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If credit drives the world of personal finance what happens when your credit report has a flat tire. From credit cards to home mortgages and car loans, even career opportunities are driven by credit reports. These are some of the reasons why maintaining an accurate credit report should be such an integral part of our financial life.

Find out now: How does my credit score affect my ability to get a loan?

In addition to information about where you live and how you pay your bills your credit report may indicate whether you’ve been sued, arrested or filed for bankruptcy. The Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) promotes the accuracy and protects the privacy of information contained in your profile but does not ensure its accuracy, that responsibility is yours.

In addition to the requirement that you be provided with a copy of any credit report that was used to determine your ineligibility for credit you are entitled to receive a free copy of your credit report from each of the three major credit reporting agencies, Equifax, Experian and TransUnion once per year. There is only one official way to order your free credit reports and that is online from www.annualcreditreport.com. All other sites are operated by for profit private companies and may not be free regardless of what they say.

Mistakes Happen

How and why errors in credit reports occur are too numerous and diverse to invest time discussing them here. What is important is having an understanding your rights and the process for correcting mistakes. FCRA requires that both the credit reporting company and the information provider (the person, company or organization) reporting about you are responsible for correcting inaccurate or incomplete information in your report.

Correcting inaccuracies as soon as possible after you discover them can go a long way to reducing their potential impact on not only your credit worthiness but your ability to get a job or place to live.

Step One – The Credit Reporting Agency

Informing the credit reporting agency or agencies of information you believe is inaccurate is the first step in the process and must be done in writing. Disputes can be filed online or by mail. The credit reporting agency generally has 30 days but may take up to 45 days to investigate your dispute, unless they consider your claim to be frivolous.

Experian

TransUnion

Equifax

Equifax Information Services LLC
P.O. Box 740256
Atlanta, GA30374
Download Dispute Form
TransUnion Consumer Solutions
P.O. Box 2000
Chester, PA19022-2000
Download Dispute Form
Experian
P.O. Box 4000
Allen, TX75013
File Online File Online File Online

For individuals filing by mail Experian and TransUnion provide downloadable and printable dispute investigation forms which should be completed and returned with copies of any relevant documentation.

The credit reporting agency must inform the source of the information in question and are required to inform you of the results of their investigation. If they find that your dispute is valid they are also required to inform the other credit reporting agencies of their findings.

Step Two – Inform the Creditor

While the credit reporting agencies are required to inform any organization of your dispute it is always a good idea to report your issue yourself directly. Do so in writing and be sure to include copies of all supporting documentation and ask that they inform the credit reporting agency of their corrective actions.

Avoiding Frivolous Claims

Credit reporting agencies are not required to investigate reports that they determine are frivolous or irrelevant. Frivolous claims include enough information to investigate or are too general in their scope. Avoid this trap be providing as much detail as possible and sticking to one issue at time. In the event an agency finds your claim to be frivolous they have 5 days to inform of the basis of their finding.

Credit repair services are often guilty of submitting blanket disputes to credit reporting agencies which results in legitimate issues being ignored. This can be prevented by only disputing items that you believe are in error and can offer a reasonable explanation for.

If All Else Fails

In the event that a credit reporting agency does not find in your favor you can request that a statement of dispute be included in your file and included with all future reports. You may also request that the agency provide a copy of your statement to anyone who recently received a copy of your credit report in the not to distant past. In most cases you can expect to be asked to pay a fee for this service. If you inform an information provider of your disputing information provided by them to credit reporting agencies they must include your dispute when they report the item to agencies.

Photo Credit: gilmarcil

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Frank Addessi Born and raised in the center of the known universe, Brooklyn NY, and currently hiding out in the bucolic hills of northeast Pennsylvania writing about personal finance. It's not easy living the American Dream but someone has to do it!

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