credit report for free after visiting AnnualCreditReport.com, then you had to choose to see your credit report from one or more of the three credit reporting agencies (CRAs). Whichever one you chose that’s showing the error is the CRA that should get the letter. If you’re seeing errors on more than one report, then you have to send more than one letter. If you purchased your report directly from a CRA and it had an error on it, then that CRA should get the dispute letter.
In other words, you don’t necessarily need to dispute an item on your credit report with each CRA — unless all three CRAs are reporting the same inaccurate information. [Remember: It’s important to regularly review your credit report from each CRA. If you’re only looking at one report, you’re missing two-thirds of the puzzle.]
Where and how to send credit dispute letters varies based on the CRA.
To dispute an item on your Experian credit report you can either use their dispute form or create your own letter (see the templates and sample credit dispute letters above). You may also want to compile copies of any documentation you have that may support your claim. Learn more here.
Once you have everything ready to go, you can mail your credit report dispute letter to:
P.O. Box 4500
Allen, TX 75013
To dispute an item on your Equifax credit report you can create your own letter (or use a template), compile any relevant documentation they suggest, and mail everything to:
Equifax Information Services, LLC
P.O. Box 740256
Atlanta, GA 30374-0256
Note: Find out how to submit a dispute online or by phone here.
To dispute an item on your TransUnion credit report you can create your own letter (or use a template). Find out what they suggest including to better process your dispute here. Once you’ve compiled everything you can mail your dispute to:
TransUnion Consumer Solutions
P.O. Box 2000
Chester, PA 19016-2000
Note: You can submit your TransUnion dispute online or by phone. Upturn can also help you review your TransUnion credit report, spot any errors, and submit a dispute on your behalf — all for free. Sign up here.
In addition to sending your credit report dispute letter to the CRA reporting the error, you may want to consider sending a letter to the data furnisher as well. The data furnisher is the entity who supplied the information to the CRA in the first place (a lender, creditor, landlord, etc.). The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau offers tips as well as a template for creating this letter.
Under the Furnisher Rule of the Fair Credit Reporting Act, data furnishers are generally required to conduct their own investigation into a dispute if it falls within certain guidelines. The Fair Credit Reporting Act also generally requires CRAs to report their findings within 30 days and ensure all CRAs have updated the information in question if they determine it to be inaccurate.
What is a 609 Dispute Letter?
If you’ve ever looked up information about credit report dispute letters, you’ve likely seen mention of a 609 letter.
According to Experian, 609 refers to the corresponding section of the Fair Credit Reporting Act that grants consumers the right to access their credit report and information pertaining to their credit report. It doesn’t actually refer to the section stating consumers have a right to dispute incorrect information — that is section 611 of the Fair Credit Reporting Act.
Regardless, the idea behind the 609 letter is to dispute information the CRA or original creditor potentially may not be able to produce, like a cancelled check or original signed documents. In theory, if the information is unverifiable, the CRA would be required to remove the information from your credit report.
So, do 609 dispute letters work?
Potentially, but there’s certainly no guarantee. While a 609 dispute letter may lead to the removal of negative items from your credit report, this information can be added at a later date if the CRA determines it to be accurate. In addition, according to Experian, the Fair Credit Reporting Act, “entitles us to all of the information the credit reporting agencies have in their systems—not information they do not have in their systems.”
Will a Credit Report Dispute Impact My Credit?
Does filing a dispute affect your credit score? Yes and no.
If your dispute is successful and information that was negatively impacting your score is removed from your credit report, then yes, it’s possible your credit could improve as a result. On the other hand, correcting information like a misspelled name may not have any impact on your credit score at all.
The good news is, simply filing a dispute should not have an adverse effect. In other words, even if your dispute does not result in information being changed or removed, you shouldn’t be penalized.
What Happens After a Credit Report Dispute Letter is Sent?
After a dispute is opened, the CRA(s) you submitted it to will usually follow a few specific steps.
According to Equifax, after a dispute is opened you should receive a 10-digit code you can use to reference the progress of your claim. From there, they will either update your credit report as requested, or contact the data furnisher (e.g., creditor or lender) to confirm the accuracy of the information in question. They state they will notify you of the results of your dispute within 30 days.
Equifax may note on your credit report that a dispute is in process.
According to Experian, after a dispute is opened they will also reach out to the data furnisher to determine if the information is accurate or simply correct the information if no additional verification is needed. They state a dispute may take up to 30 days and they will send your results once the investigation is complete.
Experian will likely not indicate on your credit report that an item is under dispute.
According to TransUnion, after a dispute is opened they will also either update the information as requested or reach out to the data furnisher for validation of the information. If the information is corrected, you should receive an updated copy of your credit report along with the results of your dispute.
TransUnion will also likely not indicate on your credit report that an item is under dispute.
The CRA in question isn’t the only entity with an obligation to act once a dispute is opened. The data furnisher that provided the information at issue is also generally required to conduct their own investigation and report back to the CRA their findings, within a reasonable period of time (usually 30-45 days). If they do not report back during this time, the CRA will likely consider the information unverified and delete it from your credit report. If the data furnisher determines the information they originally provided isn’t accurate, they are then generally required to alert the remaining two CRAs of the error.
What Does it Mean to Have a Dispute Letter Labeled ‘Frivolous?’
Now not all credit report disputes will follow the steps discussed above. If a CRA or data furnisher determines your dispute to be “frivolous,” they may decide to close the dispute without investigating.
So what makes a dispute frivolous?
According to the FTC, for data furnishers a dispute may be considered frivolous or irrelevant if:
- You didn’t provide enough information.
- You previously submitted the same dispute.
- The data furnisher already offered the information available and there is no new information to report.
- OR if the type of dispute you are contacting the data furnisher about falls into the categories outlined in section 660.4 of the Fair Credit Reporting Act. (A few of the examples outlined in this section should be handled directly with the CRA, not the data furnisher.)
- You didn’t provide enough information.
- You previously submitted the same dispute.
What Can I Do if My Credit Report Dispute is Denied?
If your credit report dispute is denied, that doesn’t necessarily mean there’s nothing else that can be done.
First, let’s take a look at a few potential reasons why your credit dispute was rejected in the first place.
- There wasn’t enough supporting documentation.
Find out what is helpful to include here.
- The dispute was labeled “frivolous.”
See why this could be the case above.
- The information you were disputing was determined to be accurate.
If the data furnisher was able to confirm the accuracy of the information you are disputing, the CRA will likely leave the information intact.
- The dispute was started with the wrong CRA.
Remember, each of the three CRAs operate independently of each other. So it’s important to monitor all three credit reports and dispute information with the CRA that has it.
Here are a few ideas for handling a credit report dispute denial.
- Make sure you are disputing with the right CRA.
Again, if one CRA is reporting the error, that’s the CRA you need to send the dispute to. If all three are reporting the same error, send the dispute letter to all three.
- Collect more information and try again.
If a lack of sufficient evidence was the reason behind the denial, it’s possible to collect more documentation and re-submit the credit report dispute letter again. Just be sure the dispute letter and supporting information is not identical to what was previously submitted.
- File a “statement of dispute.”
If your credit report dispute was denied but you still believe it was valid, you have the option of adding a “statement of dispute” to your credit report. This is a 100-word statement (or less) explaining what you believe to be inaccurate or incorrect and why, essentially giving future lenders and creditors context to negative information. You may also have the option of asking the CRA reporting the information to send your statement to anyone who accessed your credit report recently.
- Let time pass.
Fortunately many negative items will fall off your credit report after a certain amount of time, generally 7-10 years depending on what it is. So if you are unable to have an item removed, eventually it should be cleared on its own. (But certainly keep an eye on it to ensure this is what happens.)
- Get a report.
If the error on your credit report is the result of fraud or identity theft, make sure to file a report with the FTC. According to them, “if you have an FTC Identity Theft Report, credit bureaus must honor your request to block this information.”
Overwhelmed at the prospect of writing a credit dispute letter? Upturn offers a free alternative to disputing items on your TransUnion credit report. All you have to do is sign up for a free account and Upturn will walk you through items on your credit report that might contain errors. If you spot an error, Upturn will submit a dispute on your behalf. Get started here.