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If you've spent any amount of time on the internet looking for credit improvement tips or tricks, you've likely landed on one of the many articles dedicated to the so-called 609 Dispute Letter. A 609 Dispute Letter is often billed as a credit repair secret or legal loophole that forces the credit reporting agencies to remove certain negative information from your credit reports. And if you're willing, you can spend big bucks on templates for these magical dispute letters. Unfortunately, you'd be wasting your money on letter templates because there's no evidence suggesting they are any more effective than other credit reporting dispute letter templates.
What Is Section 609?
Section 609 refers to a section of the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) that addresses your rights to request copies of your own credit reports and associated information that appears on your credit reports. Section 609, oddly enough, doesn't have anything to do with your right to dispute information on your credit reports or a credit reporting agency's obligations to perform investigations into your disputes. There is no such "609 Dispute Letter" anywhere to be found in the FCRA.
The FCRA does, in fact, include a considerable amount of language memorializing your rights to dispute the information found in your credit reports. But it's in section 611 of the statute, rather than in section 609. Thanks to section 611, we all enjoy the right to dispute information we believe to be incorrect or unverifiable. And if the disputed information cannot be verified or confirmed, then it must be removed.
Is a 609 Dispute Letter Effective?
If you're looking for dispute letter templates, there's likely a reason. Normally consumers send dispute letters to the main credit reporting agencies (Experian, TransUnion and Equifax) because they believe something on their credit report is incorrect. This can happen if they've applied for a loan or other form of credit and the lender has informed them that they were denied because of information on their credit report. It can also happen when they check their credit report and find accounts they don't recognize. The practical impact of a dispute letter is it causes the credit reporting agency to investigate and correct any alleged error.
The 609 Dispute Letter theory is if you ask the credit bureaus for information they clearly cannot produce as part of your dispute letter, like the original signed copies of your credit applications or the cashed checks used for bill payment, then they would have to remove the disputed item because it's unverifiable. The FCRA, however, entitles us to all of the information the credit reporting agencies have in their systems—not information they do not have in their systems.
While there is plenty of information online about 609 Dispute Letters, there is no evidence suggesting any specific letter template is more effective than another. And frankly, you could submit your credit report dispute on the back of a beverage napkin and if it's valid, then the information must be corrected or removed. The method of delivery is largely irrelevant when it comes to your rights for an accurate credit report.
Conversely, if the information on your credit reports is accurate and verifiable, then chances are it's going to remain on your credit reports. The style of your letter doesn't change that fact.
How to Correctly Dispute Errors on Your Credit Report
There are better ways to dispute your credit reports than buying dispute letter templates, and the process is actually very easy. First, get copies of your credit reports so you can review them for errors. You have the right to a free copy of your credit reports once every 12 months from AnnualCreditReport.com. You can also get a free credit report from Experian every 30 days.
If you determine there is information appearing on your credit report or reports that is legitimately incorrect or that you believe can no longer be verified by the source of the information, the law protects you. In those cases, you should file a formal dispute. Specifically, if your Experian credit report contains any errors, you can file your dispute online, via good old-fashioned U.S. mail, or over the phone. To dispute an item on your Experian credit report by mail, print and fill out the online dispute form, which asks for information to verify your identity and allows you to note the specific items you're disputing and why you think they are incorrect. Then mail that form to Experian at P.O. Box 4500, Allen, TX 75013.
The dispute and investigation process cannot take more than 30 to 45 days, and most investigations are completed within a few weeks. Once the credit reporting agency has completed the investigation process, it is required to provide you with written results within five business days.
Bottom Line: Save Your Money
After you've filed your dispute, you can sit back and give the process a few weeks to run its course. And a final bit of good news: You can leave your credit card in your wallet because this entire process is—and has always been—free for consumers.