Overview and General Tips
Carefully review your consumer credit reports for errors. These reports are full of inaccuracies as documented by a recent study by the advocacy organization U.S. Public Interest Research Group. This study found that one in four consumer credit reports it reviewed had errors serious enough to cause consumers to be denied credit, or other essentials such as an apartment, or insurance.
- Before you file a dispute with any consumer credit reporting agency, you should have and review a recent copy of your consumer credit report issued by that agency.
- You should be prepared to provide details such as the name of the “furnisher” who provided the information about the disputed item, the reasons for your ispute and copies of any documents or information to substantiate your claim.
- File your dispute in writing with the consumer credit reporting agency that issued the consumer credit report containing the error, send it "return receipt requested" and keep a copy of your letter and all documentation for your records. Do not send your original documents.
- Review your report from each of the three credit-reporting agencies at least once a year. An error-free report from one agency does not guarantee that the reports from the other agencies will be accurate.
- Make sure you follow up with all three agencies and any furnishers of information to the consumer credit reporting agencies to ensure the corrections have been made.
- Be aware that contesting an error and resolving credit problems takes time and often a lot of effort. Be persistent and be patient.
DISPUTE MECHANISMS-DIFFERENT RIGHTS AND OBLIGATIONS APPLY BEFORE AND AFTER
DECEMBER 1, 2004
If you dispute information contained in your consumer credit report before December 1, 2004 certain rights apply. After December 1, 2004, other rules and rights will apply. The rules that apply after December 1, 2004 are detailed in a separate section below.
RIGHTS-BEFORE DECEMBER 1, 2004
1. Under the Fair Consumer Credit Reporting Act (FCRA), disputes about errors in a consumer credit report must be made directly to the consumer credit reporting agency. You have the right to dispute, free of charge, any information that is inaccurate or incomplete.
The three major consumer credit reporting agencies allow you to file a dispute either online, by mail, or by telephone.
Once you file a dispute, the agency has 30 days to complete an investigation. During that time period, it must contact the source of the information to verify the accuracy or completeness of the information. The source, or “furnisher” of the information, must respond to the consumer credit reporting agency and must either verify the disputed information as accurate, correct an error, or update information as necessary. The consumer credit reporting agency then must provide you with an updated copy of your consumer credit report within 30 days of receiving your initial request.
If you use an online dispute process and authorize the agency to respond to you online, the consumer credit reporting agency will contact you with its’ results by e-mail. In all other instances, it must mail you an updated report within the 30 day period.
If you disagree or are dissatisfied with investigation, you have the right to add a statement to your consumer credit report that will be viewed by those who order a consumer credit report from the consumer credit reporting agency.
Information and how to contact the three major consumer credit reporting agencies prior to December 1, 2004 about a dispute:
Online Dispute: https://www.econsumer.equifax.com/consumer/sitepage.ehtml?forward=online_dispute
Note: to use this method, you will need to provide certain information including your zip code, your Equifax confirmation number from your Equifax consumer credit report, your last name, street address and last 4 digits of your social security number
Dispute by Telephone: 1 800 685-1111
Dispute by Mail:
Equifax Information Services LLC
P.O. Box 740256
Atlanta, GA 30374
Online Dispute information: http://www.experian.com/disputes/index.html
Dispute by Telephone: 888-397-3742
Dispute by Mail:
P.O. Box 2002
Allen, Texas 75013
Online Dispute information: http://annualcreditreport.transunion.com/entry/disputeonline
Dispute by Telephone: 800-916-8800
Dispute by Mail:
Forms vary by state and are available online at: http://www.transunion.com/corporate/personal/creditDisputes/creditDisputeProcess.page
Mail completed form to:
TransUnion Consumer Solutions
P.O. Box 2000
Chester, PA 19022-2000
If you have a complaint about the way a consumer credit reporting agency handled your dispute request, you may contact the FTC by telephone at: 202-FTC-HELP (202-382-4357)
Or write to the FTC at:
Federal Trade Commission
Washington, D.C. 20580
AFTER DECEMBER 1, 2004 -EXPANDED RIGHTS AND DIFFERENT TIMELINES FOR INVESTIGATING DISPUTES APPLY
2. The FACT Act which will become effective beginning Dec. 1, 2004, gives consumers new rights for disputing errors. Expanded consumer rights under the FACT Act will allow you to dispute errors both with the consumer credit reporting agency and with "furnishers," that is, those who directly provide information to the consumer credit reporting agencies.
You should dispute inaccurate information with both the consumer credit reporting agency and the furnisher. Disputing with both allows you to cover all of your bases to ensure that the corrections are consistently made by any source which might risk reporting an error. Consumer credit reporting agencies may be subject to civil liability if errors are not corrected.
Disputing Information Directly with a Consumer Credit Reporting Agency
Under the FACT Act after December 1, 2004
- Consumer credit reporting agencies have 45 days to conduct reinvestigations of disputed items resulting from free annual consumer credit report requests made under the FACT Act. (An exception to the time period is made if the consumer credit reporting agency has not been continuously providing consumer credit reports for 12 months preceding the request for the free consumer credit report.) Consumer credit reporting agencies have 30-45 days for all other dispute investigations, i.e., those that are generated as a result of information obtained from consumer credit reports other than the free annual reports you are eligible for under the FACT Act.
- If the furnisher of the information fails to respond within this time, or fails to adequately explain the reason for the inaccurate or incomplete information, the consumer credit reporting agency must remove the error or disputed item from your record. The consumer credit reporting agency must provide you with an updated copy of your consumer credit report by mail within the 45 day period.
- Consumer credit reporting agencies must notify creditors and other providers of information when changes are made because of an investigation based on a consumer complaint about a consumer credit reporting error. Creditors must change records, delete records, or permanently block reporting to consumer credit reporting agencies of information found to be inaccurate or incomplete.
- If a consumer credit reporting agency is notified by a furnisher that you are disputing information supplied by the furnisher, the consumer credit reporting agency must indicate that fact in each consumer credit report that includes the disputed information.
You should follow up with the consumer credit reporting agency to verify that the inaccurate or incomplete information is removed in a timely manner, then continue to monitor your credit information on a regular basis by ordering and reviewing your consumer credit reports from the three major consumer credit reporting agencies. Click here on how to contact the three major nationwide consumer credit reporting agencies
Disputing Incorrect Information Directly With Furnisher After December 1, 2004:
Before the changes in federal law that become effective under the FACT Act furnishers of information were only required to perform an investigation of the accuracy of information if they received a complaint from a consumer through a consumer credit reporting agency. Effective December 1, 2004, consumers have a new right to dispute information directly with the providers of the information, also known as “furnishers.” An exception to this is that consumers cannot use credit repair organizations to file disputes directly with furnishers under the FACT Act.
The new law requires financial regulators and the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to develop regulations outlining the types of consumer disputes that creditors and other furnishers of information to consumer credit reporting agencies must investigate. Those regulations are pending.
Other rules about filing a dispute directly with a furnisher have already been developed. The questions and answers below reflect the rules which have been decided and the steps you should take when you file a dispute directly with a furnisher. The pending regulations will define exactly what kind of disputes you can file directly with the furnisher.
How should I dispute information with the furnisher and what information should I include in my dispute?
A consumer credit report contains information about the furnishers of information in your consumer credit report. To dispute information with a furnisher, do so in writing, send it "return receipt requested" and retain a copy of your letter for your records. When you dispute an error with a furnisher, be sure to:
- include your name, account number, identify the specific information that is being disputed;
- explain the basis for the dispute; and
- include copies of all supporting documentation required by the furnisher to substantiate the basis of your dispute.
The furnisher cannot report negative information about you during the pending investigation.
How soon does the furnisher have to respond and by what method?
- Once you have notified the furnisher in writing that you are disputing information it provided, the furnisher has a duty to investigate your complaint and to review all relevant information you provide.
- The furnisher must complete the investigation and respond to you within 30 days of receiving your dispute.
- The 30 day period may be extended by 15 days if the furnisher receives information from you during the 30 day period that is relevant to the investigation.
- If the investigation finds that the disputed information was inaccurate or incomplete or could not be verified, the furnisher must promptly notify each consumer credit reporting agency to which the furnisher provided the inaccurate information. The furnisher must provide to the agency or agencies any information that is necessary to correct the error.
- Based upon the results of the investigation, in notifying a consumer credit reporting agency, the furnisher shall either modify, delete or permanently block the reporting of the disputed information.
- Once the consumer credit reporting agency receives the results of the investigation from the furnisher, the consumer credit reporting agency must act to modify, delete or permanently block the disputed information within the 30 day period that begins when the furnisher receives your notice of dispute, and mail an updated copy of your consumer credit report reflecting the results of the investigation of your dispute.
Does a furnisher have any special obligations under the FACT Act?
- Furnishers must not report negative information about you to consumer credit reporting agencies once you notify the furnisher that the negative information is the result of identity theft.
- Furnishers must notify consumers one time before furnishers can start to report negative information to a consumer credit reporting agency. Click here for more information on blocking.
Where to complain
If you have a complaint about the way a consumer credit reporting agency or a furnisher of information handled your dispute regarding information contained in a free annual consumer credit report made available by the FACT Act after December 1, 2004, contact the FTC by telephone at: 202-FTC-HELP (202-382-4357)
Or write to the FTC at:
Federal Trade Commission
Washington, D.C. 20580
Click here for information about where to complain about a lender.