Credit Report Disputes, Part 1

Thanks to computers, initiating disputes with the credit reporting agencies is a relatively easy process. If the dispute is initiated online, you can typically have the issue resolved within about 10 days, although legally the reporting agencies have up to 30 days to investigate your dispute.

Before a dispute is made, you must obtain a copy of your credit report from each reporting agency you’ll be filing a dispute with. You will need the credit report number that’s listed on the first page of each credit report.

• If you discover the same error on all three of your reports, you will need to initiate a dispute for that item separately with all three credit agencies or contact the creditor directly.

• Initiating disputes with the credit reporting agencies online will save you a lot of time. If the dispute is initiated via the mail, it will take longer for the investigation to get underway and be completed.

Filing a dispute will force the credit reporting agency to initiate an investigation, during which time the creditor or lender will be contacted and asked to provide proof that the information being reported is, in fact, accurate. If no proof is provided and the information on the report is really erroneous, it must be corrected within 30 days.

Follow these steps for initiating a dispute online:

1. Obtain a copy of your credit report from each credit reporting agency.
2. Make a note of the credit report number listed on the top of each report. If the credit report you received doesn’t have a credit report number, you will need to obtain a new copy of your report directly from that credit reporting agency. Upon obtaining a credit report, the credit report number you receive will remain active for a period of 90 days.
3. Review each credit report carefully and identify errors you wish to dispute.
4. Point your web browser to the appropriate credit reporting agency’s web site.
5. Click on the appropriate icon on the credit reporting agency’s web site to initiate an online dispute.
6. You’ll be asked to enter your credit report number, plus additional information about yourself to verify your identity. This information may include your Social Security number, date of birth, the state where you live, and/or your zip code.
7. You will be asked to approve a Terms and Conditions statement from the credit reporting agency that appears on your computer screen.
8. Once you’re looking at your credit report on the computer screen, click on the particular item(s) that you believe are inaccurate, then click on the “Dispute Item” icon that’s displayed.
9. You’ll need to select a specific reason for the dispute and choose one of the options that explains why you believe the information is incorrect. Depending on the type of listing, options will include: “Payment never late,” “No knowledge of account,” “Account paid in full,” “Account closed,” “Unauthorized Charges,” “Belonged to ex-spouse,” “Balance incorrect,” “Included in bankruptcy,” “Belongs to primary account holder,” “Corporate account,” “Balance history inaccurate,” or “Other reason.” You can also add your own brief statement (up to 120 characters) explaining why the information is inaccurate.
10. You will be asked to provide your e-mail address so you can be contacted with the results of the investigation.
11. Upon completing this online dispute process, an investigation will immediately begin. You will be notified of the outcome within 30 days (unusually within 10 days).
12. If your investigation concludes and the result is not in your favor, but you have evidence or information to substantiate your claim, initiate another dispute in writing and include copies of your information and evidence or contact the creditor directly.