Curious About How to Dispute an Error on Your Credit Report? These Financial Planning Credit Report Tips Will Help!
An important aspect of financial planning is monitoring your credit score and credit history/report. As discussed in the previously published Summit blog entitled “Financial Planning Tips: The Most Common Credit Report Errors,” credit report errors are common and can have an adverse effect on your credit history and rating. Even if you are working with a financial advisor to help with your financial planning needs, it is your personal responsibility to check your credit reports for errors and if necessary, dispute any errors you may find.
The dispute process:
So you found what you think is a potential error on your credit report. Now what?
Step 1: Contact the credit bureau whose report contains the potential error to dispute the error. If the same error appears in more than one credit bureau’s credit report, you’ll need to file a dispute with each credit bureau whose credit report contains the potential error. The quickest way to file a dispute with the credit bureau is online; all three major credit bureaus have an online dispute system on their website (click here to dispute your Experian credit report online; click here to dispute your Equifax credit report; and click here to dispute your TransUnion credit score online).
While these online dispute systems may be the quickest and most convenient way to dispute a potential error with a credit bureau, credit experts say that a mailed letter may be a better option as the online dispute forms can be too rigid or may adversely lock you into accepting legal terms that you don’t want to. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) also recommends that in addition or in lieu or filing a dispute online, you should also mail a dispute letter to the credit bureau so there is a paper trail for your dispute.
If you submit a dispute by (snail) mail, you can use this FTC sample letter as a guide for drafting your dispute letter. Equifax and TransUnion also require that you submit their dispute form with your letter (click here to download the Equifax dispute form; click here to download the TransUnion dispute form). Send your dispute letter and the dispute form (if required) to the complaint department mailing address at the credit bureau. Make sure to send your letter certified mail with “return receipt requested,” so you can document when the credit bureau received your letter. As for enclosures to be sent with your letter, send photocopies (don’t send the originals) of documents that support your position. Also remember to make copies of your letter and any enclosures for your own personal files.
Step 2: Contact the information provider (that is the person, lender, creditor, company, or organization that provided information about you to the credit bureau) in writing explaining that you are disputing information provided to the credit bureau. Use the FTC’s sample letter for disputing errors on your credit report with information providers as a guide for drafting your dispute letter and include photocopies of documents that support your position. As with your snail mail letter to the credit bureau, your letter to the information provider should also be sent certified mail with “return receipt requested” and you should make copies of the letter and its enclosures for your personal files.
Step 3: Wait to hear back from the credit bureau about your claim. Unless the credit bureau considers your claim to be frivolous, they must investigate the reported disputed item(s) in question—usually within 30 days, but sometimes longer depending on the issue. When you do hear back from the credit bureau, their response will let you know if the disputed item(s) have been deleted, fixed, or remains the same. The credit bureau’s decision essentially comes down to whether the creditor/lender/information provider agrees with you or not. If the initial investigation does not resolve your dispute, and you think you can present a better case with better evidence that supports your position, you can refile your dispute with the credit bureau. Also, if the investigation does not resolve your dispute with the credit bureau, you can ask that a statement of the dispute be included in your file and in future credit reports. You can also ask the credit bureau to include the statement of the dispute to anyone who received a copy of your credit report in the recent past; however, you can expect to have to pay a fee for this service.
Step 4: Consider other routes. While you should always start with reporting the dispute to the credit bureau, you can also file a complaint online with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. Once you file the complaint with the CFPB, they must forward the information to the credit bureau, which then is required to respond to both you and the CFPB. If you think the error(s) on your credit report are the result of identity theft, heft, contact the credit bureau right away and ask them to put an initial fraud report on your file to limit further damage to your credit report.
As any prudent financial advisor will tell you, monitoring your credit report and score and checking your credit report for errors and then disputing any errors that you may find is an important part of financial self-advocacy and proactive financial planning.
About Summit Brokerage Services, Inc.
Summit Brokerage Services is part of Cetera Financial Group. Summit Brokerage provides a broad range of securities brokerage and investment services to primarily individual investors. Summit Brokerage also sells insurance products, predominantly fixed and variable annuities and life insurance through its subsidiary, SBS Insurance Agency of Florida. Summit Brokerage also provides asset management services through its investment advisor, Summit Financial Group, Inc.
About Cetera Financial Group
Cetera Financial Group® (“Cetera”) is a leading network of independent retail broker-dealers empowering the delivery of objective financial planning advice to individuals, families and company retirement plans across the country through trusted financial advisors and financial institutions. Cetera is the second-largest independent financial advisor network in the nation by number of advisors, as well as a leading provider of retail services to the investment programs of banks and credit unions.
Through its multiple distinct firms, Cetera offers independent and institutions-based advisors the benefits of a large, established broker-dealer and registered investment adviser, while serving advisors and institutions in a way that is customized to their needs and aspirations. Advisor support resources offered through Cetera include award-winning wealth management and financial planning and advisory platforms, comprehensive broker-dealer and registered investment adviser services, practice management support and innovative technology. For more information, visit www.ceterafinancialgroup.com.
*”Cetera Financial Group” refers to the network of retail independent broker-dealers encompassing, among others, Cetera Advisors, Cetera Advisor Networks, Cetera Financial Institutions, Cetera Financial Specialists, First Allied Securities, Girard Securities, The Legend Group and Summit Brokerage Services.