Many “credit repair” companies will simply challenge the negative information on your credit report. But, it will only cost you postage to dispute mistakes or outdated items on your credit report. Under the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA), both the consumer reporting company and the information provider (the company that gives information about you to a consumer reporting company) are responsible for correcting inaccurate or incomplete information in your report.
Write the consumer reporting company to about inaccurate information. Include copies (not originals) of documents that support your position. In addition to providing your complete name and address, your letter should identify each item in your report that you dispute; state the facts and the reasons you dispute the information, and ask that it be removed or corrected. You may want to enclose a copy of your report, and circle the items in question. Send your letter by certified mail, “return receipt requested,” so you can document that the consumer reporting company received it.
Your letter may look something like this sample dispute letter. Keep copies of your dispute letter, enclosures and your USPS receipts.
Unless they consider your dispute frivolous, consumer reporting companies have 30 days to investigate. They also must forward the relevant data you provide about the inaccuracy to the organization that provided the information. After the information provider receives notice of a dispute from the consumer reporting company, it, too, is required to investigate, review the relevant information, and report the results back to the consumer reporting company. If this investigation reveals that the disputed information is inaccurate, the information provider has to notify the three nationwide consumer reporting companies so they can correct your file.
When the investigation is complete, the consumer reporting company must give you the results in writing with a free copy of your report if the dispute results in a change. If an item is changed or deleted, the consumer reporting company is not permitted to put the disputed information back in your file unless the information provider verifies that it is accurate and complete. The consumer reporting company also must send you written notice that includes the name, address, and phone number of the information provider. If you ask, the consumer reporting company must send notices of any correction to anyone who received your report in the past six months. You also can ask that a corrected copy of your report be sent to anyone who received a copy during the past two years for employment purposes.
Notify the creditor or other information provider, in writing, that you dispute an item. Include copies of documents supporting your position. Many providers specify an address for disputes. If the provider reports the item to a consumer reporting company, it must include a notice of your dispute. If the information is found to be inaccurate—the information provider may not report it again.
When negative information in your report is accurate, only the passage of time can assure its removal. A consumer reporting company can report most accurate negative information for seven years and bankruptcy information for 10 years. Information about an unpaid judgment against you can be reported for seven years or until the statute of limitations runs out, whichever is longer. To calculate the seven-year reporting period, start from the date the event took place. There is no time limit on reporting information about criminal convictions; information reported in response to your application for a job that pays more than $75,000 a year; and information reported because you’ve applied for more than $150,000 worth of credit or life insurance.