If you know your credit rights, you’ll know that you have the right to dispute any incorrect or erroneous items on your credit report. The three major credit reporting companies are required by law to investigate all claims you make, at no cost to you; all you need to do is request they do so in writing. That’s where a credit dispute letter comes in.
An Effective Credit Dispute Letter in 6 Easy Steps
All three major credit bureaus now allow you to file credit disputes online, making the process of correcting your credit report simpler and quicker. However you may feel more comfortable stating your corrections in writing and in your own words, where you won’t have to agree to any confusing “terms of agreement” that could put limits on your ability to successfully file a claim. Additionally, writing a physical letter allows you to keep a copy for your records, which could prove valuable in the future.
You don’t need to be a professional writer or have a law degree to write an effective credit dispute letter. As long as you write clearly and back up your claims, don’t worry about adding anything else. You can hand write the letter, but your writing should be legible; if you’re not confident in your hand writing, go with a typed letter. (Click Here for our Credit Dispute Letter Template)
Step 1: Start with your info
At the top of your letter, start with your basic info. Put the date, your name, and a current address. It may also be beneficial to include the last four digits of your social security number.
Step 2: Write the credit reporting company’s info
Underneath your name and address, write the credit reporting company’s info, starting with “Complaint Department,” then the company’s name (i.e. Equifax, Experian, or Transunion). Finally, put the company’s address (to find this, go to their website or call their customer service line).
Step 3: Clearly outline your dispute
Get right to the point. You’re writing to dispute an item on your credit report. Reference the credit report by reference number if possible, and then the specific item that you’re disputing. Include the name or source of the item, the date, the account or card number, and any other specific, identifying information you can. Then say why you think it’s inaccurate, and say whether you want it removed or corrected. Tell the credit reporting company that you’d like them to re-investigate these items.
You may find that the credit bureaus assert the responsibility of investigating the claims to the agency or company that reported the information. This may result in a lot of information being passed around, and you feeling like you’ve gotten nowhere (which is a good reason for you to keep physical copies of all your correspondence). If this is the case, do not hesitate to inform the company in your letter that you’ll also be forwarding your letter to the Better Business Bureau, your state attorney general’s office, and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. This isn’t necessary in your initial letter, but may become necessary in subsequent letters.
Step 4: Sign your name and list enclosures
Print your name and then sign your signature. Beneath this, include a list of the documents that back up your claim.
Step 5: Include copies of supporting documents
Don’t send any original documents along with your letter of dispute. Instead, make copies and use a highlighter to underline specific items relevant to your dispute. For example, you may want to include a copy of your credit report with the disputed items highlighted and numbered.
Step 6: Proofread
Read over your letter out loud to make sure it’s coherent and free of any mistakes. Ask a friend or family member to read over it, as well. Sometimes what sounds clear in your head isn’t as clear to someone else, and if it isn’t clear to them it will likely be unclear to the credit reporting company, as well. Time is of the essence if your credit score is causing you financial stress, and having to rewrite and resend your letter will only prolong the disputing process.
Now all you have to do is mail your letter and supporting documents to the credit reporting company. Make sure that you send your letter by certified mail and obtain a “return receipt” to ensure the credit reporting company receives everything that you’ve sent. If you know the source of the incorrect item on your credit report, you may also consider sending a letter to the furnisher of the information so they can correct it themselves.
Once they receive your letter of dispute, they are required by law to investigate your claim within 30 days.
Depending on your situation, you may need to send 3 separate letters to each of the credit reporting companies. If you have more than one incorrect item requiring action, you may need to send even more letters to address each one. The process can be laborious, and you may need to send more letters to specific creditors as well. It’s important that you go through all of the correct channels and don’t accept no for an answer if you’re given the run-around without any answers. Stay organized and keep everything on file in case you need to reference it later.
Credit repair companies can help with this process. Lexington Law, for example, employs lawyers and paralegals who can provide expertise in handling complicated cases. But as long as you’re willing to put in the time and effort to write letters of dispute and follow up with each credit bureau, then there’s no reason why you can’t repair your credit on your own. For more credit repair tips and tricks, follow our blog.