By Kaiwa Zawadi

In order to avoid the headache of cleaning up your credit report due to inaccuracies, it would be beneficial to check your credit report with the three major credit bureaus (Equifax, TransUnion and Experian) annually. If there is any indication of any suspicious or fraudulent activity on your report, there are ways to dispute these errors.

According to a study conducted by the Federal Trade Commission, one in four consumers identified errors on their reports that might affect their credit rating in 2013. In addition, four out of five consumers who filed a claim or dispute, noticed a change to their credit report.

In addition, an Oregon woman recently sued Equifax and was awarded $18 million after she repeatedly contacted them to dispute incorrect information on her report. While this is an extreme case, there are plenty of instances in which credit bureaus will misreport information, so it's important to dispute errors immediately.

Don’t feel frustrated as there are ways you can fix these errors. Below are some steps to possibly erase these errors for good off of your report.  

1. Order Copies of Your Report
Order the most recent copy of your credit report. If there are any inaccuracies that you come across, this is the perfect opportunity for you to dispute it. Do not order a report from a third party agency. By law, you are entitled to a free copy of each of your reports. You may also qualify to receive a free report if you’ve been rejected from applying for credit within the last 60 days.

2. Pay Attention to Detail
Not only should you pay attention to major discrepancies such as inaccurate purchases or court judgments, watch out for smaller mistakes such as wrong addresses or misspelled names. These mistakes can spell fraudulent activity.

3. Highlight Mistakes
Make copies of the page reflecting the errors. Highlight the mistake and if there is more than one error, specify those with a bullet point or number. You can refer back to these errors when it’s time to file your dispute. Make copies of the highlighted and bulleted errors.

 4. Write the letter, don't dispute online
The process may seem quicker and easier by sending a dispute online, but it may not allow you to fully state your claim.

5. File Each Dispute Separately
If there are multiple errors on your report, write a dispute letter for each error and mail separately. Also, write separate letters to each of the three credit bureaus that report the mistakes. Don’t assume one credit agency will notify the other of discrepancies, plus, this helps keep track of what information is sent to each agency.

6. Keep it Basic
When you write your letter, keep it simple and easy to read. Be polite and very clear in what you’re disputing in plain language that spells out why the information doesn't belong on your report.

7. Evidence
This could be the most important part of your dispute. Including proper documentation and specific detailed information can determine the outcome of your claim. This way, the credit bureau can’t say you didn’t provide enough information. Remember to make copies of all your correspondence.

8. Organization
Keep very good records of all your claims and correspondence. Write down the names of all of the people you speak with in customer service including dates and times and what was discussed. You never know if this pertinent information can be used later.

9. Mail Your Claims
If you’ve thoroughly checked each report you should know which collection agency or data furnisher (the one sharing your information) is reporting the errors on your history. Disputes can take a least a few weeks to process. They will then let you know if your claim is valid or not.

10. Keep Pushing
If you know that the discrepancy is valid and it continues to be verified through the credit bureaus, you may want to seek legal help. There are lawyers experienced in Fair Credit Reporting Act cases. The National Association of Consumer Advocates provides a detailed list of attorneys.

MyBankTracker is an independent resource that helps consumers make smarter banking and money decisions.

Related Articles
  1. Credit & Loans

    How Your VantageScore Credit Report Is Calculated

    Deficiencies in the FICO credit report have led to the creation of a new credit scoring system - the Vantagescore. Find out what factors determine this credit score, and how the model can benefit ...
  2. Credit & Loans

    Consequences Of Maxing Out Your Credit Card

    With the average credit card holder owning 3.5 cards, it’s important to manage and keep track of purchases made with your card, so you don’t go over your credit card limit or cap.
  3. Credit & Loans

    5 Secrets Credit Card Companies Don’t Want You To Know

    Find out some of the ways you can lessen your interest payments and avoid other unnecessary penalties that lurk in the fine print.
  4. Credit & Loans

    What's On A Consumer Credit Report?

    A look at the various components and considerations that go into one's credit report and credit score.
  5. Credit & Loans

    4 Unexpected Things That Lower Your Credit

    It's important to maintain a good credit score. Discover what could be lowering it, without your knowledge.
  6. Credit & Loans

    The 5 Biggest Factors That Affect Your Credit

    Credit companies rely on these factors to determine whether to lend to you and at what rate.
  7. Budgeting

    Preventing Medical Bankruptcy

    If you’re worried medical expenses could overwhelm you, there are some thing you can do to ease your concerns.
  8. Professionals

    Credit Risk Analyst: Job Description and Average Salary

    Learn what credit risk analysts do every day and how much money they make on average, and identify the skills and education needed for this career.
  9. Entrepreneurship

    How Pawnshops Make Money

    Learn about the various ways that a pawn shop makes money, including the primary revenue sources of making personal loans and selling retail items.
  10. Credit & Loans

    Walmart MoneyCard Vs. Walmart Credit Card

    Discover how the Walmart MoneyCard and the Walmart credit card have different benefits that may influence your decision on which one to choose.
  1. Are secured personal loans better than unsecured loans?

    Secured loans are better for the borrower than unsecured loans because the loan terms are more agreeable. Often, the interest ... Read Full Answer >>
  2. Can personal loans be included in bankruptcy?

    Personal loans from friends, family and employers fall under common categories of debt that can be discharged in the case ... Read Full Answer >>
  3. How many free credit reports can you get per year?

    Individuals with valid Social Security numbers are permitted to receive up to three credit reports every 12 months rather ... Read Full Answer >>
  4. Can a 401(k) be taken in bankruptcy?

    The two most common types of bankruptcy available to consumers are Chapter 7 and Chapter 13. Whether you file a Chapter 7 ... Read Full Answer >>
  5. Is Apple Pay safe and free?

    Apple Pay is a mobile payment system created by Apple to reducing the number of times shoppers and buyers have to pay for ... Read Full Answer >>
  6. Does Netspend report to credit bureaus?

    NetSpend does not report to credit bureaus in any capacity. NetSpend is a prepaid debit card program that allows cardholders ... Read Full Answer >>
Trading Center