Jill Krasny reports:
"Formally disputing an error involves writing a letter to the credit bureau reporting the inaccuracy...Errors are not created equal and, unless you’re specific and provide evidence for your claim, you risk having your dispute denied. Here’s what you should know if you’re getting ready to send a credit repair letter...An error on your credit report...can seriously damage your score, making it harder to secure an affordable line of credit...With this in mind, it’s wise to get a copy of your credit report...and go through it with a fine-toothed comb to spot any issues...As with any financial paperwork, you’ll want to make sure the basic information...is correct. (Also ensure it’s complete and up to date.) Beyond that, you’ll want to verify each creditor’s name and debt listed on the report. Spot something unfamiliar? Jot it down, and give that creditor a call to get to the bottom of it. Some lenders sell loans or transfer them to another servicer, so there’s always a chance that you either ignored the notification or never received one. Either way, you’ll want to find out. You’ll also want to look for any signs of identity theft...(If you believe you’ve been a victim of identity theft, it’s a good idea to act right away. You can find a full list of steps to take if your identity has been compromised.) Mixed files — that is, when someone with the same name or a similar name applies for credit, and their file becomes mixed with yours — are another common occurrence, according [to] a 2009 report by the National Consumer Law Center...If you’ve reviewed your credit [report and spoken] with each furnisher and [you] still believe that an item on your report is inaccurate, here’s what to do, according to John Heath, a consumer attorney with Lexington Law, a Credit.com partner. Include your name, current address and a reference line, titled 'Re:' Here, you’ll list the name of the creditor and the account number on your credit report. Be sure to truncate that number to the last four or five digits for security, Heath advises...After your salutation, 'start off by letting the bureau know you are challenging [a certain] item and give the reason why...and ask them to verify that it should be on your report,' Heath says...Heath says, 'I think it’s important so that the person reading the letter understands you are aware of their obligations under the law and that you expect it to be done within [30 days].' You can leave a telephone number for them to contact you, 'but that rarely happens,' says Health. 'Usually the letter will trigger an investigation, and then the bureau will send you results.'...In terms of what not to include, Heath says vitriol or 'demanding speech that is unprofessional' is completely off-limits. 'Don’t make threats that you can’t back up,' such as a lawsuit, and aim to make it a 'polite, business-like communication.' Avoid name-calling, too. See a sample letter for reference...Whether you choose to send your dispute by mail or online, you’ll need to include copies of any supporting documentation...(If you take the digital route, you’ll receive an email notification.) From there, you’ll just have to wait — 30 days, to be exact. That’s how much time the credit agency has to get back to you with a response...(Note: Some disputes can, by law, take up to 45 days.)...If the statement is deleted, you’ll know your hard work paid off. If not, you have a couple of options. First, you can add a short written statement to your credit report, which will appear next to the item you disputed (think of this as a flag). Experian offers some standard comments addressing the most common issues. Consumers can also add multiple statements, although if they have more than 10, they’ll need to call the agency. The second option is to escalate your dispute and send a letter to the agency explaining why you feel the conclusion is wrong. (You can copy the Better Business Bureau, your state attorney general, and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau while you’re at it.) Be sure to keep records of your dispute, including copies of credit reports, correspondence and print-outs of emails. Keep them in a file where you can readily find it. If your attempts to remove the dispute don’t work, you can also hire a reputable credit repair company to help. A good credit repair company will never promise results and won’t take payment until they’ve rendered services on your behalf."
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