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No one wants to see negative information on their credit report. And while you can't remove information such as a late payment or collection account from your credit file simply because it's negative, if your credit report shows inaccurate or incomplete information, you can submit a dispute asking the credit reporting agency to investigate the information in question. The dispute will be sent to the source of the information, in most cases the company that holds the account. If the lender determines that the account is being reported incorrectly, they will update or remove the account to correct the information.
If you're disputing information on your Experian credit report by mail, start the process of writing a credit dispute letter by filling out a dispute form—or follow the simple guidelines below for writing your own letter. Keep in mind that the quickest way to resolve an issue with your credit report is to complete the dispute process online.
What Is a Credit Dispute Letter?
Writing to a credit reporting agency (Experian, TransUnion or Equifax) to notify them that you believe certain information on your credit report is inaccurate is sometimes referred to as a "credit dispute letter." In your dispute letter, you'll list any items you feel are being reported incorrectly and tell the credit reporting agency specifically what is incorrect and how you believe the item should be reported instead. If you're disputing information on your Experian credit report, we will begin the investigation process when we receive the letter; the process can take up to 30 days to complete.
Your right to dispute information contained in your credit file originates with the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA), a federal law that regulates the way credit reporting agencies can collect, access, use and share the data they maintain in your consumer reports. As part of the FCRA, you have the right to access your credit report for free from each of the credit bureaus (at AnnualCreditReport.com) and to dispute any information that you believe is inaccurate or incomplete.
When you dispute information on your credit report, the credit bureau will generally contact the information provider (usually a lender or other business) and ask them to verify that the account is being reported correctly. If the lender finds that there is information that needs to be corrected, they will update or delete the account accordingly.
If you've been searching online, you may have come across the term "609 dispute letter" as a tool for improving your credit. What's a 609 letter? The term refers to section 609 of the FCRA, which outlines your right to request copies of your credit reports. (Technically, it's section 611 that affirms your right to dispute information, but that's beside the point.) You can purchase 609 dispute letter templates online, but there's no real value in doing this: Disputing information on your credit report is free when you go directly through the credit reporting agencies, and you don't need any specific template to do so.
What Can I Dispute on My Credit Report?
The same credit repair firms that sell 609 letters may also suggest you can "fix" your credit by having negative items removed. While you can file a dispute for items you feel are incorrect or if you feel you've been the victim of identity theft, it's not likely that accurate information will be removed from your credit report, no matter what format your letter is in. Most negative information, such as late payments, will remain on your credit report for up to seven years.
Here are a few examples of issues you might address using a dispute letter:
- An account was opened in your name as a result of identity theft and it does not belong to you.
- An address associated with your file lists the wrong house number.
- Your credit card company has reported a late payment, but you have documentation to show the payment was made on time.
- Your credit report shows a bankruptcy, but you have never filed for bankruptcy.
- An address associated with your file lists the wrong house number. (Keep in mind that identification information, such as name and address variations, do not have any impact on your credit scores.)
What can't you dispute on a credit report? Generally speaking, you can't dispute accurate information. So, if that one payment was late because you were in a rush to the airport to start your vacation and forgot to mail the check, if the payment never got sent, it's not really disputable. On the other hand, it's always wise to contact your lender and notify them when you have an extenuating circumstance that may cause you to miss a payment. And, if you have documentation from a lender stating that they have agreed to remove the late payment, you can submit a copy of that letter along with your dispute to have it corrected.
What Should You Include in a Credit Dispute Letter?
Experian provides an easy process for filing a dispute by mail. You may dispute information on your credit report by submitting a dispute form, or write your own letter that details your issues. Your dispute letter should include the following information:
- Your full name
- Your date of birth
- Your Social Security number
- Your current address and any other addresses at which you have lived during the past two years
- A copy of a government-issued identification card such as a driver's license or state ID
- A copy of a utility bill, bank statement or insurance statement
You may print out and complete a dispute form and enclose it with your letter. Or simply list out each item on your credit report that you believe is inaccurate along with the account number and the reason you believe the information is incorrect. Be as specific and factual as possible. If you have documents to support your claim, such as a police report documenting your experience with identity theft, enclose copies of these documents as well.
Mail your dispute letter along with completed forms and supporting documentation to:
P.O. Box 4500
Allen, TX 75013
You can also scan your materials and submit them electronically to Experian.com/upload.
Other Ways to Dispute Credit Report Information
You can save yourself the trouble of composing and mailing a letter by filing your dispute entirely online. Experian's Dispute Center walks you through the steps needed to initiate an online dispute and will even send you email updates to help you to track your case as it moves through the process. Disputes submitted online with Experian are completed within 30 days.
You can also file a dispute by phone. Call the number listed on your Experian credit report to get the process started. If you'd like a copy of your Experian credit report mailed to you, call 888-EXPERIAN.
If information on your credit report is found to be inaccurate, the company that reported the information is required to contact each credit bureau that they have reported it to and have it corrected. To be sure this happens, check your credit reports with all three bureaus for updates and file disputes with each one if needed.
How Does Disputing Information Affect Your Credit Score?
Simply filing a dispute does not affect your credit score, but the outcome of a dispute might. For example, if you can show that a delinquent account on your credit report is the result of identity theft and isn't yours, the account (along with any late payments, collections or default associated with that account) will be removed—likely raising your credit score accordingly.
Filing a dispute is unlikely to lower to your credit score, even if things don't resolve in your favor. Because the negative information you disputed isn't new to your credit report, having it stay there typically doesn't cause any further change to your score.
Be Vigilant With Your Information
What if you've disputed information on your report and it's deemed correct and not removed? Negative information only remains on your credit report for a set period of time, so eventually it will "fall off" your report and no longer affect your credit score. You can also ask to add a consumer statement of explanation to your report. These statements don't remove negative information or affect your credit score, but they can provide potentially helpful information for lenders who are trying to understand your credit history—for example, if a past late payment was in fact the result of an extended unemployment or illness.
While often completed much faster, the FCRA requires that Experian allow 30 days for the dispute process to be completed. The length of time will depend on the type of dispute you submit and how quickly the lender or other data furnisher responds. To keep your Experian credit report and score in the best possible shape, it's wise to review the information by checking both your free credit report and score on a regular basis. This allows time to have information you disagree with updated or corrected before you are in the middle of the loan or credit application process. It also puts you in a better position to detect and dispute potential fraud sooner.