STEP 1: Obtain your report
Order your credit report from each of the credit reporting agencies.
STEP 2: Review your report
Once you receive your report, review each item and make sure it is accurate. For each debt listed, consider:
- Is the debt mine?
- Is the amount showing owed accurate?
- Is the debt over 7 years old?
- If you filed bankruptcy, is the bankruptcy more than 10 years old?
- If you have filed bankruptcy, and the debt was discharged in bankruptcy, is the debt showing a zero balance?
- Is the report showing a bankruptcy that is not mine?
- If the debt is showing that it was paid late, is that accurate?
- Was the debt paid late?
- Is the same debt being reported more than once?
- If a public record, such as a tax lien, is showed, and you have paid it, is it showing that the lien is paid?
STEP 3: Send dispute / challenge letters to agencies
For debts which are inaccurate, send a letter disputing or challenging the item to each of the credit reporting agencies that are reporting the item.
You should specify why you are challenging the item, i.e. the debt is not yours, the amount is wrong, etc. This letter should be sent by certified mail, return receipt requested. You should keep a copy of the letter and the green card where the credit bureau signs acknowledging receipt of the letter for your records.
STEP 4: Send dispute / challenge letters to creditor or furnisher
For debts which are inaccurate, send a letter to the creditor or furnisher of information disputing the item they are reporting to the credit bureau.
Again, specify why you challenge the disputed item, attach documents establishing your identity, proof that supports your position where available, and send the letter certified mail, return receipt requested.
STEP 5: Confirm that information is deleted
If the credit bureau(s) response is that the information is being deleted, request a fresh credit report by mail (not online) and confirm that the information has been deleted.
If the consumer reporting agency responds that the information you disputed is being deleted, request your credit report again in 30 to 90 days, and again before applying for credit, insurance, or employment to be certain that the information does not reappear.
In some cases, the error returns for various reasons. Sometimes, the credit reporting agencies will cloak or cover up the erroneous information for a certain period of time. If the original creditor re-reports the erroneous information after the cloaking time is up, the error can reappear. You need to consult with an attorney who is experienced in Fair Credit Reporting Act cases.
STEP 6: If erroneous information continues to be reported…
If you follow the above procedures, and erroneous information continues to be reported or the credit bureau or creditor/furnisher refuses to delete the information, contact an attorney who handles Fair Credit Reporting Act cases. If you are unable to get the credit reporting agencies to correct the problem by following this process, or if you are able to get the error corrected, but then it returns, you may need help from an attorney. There are time deadlines, so do not delay.
The FTC publishes information on its website that includes contact information for the credit reporting agencies as well as sample dispute letters.