Houston, we've got a problem
Let’s say you’ve been very good about checking your credit reports , pulling them once a year from each of the three big credit report agencies (CRAs) – Experian, Equifax and TransUnion. Everything has been fine until one day, you suddenly notice an outstanding debt that you don’t recognize and don’t recall incurring.
Or maybe you haven’t been so diligent about checking those reports after all. Then, you interview for a once-in-a-lifetime job only to have the hiring manager explain that you are no longer being considered because your credit check failed. Or perhaps you’re attempting to rent your first place, and the landlord turns you down, citing a low credit score as the reason.
The problem is, you know there’s something wrong with the information that’s being reported about your credit. You’ve been diligent about making payments on time, stayed out of debt and have been careful to keep your credit in good shape. So what do you do?
These scenarios all represent potential credit errors, or incorrect data on your report, that could keep you from achieving your goals in life. Incorrect data can come in the form of an identity mix-up where another person’s info shows on your report, debt-to-income ratio being reported inaccurately or something as simple as a wrong address. If you suspect that there is incorrect data on your credit report, it’s important to begin the credit dispute process immediately so that any errors don’t affect other areas of your life.
Show me the money
Disputing errors on your credit report can be difficult and time consuming. But, it can be done. And, you do have options.
Option 1: Dispute it Yourself
The first thing you should always do when investigating data inaccuracies is to directly call any creditor who you think has listed an erroneous outstanding balance, delinquency, inaccurate credit limit, or other error on your credit report. If the information is wrong and you can prove it, you may be able to get the creditor to contact the CRAs at that point and have it removed. However, if they won’t, or if they say they will and never do, you must then turn to the CRA dispute process.
Under the Fair Credit Reporting Act, CRAs are required to thoroughly investigate credit report disputes. So are the creditors who supply your information to them. However, these investigations may not be comprehensive, and because of that, can potentially lead to some errors being repeatedly “verified” as accurate, creating a revolving door of disputes for you.
One step at a time
If you plan to initiate a dispute yourself, some experts suggest the following steps1
- File disputes with both the credit issuer and the credit bureau at the same time.
- Each of the CRAs has a manual form you can download from their websites.
- Pay very close attention to what documents need to be submitted and in what format. Each agency can be very specific and if even one form or document is not as requested, you may have to return to square one and start all over again.
- Use certified mail (with return receipt requested) when sending any documents.
- If the problem is not fixed, re-dispute it with the bureau and the credit issuers.
Option 2: Get Help from Professionals
There is no need to go it alone when trying to fix inaccurate information on your credit report. Getting help from professionals that are familiar with the credit dispute process and the requirements of each of the CRAs can save you valuable time and stress. By working with a credit repair company, you can be assured that errors will be accurately detected and that they will be disputed properly. However, each company is different in structure and in the benefits they offer you as a consumer. There are many credit repair companies out there that offer to help “fix” your credit – for a fee. Those fees are often charged upfront, and then accrue each month as the company’s specialists work through your dispute. But that’s yesterday’s credit repair model.
Today’s more effective and cost-efficient credit repair process doesn’t involve large upfront or monthly fees, but instead offers a pay-for-performance model. This means the consumer is billed only on a per dispute basis for corrections and deletions that are confirmed by the CRAs. This new model is employed by 20/20 Credit, and it allows us to give our customers the advantage, where our competitors take advantage.
The important thing to know when disputing inaccurate data on your credit report is that you have options, and that something can be done to improve your situation. Whether you decide to attempt to fix your credit yourself or to employee the services of professionals, 20/20 Credit is here to offer you information and advice to help you along your journey.