Better Credit Record
Inaccuracies sometimes occur on credit reports.
These inaccuracies may be due to a simple error, but sometimes it could
be fraud, such as Identity
Under the law, both the Consumer Reporting Agencies (CRA) and the
organization that provided the information to the CRA, such as a bank or
credit card company, have responsibilities for correcting inaccurate or
incomplete information in your report. To protect all your rights under
the law, contact both the CRA and the information provider if you have a
First, tell the CRA in writing
what information you believe is inaccurate. Include copies (not
originals) of documents that support your position. In addition to
providing your complete name and address, your letter should clearly
identify each item in your report you dispute, state the facts and
explain why you dispute the information, and request deletion or
correction. You may want to enclose a copy of your report with the items
in question circled. Your letter may look something like the one below.
Send your letter by certified mail, return receipt requested, so you can
document what the CRA received. Keep copies of your dispute letter and
Your City, State, Zip Code
Name of Credit Reporting Agency
City, State, Zip Code
Dear Sir or Madam:
I am writing to dispute the following
information in my file. The items I dispute also are encircled
on the attached copy of the report I received.
This item (identify item(s) disputed by name
of source, such as creditors or tax court, and identify type
of item, such as credit account, judgment, etc.) is
(inaccurate or incomplete) because (describe what is
inaccurate or incomplete and why). I am requesting that the
item be deleted (or request another specific change) to
correct the information.
Enclosed are copies of (use this sentence if
applicable and describe any enclosed documentation, such as
payment records, court documents) supporting my position.
Please reinvestigate this (these) matter(s) and (delete or
correct) the disputed item(s) as soon as possible.
Enclosures: (List what you are enclosing)
CRAs must reinvestigate the item(s) in
question—usually within 30 days—unless they consider your
dispute frivolous. They also must forward all relevant data you
provide about the dispute to the information provider. After the
information provider receives notice of a dispute from the CRA, it
must investigate, review all relevant information provided by the
CRA, and report the results to the CRA. If the information provider
finds the disputed information to be inaccurate, it must notify all
nationwide CRAs so that they can correct this information in your
Disputed information that cannot be
verified must be deleted from your file.
If your report contains inaccurate information,
the CRA must correct it.
If an item is incomplete, the CRA must complete
it. For example, if your file showed that you were late making
payments, but failed to show that you were no longer delinquent,
the CRA must show that your payments are now current.
If your file shows an account that belongs only
to another person, the CRA must delete it.
When the reinvestigation is complete, the CRA must
give you the written results and a free copy of your report if the
dispute results in a change. If an item is changed or removed, the
CRA cannot put the disputed information back in your file unless the
information provider verifies its accuracy and completeness, and the
CRA gives you a written notice of its intent to reinsert the items
that includes the name, address, and phone number of the provider.
If you request, the CRA must send
notices of any correction to anyone who received your report in the
past six months. You can have a corrected copy of your report sent
to anyone who received a copy during the past two years for
employment purposes. If a reinvestigation does not resolve your
dispute, ask the CRA to include your statement of the dispute in
your file and in future reports.
In addition to writing to the CRA, you should tell
the creditor or other information provider in writing that you
dispute an item. Be sure to include copies (not originals) of
documents that support your position. Many providers specify an
address for disputes. If the provider continues to report the
disputed item to any CRA after receiving your notice, it must
include a notice that you dispute the item. If you are correct—that
is, if the information is not
accurate—the information provider may not report
When negative information in your report is
accurate, only the passage of time can assure its removal. Accurate
negative information generally can stay on your report for seven years.
There are certain exceptions:
Bankruptcy information may be reported for 10 years.
Credit information reported in response to an
application for a job with a salary of more than $75,000 has no time
Information about criminal convictions has no time
Credit information reported because of an
application for more than $150,000 worth of credit or life insurance
has no time limit.
Default information concerning U.S. Government
insured or guaranteed student loans can be reported for seven years
after certain guarantor actions.
Information about a lawsuit or an unpaid judgment
against you can be reported for seven years or until the statute of
limitations runs out, whichever is longer.
There is a standard method for calculating the
seven-year reporting period. Generally, the period runs from the date
that the event took place.
With regard to any delinquent account placed for
collection—internally or by referral to a third-party debt collector,
whichever is earlier—charged to profit and loss, or subjected to any
similar action, the seven-year period is calculated from the date of the
delinquency that occurred immediately before the collection activity,
charge to profit and loss, or similar action. For example, assume that
your payments on a loan were late in January, but that you caught up in
February. You were late again in May, but caught up in July. You were
again late in September, but did not catch up before the account was
turned over to a collection agency in December. You made no more
payments on the account, and it is charged to profit and loss in July of
the following year.
Under the FCRA, the January and May late payments each
can be reported for seven years. The collection activity and the charge
to profit and loss can be reported for seven years from the date of the
September payment, which was the delinquency that occurred immediately
before those activities.
Adding Accounts to Your
Your credit file may not reflect all your
credit accounts. Although most national department store and all-purpose
bank credit card accounts will be included in your file, not all
creditors supply information to CRAs: Some travel, entertainment,
gasoline card companies, local retailers, and credit unions are among
those creditors that don't.
If you've been told that you were denied credit because
of an "insufficient credit file" or "no credit file"
and you have accounts with creditors that don't appear in your credit
file, ask the CRA to add this information to future reports. Although
they are not required to do so, many CRAs will add verifiable accounts
for a fee. However, understand that if these creditors do not report to
the CRA on a regular basis, the added items will not be updated in your
For more information, visit the Federal
Trade Commission web site.