If you’ve got an error of your credit report, it’s up to you to find it, dispute it, and fix the error. Formally disputing an error involves writing a formal dispute letter to the creditor as well as the appropriate credit bureau reporting the inaccuracy. Sounds like a piece of cake, right? Not always.
Errors are not all created equal—and unless you’re specific and provide evidence for your claim, you risk having your dispute denied. Or worse: the error can actually get re-reported to the credit bureaus if you fail to work directly with the creditor reporting the error in the first place.
Here’s what you should know if you’re getting ready to send a credit dispute letter.
In This Piece
- What Is a Credit Dispute Letter?
- What Can I Dispute on My Credit Report?
- Credit Report Dispute Letters and Your Credit Score
- What Is a 609 Letter?
- How to Write a Credit Dispute Letter
- Reasons to Mail in Your Dispute
- How Long Will It Take to See Results from Your Dispute?
- What Are other Ways to Dispute Wrong Credit Report Information?
- How Disputing Information Will Affect Your Credit Score
- Follow Up to Fix Your Credit
What Is a Credit Dispute Letter?
A credit dispute letter is a written document that:
- Tells the credit bureau you believe there’s an error on your report
- Provides information and documentation on why you think this is the case
- Formally asks the credit bureau to correct the error
You might see this type of letter referred to as a 609 dispute letter. This is an odd nickname for this type of correspondence that came about based on Section 609 of the Fair Credit Reporting Act. The section is not really pertinent to the topic, but it does explain your rights as a consumer.
However, the FCRA does protect your right to an accurate credit report. Federal law requires that the credit bureaus investigate matters when consumers dispute items on their credit reports and make any edits that are necessary after those investigations.
The Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) ensures that consumers are able to review their credit report for accuracy and dispute any errors, unsubstantiated claims and outdated information.
If your dispute is not responded to quickly and appropriately by the credit reporting agencies and your creditors, you can file a complaint with the Federal Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. In most cases, the bureaus are required to investigate your claim within 30 days of receiving your letter and wrap up their investigation within 90 days.
What Can I Dispute on My Credit Report?
You can dispute anything that’s inaccurate on your credit report. That includes but isn’t limited to:
- Incorrect personal information. If your name is spelled wrong or other information used to identify you is incorrect, you can ask the credit bureau to fix it.
- Accounts that aren’t yours. If someone else’s financial account shows up on your credit report, you can ask to have it removed.
- Inaccurate balances. If you’ve paid off half your mortgage but the bank is still reporting the full amount due, for example, you probably have a case for a dispute.
- Late payments that weren’t late. If the lender reported that you’re 30 days past due on a loan but you have proof you made all payments on time, you can send a dispute letter.
- Hard inquiries you didn’t approve. When someone checks your credit for the purpose of evaluating you as a borrower, it shows up as a hard inquiry. You have to approve those checks, though, so if you don’t recognize inquiries, consider disputing them.
When writing your credit dispute letter, make sure you:
- Identify the error you want corrected. List it specifically in your letter, but consider including a copy of your credit report with the error circled in red for good measure.
- Make a case for why it’s wrong. Keep this statement short and factual. Include any documents you have that back up your case.
- Make a specific request. Tell the credit bureau what action you want them to take. You might ask them to delete information that’s not accurate or edit it so it is accurate, for example.
Credit Report Dispute Letters and Your Credit Score
An error on your credit report—such as a debt reported beyond the statute of limitations, a credit card marked as closed when it shouldn’t be, or something related to identity theft—can seriously damage your score. That makes it harder to secure an affordable line of credit.
A credit dispute letter doesn’t automatically fix this issue or repair your credit. And there are no guarantees the credit reporting agency will remove an item—especially if you don’t have strong documentation that it’s an error. But writing a credit dispute letter costs little more than a bit of time. And when you do have the documentation to make a case for an error, this effort can be well worth it when the bureau corrects the mistake and your credit returns to your accurate and fair credit score.
You can request your free credit report from each of the three credit reporting bureaus annually. Finding errors on your credit report isn’t as uncommon as you might think. According to the Federal Trade Commission, as many as 20% of people could have an error on their report. That’s true even if you think you’ve already resolved the problem. Request and review them each year to stay on top of the information contained there.
What Is a 609 Letter?
A 609 letter is a debt validation letter asking for information about an item on your credit report. It’s named after the section of the FCRA that gives you a right to request this information—section 609.
If you’re not sure whether an item on your credit report is a mistake or you need more information to create a case that it is, a 609 letter can be a good start. You’ll need to include account names, numbers, or other identifying details to make it easy to identify.
In general, you should send a 609 letter to the three main credit reporting agencies. Those agencies must then investigate alleged errors and make corrections as necessary. Send 609 letters via certified mail so you can track them and ensure they are responded to on time.
609 Letter Example
YOUR STREET ADDRESS
YOUR CITY, STATE AND ZIP
ADDRESS OF CREDIT AGENCY
Re: CREDITOR NAME, ACCOUNT NUMBER
Please be advised that I’m exercising my rights as described by the Fair Credit Reporting Act in Section 609. I am requesting information about the following items on my credit report.
• LIST ACCOUNT NAMES AND NUMBERS
Please provide me with copies of the original sources for the items reported. That includes contracts or service agreements I signed.
If this information is not available, please note that the validity of these items cannot be determined. Please remove them from my credit history.
Your signature and name
How to Write a Credit Dispute Letter
If you already have proof that an item is an error—or you do once you receive information related to a 609 letter—it’s time to write a dispute letter. The major credit bureaus currently allow consumers to send disputes online, so you can simply follow their online instructions. If you decide to mail a physical letter instead, send your letter via certified mail with return receipt requested.
Include all the following information when filing a dispute.
- Your full name
- Your current address and all addresses you have lived at over the past two years
- Copy of a government-issued ID
- Copy of a utility bill, bank statement, or insurance statement
- A reference line that begins RE: and includes the name of the creditor and the account number for the item(s) you’re disputing
- Your Social Security number—or the last four digits of it, for security purposes
- The reason you’re writing
- Why you believe the item in question is an error
- A list of enclosures, including an annotated copy of your credit report
- The resolution you are requesting from the credit bureau to ensure fair credit
Some bureaus or creditors may require different information. Check with them before sending anything. Do not send originals—the bureaus will not return documents that you submit to them.
In addition to a copy of your report indicating where the mistake is, send copies of any document that you think may help you make a case that an item is incorrect. Some options include:
- Proof of a payment
- Proof that an account was not in your name
- Documents that show a matter was settled in your favor
- Credit Dispute Letter Template
When dealing with mistakes on your credit report, it can be difficult not to get frustrated. Keep your dispute letter as clear, concise, and professional as possible.
YOUR STREET ADDRESS
YOUR CITY, STATE AND ZIP
ADDRESS OF CREDIT BUREAU/CREDITOR
Re: CREDITOR NAME, ACCOUNT NUMBER
To Whom It May Concern:
I’m writing to dispute information on my credit report. Please see the attached copy of my report. I have circled the information in question.
This information, namely [DESCRIPTION OF INFORMATION INCLUDING CREDITOR AND ACCOUNT NUMBER], is inaccurate because [REASON YOU BELIEVE IT IS A MISTAKE]. Attached you will find proof in the form of [DESCRIPTION OF ATTACHMENTS AND HOW THEY PROVE THE ERROR].
I am requesting that [ACTION, SUCH AS “THE ITEM BE REMOVED” OR “THE INFORMATION BE CORRECTED TO REFLECT …”].
I expect you to perform your investigation of this matter within the statutory time frame of 30 days pursuant to the Fair Credit Reporting Act.
Your signature and name
Where to Send Your Credit Dispute Letter
Send your credit dispute letter to the credit bureau that has published the incorrect information. Don’t forget to file a dispute with the original creditor who reported the error as well. You may find that you need to send the letter to all three bureaus if the information is on all your reports. The three major credit bureaus also allow you to submit an online dispute.
PO Box 4500
Allen, TX 75013
PO Box 740256
Atlanta, GA 30374-0256
TransUnion Consumer Solutions
PO Box 2000
Chester, PA 19016-2000
Reasons to Mail in Your Dispute
In most cases, you have two options for sending your dispute. You can use the online dispute options offered by the three major credit bureaus, or you can mail an old-fashioned, hard-copy dispute letter. Compare the pros and cons of each choice below to make a decision that’s right for you.
|Mailing Your Credit Dispute Letter||Filing Your Dispute Online|
• You can keep an exact copy of what you sent for reference later.
• You can send it certified mail so you have proof of when you sent it.
• You can easily annotate and attach documents to prove your case.
• The information reaches the credit bureau instantly.
• All you need is an internet connection.
• The credit bureau dispute tools use familiar online user interfaces, which many people might find easier than a formal letter.
• You need access to a printer and/or copier.
• It takes time for the letter to reach the credit bureau.
• It may be harder to include attachments and other information to prove your case.
• The informal nature of the web form may not feel serious enough.
• You don’t have an exact copy of what you sent to reference later.
How Long Will It Take to See Results from Your Dispute?
According to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, a credit bureau is typically required to investigate the matter you disputed within 30 to 45 days of receiving your request to do so. Once it completes its investigation, it has five business days to notify you of the result.
What Are other Ways to Dispute Wrong Credit Report Information?
Sending credit dispute letters and following up on those investigations can be time-consuming and tedious. If you don’t have the time, skill, or desire to carry out these tasks for yourself, you might consider hiring someone to do it for you. You can sign up for reputable credit repair services that include unlimited credit disputes and aggressive follow-up.
How Disputing Information Will Affect Your Credit Score
Disputing information on your credit report doesn’t have an immediate impact on your credit. The credit reporting bureaus don’t include a list of all your disputes on your report, and that information isn’t used in the calculation of your credit score.
However, if your dispute is successful and inaccurate negative information is edited or removed from your report, your credit score can go up. How much your score goes up depends on what type of information was changed. For example, if your name was spelled wrong, that won’t impact your score at all. However, if a mark indicating you were 180 days late on a loan is removed, that can substantially impact your payment history and boost your score.
Follow Up to Fix Your Credit
If the statement is deleted, you’ll know your letter paid off. If not, you have a couple of options. First, you can add a short, written statement to your credit report, which will appear next to the item you disputed. This may help future creditors see your side of the story, but it doesn’t do anything for your credit score.
The second option is to escalate your dispute and hire a reputable credit repair company to help. Good credit repair companies have experience working with these matters and can often bring additional resources. Keep in mind that a reputable credit repair agency will never promise results and won’t take payment until they’ve started working on your behalf.
Want to find out what’s on your credit report so you can fix any errors? Start by signing up with ExtraCredit today.