The credit dispute letter can determine whether your dispute is taken seriously or thrown in the pile labeled frivolous. Credit bureaus are looking for any excuse not to investigate your dispute.
Because the credit bureaus receive thousands of disputes daily, representatives only have a few minutes to examine a credit dispute letter and determine a dispute code from among several specific codes offered by the E-Oscar system. A credit dispute letter should be short, simple and contain supporting evidence, if available.
Also remember to request a deletion of negative information and not a correction. You may not get the deletion but always request it. Correcting negative information has virtually no impact on your credit rating, for example: Asking the credit bureau to change a 60-day late to a 30-day late means the listing will still be in the negative category.
Here are 10 tips to writing a credit dispute letter and getting the bureaus to take action.
1. Never use credit bureau forms.
Dispute forms supplied by the credit bureaus are vague. If you want to be taken seriously write your own dispute letter. Plus, you may need to provide supporting documentation, like a canceled check illustrating that you made a payment. Using an online dispute form may not allow you to attach supporting documents.
2. Never use standard form letters.
What the bureaus deem as credit repair form letters may not be taken as seriously as dispute letters written in an authentic, personalized voice. You need to demonstrate your frustration with how the issue is affecting you. Credit repair dispute letters are problematic because the bureaus get the same letter over and over again. Form letters are easily recognized and could be discarded as frivolous.
3. Create a sense of urgency.
Dispute letters that have a sense of urgency as well as demonstrate how you are being harmed by an error are more powerful. It is not that the bureaus care about your situation — they want to avoid any possible lawsuits. Clearly indicate why you are disputing a particular item on your credit reports. The bureaus will not begin an investigation until you have clearly communicated to them what it is you are challenging, and why.
4. Dispute factual errors.
Base your disputes on factual errors. Many consumers submit disputes such as “account not mine” when it really is their account. Not only is this misleading, it may get your credit file flagged as “identity theft.” Dispute one factual error at a time. Do not use all your dispute reasons in one letter. Save some just in case you do not get the desired result the first time and have to write a second dispute letter.
Example of Factual Errors:
- Incorrect account numbers
- Incorrect balance
- Incorrect opening date
- Incorrect credit limit
- Incorrect account type
- Charge off that has been sold or transferred has a past due balance instead of a zero balance
- Charge-off account showing currently past due
- Open charge-off accounts
- Accounts not included in bankruptcy
- Collection accounts with a credit limit
5. Save your expert knowledge but include evidence.
Refrain from making empty threats and quoting each and every FCRA violation in your dispute letter. Save that type of expertise for your dispute letters directly with the creditor or when your attorney files a lawsuit. Credit bureau employees are working under a timeline and are not moved by your vast knowledge; besides they may choose to toss your letter into the “frivolous” bin just for kicks. Include evidence and documentation available to you. Your evidence may be important later on if you do need to go to court to prove that a credit bureau isn’t correcting a legitimate mistake.
6. Dispute items sparingly.
Do not bombard the credit bureaus with more than a 3-4 derogatory listings per dispute letter. In fact it is best to write a dispute letter for each error and mail them separately. Some consumers like to send a blanket dispute letter for all derogatory listings and this type of strategy may actually work. But always err on the side of caution because the credit bureaus are looking for reasons not to investigate your disputes. Allow at least 30-60 days between every round of dispute letters.
7. Request negative items deleted.
Always, always, ask for deletions. When you submit dispute letters, state exactly what outcome you want. Disputing Charge-offs, Collection accounts, Public Records, Foreclosures, Repossessions and even Settled Accounts only makes sense if you request a deletion. Having inaccuracies or errors in these types of accounts corrected will not improve your credit score, they’ll still be considered negative listings.
8. Late payments.
The exception to asking for deletions is late payments. Challenging late payments on the basis that you were never late could result in the account being converted to positive status. The credit bureau will contact the creditor and ask for verification of the listing. Should the creditor fail to provide verification, the listing will be changed to “Paid Never Late.”
9. Mailing your dispute letter.
Some experts will say send everything certified mail in order to create a paper trail. Others will say send it regular mail because the credit bureaus get an enormous amount of mail and they do not have the time to deal with certified mail. I say send dispute letters certified, return receipt mail to be safe.
10. Create a paper trail.
Sending a written complaint may not help resolve your problem any more than filing an online dispute. But it will help later on if your problem isn’t resolved to your satisfaction. You may eventually have to file a lawsuit for resolution and you will need to show a record of your efforts in court.
Plus sending in a dispute online may result in you giving up your rights to sue. Some consumer law attorneys say you may be giving up your rights to sue if the credit bureaus fail to correct mistakes because the online dispute form may contain arbitration clauses in the click agreement. That means if you dispute the error online, you won’t be able to take the credit bureau to court if they repeatedly verify errors as accurate on your credit reports.
Mailing Addresses. Always check the mailing addresses of the credit bureaus. Believe or not, they sometimes change their mailing addresses and fax numbers. They may even have different mailing addresses depending on where you reside.
P.O. Box 4000
Allen, TX 75013
Equifax Information Services LLC
P.O. Box 740256
Atlanta, GA 30374
Consumer Dispute Center
P.O. Box 2000
Chester, PA 19022