What if your name is Bob Jones, and when you get your credit report from one of the credit bureaus you find that there are accounts listed there that are held by another Bob Jones? Or, you find that your unemployed and debt-heavy brother's information is showing up on your report? What do you do? Under the FCRA, you have the right to, and the CRA has the responsibility of, correcting any errors or incomplete information in your credit report.
Listed below are some steps you can take to correct errors on your report. Whatever you do, don't use one of those companies that say they can "fix" your credit history -- erase bankruptcies, liens, bad credit, etc. While there are some legitimate companies out there that can help you, you can do anything they can do.
One very important thing is to document everything you do (dates and times of phone calls, people you spoke with, what they said, what your action was, etc.), and keep copies of everything you send them. Don't send original documents -- send copies. Remember to be aggressive and persistent. This process may take a while -- usually three to six months.
- Let the paperwork begin - You will begin a long and often arduous task of writing letters explaining the inaccuracies. First, send a letter to the CRA to give your side of the story and try to set straight the inaccuracies that have been reported. The letter should include your name and address and explain what is inaccurate and why. Tell them the facts and request a correction to your report. It would also help to include a copy of your report with the incorrect information circled, along with copies of any documentation that supports your claim. Send your letter by certified mail with a return receipt so you know it was received. Keep a record of everything you sent. Second, send a letter to the merchant or creditor who supplied the incorrect information to make it known that you are disputing it. Send copies of the documentation that supports your claim, just as you did with the CRA. (NOTE: Most of the national credit bureaus allow you to begin the dispute process online. This isn't a bad place to start; but if you have additional documentation, presenting it the good old fashioned way is probably best.)
- Give the CRA 30 days - The credit reporting agency legally has 30 days to investigate your claim (unless your claim is deemed "frivolous" or "irrelevant"). If after this amount of time you haven't heard back, call the customer service department. There is usually a toll-free number on the credit report that you can call for assistance. Remember to keep notes of your conversations and any actions that were taken as a result.
- Re-reviewing your credit report - When you get a written response from the credit agency, you'll also get a new copy of your credit report (if there were any changes). If any information is changed on the report, the CRA cannot change it back unless the creditor provides proof that it was accurate. In this case, you will get notification from the CRA that the item has been put back on your report. You'll receive the contact information for the creditor or merchant so you can begin your battle (if you know you're right). Like we said at the beginning, be aggressive and persistent. Find out the creditor's side of the story. See below to find out what to do if they're right and you're wrong.
If you can't get any satisfaction and feel you're not being treated fairly by the creditor, you can contact the agency to which they report. Credit InfoCenter has a page that lists this contact information.
For more information on credit reports and related topics, check out the links on the following page.