How To Dispute Credit Report Errors Effectively

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When you’re working to repair your credit, it makes sense that you might want to explore different methods and hopefully make the process more effective. However, you must be careful to follow the rules and not be tempted by quick-fix advertisements. Many so-called “experts” are eager to share their magic credit repair letters and other tactics, but usually for a fee. And while it’s true that your dispute letter is the method by which you’re credit repair journey is likely to begin, does your dispute letter really make a difference?

What is a credit dispute?

All three major credit bureaus (Experian, TransUnion, and Equifax) do their best to maintain accurate information on consumer credit files. Each credit bureau maintains credit files on around 220 million consumers. It is true that mistakes do sometimes occur. According to a 2012 Federal Trade Commission study, one in four consumers found a credit report error that might have an impact on their credit scores.

When inaccurate information appears on your credit report, federal law is on your side. The Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) empowers you to dispute entries on your credit reports with the appropriate credit bureau(s). Once a credit bureau receives your dispute, it typically has 30 to 45 days to complete an investigation into your claim and respond with their results.

There are several ways you can send credit disputes, including:

  • Online

  • Telephone

  • Mail

  • Fax

  • In-person

Even in today’s era of technology, mailing dispute letters to credit reporting agencies remains a popular option. Mail provides the ability to validate, via registered mail, that a letter was received by a credit bureau. And, letters provide ultimate flexibility to explain the nature of your dispute, rather than choosing from a drop-down menu of limited dispute options.

There is no shortage of companies that will be more than happy to sell you dispute letter templates. One claim you’re likely to come across is the idea that there exist magic dispute letter templates that are so well worded that they are more likely to cause the removal or correction of your credit information than some other letter format.

A professional, well-written dispute letter can often be an effective way to remove errors from a credit report. But, no matter what format or language you use in a dispute letter, you can’t trick credit reporting agencies. In fact, you could write your dispute in crayon on a bar napkin, mail it to the credit bureaus, and they would be required to take it just as seriously as if you paid a lawyer to send a dispute letter on your behalf.

Dispute letter options

DIY Credit Dispute Letters

Thanks to the FCRA, any consumer has the right to dispute errors on their credit reports. You don’t have to pay anyone to handle this process for you. The dispute process is free.

To get started, request copies of your three credit reports from Experian, TransUnion, and Equifax. AnnualCreditReport.com gives you free access to your credit reports weekly through at least the end of 2023.

After you download your credit reports, review each one for errors. Make a note of any inaccurate information you discover. From there, you can create and send dispute letters to each of the credit reporting agencies involved and wait for the results. You may want to also send highlighted sections of your credit reports to make it clear what you’re disputing. These are called “attachments” and have to be considered as part of any credit reporting investigation.

This process does require some legwork. And, if your initial dispute doesn’t produce the results you hoped for, you may want to repeat the process multiple times. But, if you just send the same letter and provide no new information, the credit bureaus are allowed to ignore it because it is now frivolous.

Credit Repair Organization or “CRO”

Another way to send disputes to the credit bureaus is to hire a credit repair company to work on your behalf. Generally speaking, credit repair companies have a bad reputation. Some of this is earned, and some of it is very unfair. Still, adults get to make adult decisions and if you want to hire a CRO then go for it.

Some consumers find it easier to have a professional review their credit reports, draft dispute letters and advise them how to respond if the credit bureaus verify the items they dispute instead of deleting them. Plus, you may not have the time or patience to deal with the process on your own and would rather pay someone else to handle it for you.

The costs for credit repair services vary and can be expensive depending on the company you choose to hire. Your budget might not allow room for this added cost.

Credit Repair Software

Much like CreditKarma offers free credit reports and free credit scores, Credit Versio offers free credit repair. So, if you don’t want to navigate the dispute process alone but you can’t afford (or don’t want to pay) a credit repair company, a Credit Version solution is an alternative for you to consider. Credit Versio can help you to create your own credit dispute letters, monitor your progress, and offer video credit coaching to teach you how to earn better credit over time.

In summary

The average FICO score is 716. If you’re not at or above 716 across all three credit bureaus then your scores are below average and need some work. You have to do something to clean up your credit. That can be as simple as paying your bills on time and letting time pass so negative information purges on its own. Or, you choose from the above options now that you have a better understanding of the costs and ethics involved with each.

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