Are you desperately wanting to have those stubborn negative items removed from your credit report but don’t know where to start? Maybe they’re dragging your credit score down and you’re being rejected for credit cards or loan products at every turn. Or maybe you just want a peace of mind knowing that your credit score is no longer in the trenches. Either way, a credit dispute letter is an effective tool to get you moving in the right direction.
Read on to learn more about credit dispute letters, how they work, and what type of negative items they can be used for. You’ll also notice a handy template towards the end of the article if you’re stuck and don’t know where to start.
What is a credit dispute letter?
In a nutshell, a credit dispute letter is a mechanism that’s used to notify the credit bureaus of inaccurate or untimely information in your report. It also prompts the credit bureaus to launch a full-fledged investigation by contacting the information furnisher to determine if the item in question is indeed valid or should be removed.
From the time the credit bureaus receive your credit dispute letter and any supporting documentation, they have 30 days to complete their review and respond with a written outcome. Otherwise, the item must be removed from your credit report.
It’s important to file disputes to rectify inaccurate or untimely information on your credit report because negative entries that don’t belong could be dragging down your score. This could result in exorbitant interest rates, unfavorable credit terms, or being denied altogether. You could also miss out on that dream job, be denied occupancy for an apartment, or receive a higher insurance premium.
What type of information can be disputed?
According to the Fair Credit Reporting Act, “both the credit reporting company and the information provider (that is, the person, company, or organization that provides information about you to a credit reporting company) are responsible for correcting inaccurate or incomplete information in your report.”
Therefore, any entries in your report that contain errors, are past the reporting timeline, questionable, or do not tell the entire story is eligible for dispute. This could include but is not limited to:
- Incorrect identifying information, such as your name, address, or Social Security number
- Late payments that were actually paid on time
- Collection accounts or public records that have passed the reporting timeline and should be removed
- Erroneous accounts that you have no knowledge of and are on your report as a result of fraud
- Duplicate entries listed for the same account or collection item
- Errors in the account details, including the credit limit, monthly payment amount, or account status
But what about negative information that’s timely and accurate? While it technically doesn’t fall into the parameters of what’s eligible for dispute, you can always take your chances and hope that the creditor or collection agency doesn’t respond or can’t provide proof to validate the debt. If this happens, the credit bureaus will be forced to rule in your favor and remove the negative item. You also run the risk of having your dispute classified as frivolous and thrown out.
How to submit a credit dispute letter
Credit dispute letters are sent directly to the credit bureaus. However, it’s not a bad idea to notify the creditor, lender or information furnisher of your dispute once it’s been filed. And in some instances, it may be worthwhile to contact the creditor before you file the dispute to try and rectify the issue.
But if you’re already at the point where the credit dispute letter is drafted up and ready to go, along with any supporting documentation, here’s how to submit the entire package:
This is the best way to submit your dispute letters to the credit bureaus. The instructions for submitting credit dispute letters by mail is as follows:
Equifax: P.O. Box 740256, Atlanta, GA 30374-0256
Experian: P.O. Box 9701, Allen, TX 75013
TransUnion: P.O. Box 2000, Chester, PA 19016
Be sure to only send copies, and not originals, just in case the package gets lost in the mail. And don’t forget to include photocopies of two forms of identification as it’s required by the credit bureaus to establish your identity.
Also, request that it be sent via certified mail with a return receipt so you’ll know exactly when the letter arrives at its intended destination.
Do you prefer to speak with a customer service representative from the credit bureaus to file your dispute? They can be reached by phone at the numbers below:
Experian: disputes can only be filed by mail or online
Word of caution: filing a dispute by phone does not afford you the opportunity to maintain a paper trail, which could be problematic. For starters, there’s no way to prove that the credit bureaus stayed within the 30-day timeframe when investigating your dispute as you have no way of knowing when the clock started. Furthermore, there may be a delay in the processing of your dispute because you’ll have to go through a separate channel to submit any supporting documentation that substantiates your claims.
Filing credit disputes online are a convenient way to get the ball rolling. But unfortunately, there’s a major drawback to this approach. When you file a dispute online, you forfeit the right to re-dispute the item in question if the credit bureaus side with the information provider. So, it may be best to send in your credit dispute letter and supporting documentation by mail so you won’t lose your ability to submit a follow-up dispute if necessary.
If you would still like to file a dispute online, the credit bureau’s dispute websites are listed below:
Writing credit dispute letters
What to include
When drafting up your credit dispute letter, be sure to include the following:
- Your name, address, Social Security number, and date of birth
- Date the letter was drafted
- Reason for the dispute
- Account name and number
- Request that the incorrect or untimely information be removed or updated
- The corresponding credit report or confirmation number
Some important tips
- Always use language that’s clear and professional. While credit bureaus are mandated by federal law to investigate and respond to all disputes within a 30-day window, they also reserve the right to deem your dispute as frivolous and toss it out.
- The more supporting documentation, the better. You want to make it as easy as possible for the credit bureaus to rule in your favor. And it never hurts to provide more than enough evidence to plead your case.
Sample Credit Dispute Letter
(Your City, State, Zip Code)
(Social Security number
(Date of Birth)
Credit Report Dispute Department)
(City, State, Zip Code)
To whom it may concern,
The reason for this letter is to dispute an item on my credit report. Attached is a copy of my credit report (insert credit report or confirmation number) with the item in question (circled/highlighted).
This item, (insert the name of the item, type, and any other applicable information like the account number) is (inaccurate, untimely, incomplete) because (insert your reasoning).
As a result, I am requesting that the item be (removed, updated, or any other applicable action).
I have also enclosed a copy of [describe any supporting documentation that you’ve enclosed]. Please investigate my dispute and rectify the issue as soon as possible. Thanks in advance for your prompt attention to this matter.
(insert signature here)
What to Do If My Credit Dispute Letter Is Ignored
If 30 days or more have lapsed and you still haven’t received a response, don’t be alarmed. Creditors don’t always answer right away, and when they do, chances are they will try to drag the process out by requesting even more documentation or something along those lines.
The smartest move is to give them what they what. But if you’ve already gone above and beyond to do your part, you’ll want to file another dispute using a new letter to plead your case once again. Be sure to include notes or documents that are related to any correspondence you’ve had with the creditor.
A thorough dispute letter with adequate documentation will usually get the results you’re looking for. However, it may be necessary to step it up a notch by seeking legal counsel or hiring a credit repair professional to turn up the heat on the creditor or credit bureaus.
The Bottom Line
Credit dispute letters are an effective way to clean up your credit report. But if you don’t feel comfortable drafting up letters on your own, you can always solicit the assistance of a reputable credit repair company to do the legwork for you.