To initiate an investigation of a “bad mark” on a consumer credit report, consumers are advised to make their first inquiry or request via a credit reporting agency. The three major credit reporting agencies in the United States are Equifax, Experian, and Transunion. Trying to resolve a dispute with the business or lender who may have reported inaccurate information to one of the Big-3 may result in delays or a lost opportunity to get a quick solution.
Under the Fair Credit Reporting Act, a report and request for relief to one of the three major reporting agencies is a requirement. A consumer who does not adhere to the rules of the FCRA may be estopped from bringing a lawsuit against an entity who falsely reports to a credit bureau.
Disputing an Error in a Credit Report
To dispute an entry on a credit report, the consumer should contact the credit reporting company and the company that provided the information. Such contact should be in writing and sent via certified mail, return receipt requested. Copies of the letter or complaint, along with proof of mailing, proof of receipt, etc. should be kept in the consumers files.
The reporting should be a two-step process, as follows:
Step 1: Dispute the information, first, with the credit reporting company.
If a consumer finds an error on his or her credit report, the process of disputing such error should begin with the credit reporting agency. The bases of the dispute should be set forth in detail – why the consumer believes the information is in error, what about the information is wrong, and other pertinent information. Be as thorough and as detailed as possible and include any written documentation to support the claim of an error.
All disputes should be submitted in writing and sent via certified mail. The details in a dispute letter should include:
- Consumer contact information, including complete address, telephone numbers and email
- Report confirmation or identification number if available
- Clear identification of each mistake or error (if an erroneous account number is at issue, include the correct account number for clarification)
- A clear and concise explanation as to why the information is in error
- A request that the information be corrected or removed from the report
- Enclose a highlighted copy of the credit report in question, along with copies (not originals) of supporting documentation
Contact information for the three major credit reporting agencies follows:
Equifax Information Services, LLC Telephone: (866) 349-5191
P.O. Box 740256
Atlanta, GA 30348 Email: www.ai.equifax.com/creditinvestigation
Experian Telephone: (888) 3973742
P.O. Box 4500
Allen, TX 75013 Email: www.experian.com/disputes/main.html
Transunion, LLC Telephone: (800) 916-8800
Consumer Dispute Center
P.O. Box 2000
Chester, PA 19016 Email: https://dispute.transunion.com
Credit Reporting Agency Responsibilities
By law, credit reporting agencies have a duty to investigate all complaints and disputes, provide copies of all documents within the dispute to the data furnisher, and report results back to the consumer unless there’s a determination that the claim is frivolous. If a claim is determined to be frivolous by the reporting agency of furnisher, it may not end up being investigated further – in such event, the reporting agency must send the consumer a written notice of such determination within five days.
When the data furnisher acts to correct erroneous information after the filing of a dispute, it must notify all credit reporting agencies it sent inaccurate information to so that the correct information can be added to their credit reports for that consumer. On the other hand, if the data furnisher determines that the information provided is accurate and does not update or remove the disputed information, the consumer can request that the credit reporting agency include a statement explaining the dispute in the credit file and credit report. Such information should then be a permanent part of a credit report and provided to any entity requesting a copy of the credit report.
Generally, a credit agency has thirty (30) days after receiving a dispute to investigate and verify information with a data furnisher. Once an investigation is completed, the reporting agency has five (5) days to report back to the complaining consumer. A dispute reported to a data furnisher must also be investigated with the same thirty (30) day time restriction.
Either the credit reporting agency or the data furnisher may determine that a filed claim or dispute is “frivolous” due to the submission of incomplete or inaccurate information. Such a determination may also occur in instances where a consumer makes the same complaint repeatedly without providing updated or new information to support a different result. If the bureau makes a determination that a dispute is frivolous, it does not need to investigate further – it must, however, report such determination to the complaining consumer with five (5) days.
Reviewing Results & Checking for Credit Report Updates
The credit reporting agency involved must report the results of an investigation, along with the name, address, and telephone number of the data furnisher, to the disputing consumer. If the investigation causes a change in the consumer’s credit report, the bureau must also provide an updated copy of that report to the consumer.
When a data furnisher continues to report disputed information to a credit agency, it must notify such agency or agencies that the consumer has disputed the information. When the data is found by the data furnisher to be inaccurate, the furnisher must immediately notify the credit agency or agencies to update or remove the inaccurate information.
Failure on the part of a data furnisher to comply with either of the foregoing requirements may give the consumer the right to sue the data furnisher in a court of law. Likewise, similar failures on the part of reporting agencies may also give rise to a right to sue.
It is crucial for consumers to pay close attention to their credit reports as to detail and accuracy of information. Likewise, it is crucial to dispute incorrect information immediately upon discovery. It is always possible that negative or incorrect identity-related information (i.e. a misspelled name, wrong address, transposed social security number digits, etc.) may affect a consumer’s ability to obtain a loan, get credit cards or insurance, or even employment.
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