Under the Fair Credit Reporting Act, Experian, TransUnion, and Equifax are responsible for correcting any inaccurate or incomplete information in your credit file. However, the process is not exactly fast. You’d think with all the wonderful technology today that the credit bureaus could be a little less like the Social Security Administration or Department of Motor Vehicles, but it is what it is.
The key to making the process go as quickly as possible is to be as thorough and accurate with your dispute as you can. You want to make it dead simple for the bureaus to figure out what you’re disputing so they have no reason to reject it. Again, it’s important to put in the extra effort and time up front, or you may end up having to do it again.
How to Dispute Credit Report Issues
To get the ball rolling on a credit report dispute, you’ll need to notify the credit bureaus in writing of the information you believe to be erroneous. Make sure you include specific information about what you’re disputing and your complete name and address. It’s also a good idea to include a copy of your credit report with the disputed item(s) circled so it’s obvious what you’re disputing, as well as any supporting evidence to back up your credit report dispute.
This process can move at a snail’s pace, so make sure the information you provide is thorough and specific. The employees at the credit bureaus probably see thousands of credit report dispute letters every week, so you want to make it as easy as possible to process your dispute. If you don’t take the time to provide specific and thorough information now, you may end up having to do your credit report dispute all over again.
Once you’ve got your letter and all supporting documentation pulled together, send it by certified mail (the addresses can be found on the credit bureau websites) so you can confirm it was received. Be sure to keep copies of everything you send.
The credit bureaus should complete their investigation within 30 days and notify you of the results within 45 days or so. The creditor who holds the account will also conduct an investigation from their end. If your creditor determines that the reported information was indeed incorrect, it’s required to report the corrected information to all three credit bureaus.
When the investigation is complete, the results of the investigation will be provided in writing and you’ll be provided a free copy of your credit report if the dispute results in a change in your credit file.
Disputing Doesn’t Mean the Issue is Fixed
A key point here: just because you file a dispute does not mean the problem’s fixed and it’s a done deal. If the dispute is not resolved in your favor, the bureau will probably just note the account in your credit file as being disputed, but it will remain in your credit file. When you next apply for a mortgage, the disputed account could cause you some issues.
It’s common to see disputed accounts all the time on credit reports, and they can be a headache because the automated underwriting engines that often used to pre-approve mortgages these days don’t know what to do them. Don’t be surprised if your lender wants you to clear up any disputed accounts on your credit report before they’ll issue a full approval for the loan.
Ask Your Lender about a Rapid Rescore
If you do have some disputed accounts or errors that pop up when you’re applying for a loan, ask your lender if they can resolve them through a “rapid rescore” process instead of having to do it through the credit bureaus (which can take months). It should be possible to resolve credit errors and issues in the space of a week or two through a rapid rescore.
You have to be extremely meticulous and thorough when you put together your disputes. The credit bureaus are extremely bureaucratic, so make sure there is no question what you’re disputing because the last thing you want is to wait a few months, find out the dispute wasn’t fixed, and have to do it all over again. Be sure to put a little extra effort into it upfront so that the credit report issue can be fixed the first time.