Submitted by Shawn Orcutt on Mon, 01/04/2021 - 1:11pm
You have your credit reports in hand, you have found the errors, now what? This chapter will walk you through your options for getting those errors taken care of so there is no risk of them hurting your score. If you don’t have your reports and need some insight on how to get your real, free reports then the help is here. https://www.billsbills.com/blog/do-your-credit-reports-have-errors
The legal process of disputing information on your credit report is often called "credit repair." You should have the ability to do it all yourself, but lots of people do not want to or hit such a large roadblock they resort to outside help. Help comes in the form of a credit repair company or attorney that litigates using the Fair Credit Reporting Act. You may know yourself well enough to have already made up your mind on what you will do, but we'll cover what to expect with each route.
Note, I don’t do credit repair. I sincerely wouldn’t have enough patience to do it. This information should be helpful though and save you time/stress/hair.
Some errors on reports are SIGNIFICANTLY harder to remove than others. If you followed the instructions from the previous article about errors then you may have highlighted on your reports or wrote down the errors on another paper. Overall, the more recent and larger errors are harder to get fixed. Also, of course, the more errors then the harder it will be.
Easy disputes are: personal information, “not yours” issues, accounts over 7 years old from last activity, late payment but it happened 3 or more years ago on a closed account, late but now paid accounts. Medium difficulty disputes are: errors that are about 2 years old instead of 3 years, and charge-offs. Hard disputes are: errors in a current account, an active collection, bankruptcy, foreclosure, recent late payments, unpaid tax lien. If the tax lien has been paid then you can talk to your attorney or the IRS about releasing it.
We will come back to the basics of doing-it-yourself in a minute, but let's talk about using an expert for repair. If you do have lots of errors, recent errors, or large errors then it may require much more time and effort. It can be frustrating. Because of that many people seek out an expert. With the current credit reporting system, in theory, you are supposed to be able to handle it all yourself. Maybe. How big are the errors?
Like any company you do business with you want experienced, professional, and trustworthy. Referrals are useful. Does your realtor, mortgage broker, or the car dealership you like know someone? If you want to use the internet then start with someone local if you want to have some face-to-face interaction.
The big rule is, "no money paid before work is done." Some credit repair companies fall into 2 categories: 1) those that charge at the end of each month, or 2) those that charge per deletion, where you owe money only after they have accomplished something. One is not better than another, just different. Also, there may be money due at the end of an initial appointment if work was done during that meeting, like a detailed analysis of your situation.
Lastly, The growing National Association of Credit Services Organizations (nacso.org) and you can also visit http://nacso.org/ for a list of companies near you. The list will keep growing as the organization does, but last I checked, it did promote the proper running of a credit services company.
As I mentioned, you are supposed to have all of the tools you need to correct your credit on your own. So, why would you need to hire an attorney? If you try to get something corrected and it is incorrectly validated by the creditor then you might try to dispute again. The credit bureau may investigate again or they may throw out your dispute if it is determined to be, "frivolous." You may be asking, "Can they do that?" Yes, if they think a dispute is frivolous...using whatever criteria they have...then your dispute just goes in the trash.
The only solution at that point could be for an attorney to sue the credit bureau and/or creditor under FCRA to force them to address the issue and correct it. Attorneys may also be able to get compensation for you for damage. Damage could have been extra money you had to pay because of a higher interest rate or denied credit because of an error, which caused monetary damage.
Assuming you are doing this yourself then disputes can be done two ways, by phone is not one of them. The first way is to do it online through each credit bureau's website. This is an easier, quicker way to do it, but there can be problems.
Using the online route, you waive some rights. They get 45 days to respond instead of 30. Your dispute is dumbed-down to a few categories. You may also be losing some litigation rights because of an arbitration clause. So, for many people this is not the best way to go. Online may still be fine if it is just one or two simple, easy, obvious errors that are a slam-dunk for you to win and get resolved.
To start writing letters you need to get a little organized. You need supplies. Get a folder per credit bureau or per creditor, whichever makes the most sense to you. You will need paper to write on because all letters should be handwritten. You will be mailing letters through certified mail return receipt from the post office. If you get the receipt when the bureau receives the letter, then they have 30 days to investigate and respond that the error was validated or corrected. The 30 days is from when the receipt shows they received the letter.
You can have no more than 3 disputes per letter, unless several errors are all related to the same thing. That means for this first wave you will be sending out three letters (one to each major bureau). If you have a ton of errors then you may not be able to tackle all of them in a single letter. Most people think it would be best to go for the easiest items, but it may be better to attack the harder items. Your first couple of letters have the best chance of getting the issue solved.
After a couple of letters you may get flagged as, “attempting to engage in credit repair” or that your disputes are frivolous, but with the easy items saved for the end then you are not asking much of them and you have something closer to a sure win.
Each credit bureau requires things a little bit differently. If you go to google and type, “Experian credit dispute” then you should find the correct address and the list of items you need to include, besides your evidence of the error, to show who you are. Examples: Name as it would appear in your credit file, social security number, address(es) within the past 2 years, and perhaps a utility bill.
If you need help with the basics of the letter, then google, “FTC sample letter for disputing errors.” You should make each letter your own though, unique to you. As I said, handwritten, but legible. You mail the letters then mark your calendar for about 40 days out or for 35 days from when you received the return receipt. Remember, your letter has to go back through the mail. After that, they have 30 days to respond and send it back to you through the mail.
If the errors get resolved, great! If the error comes back verified then you need to take it up a level. To avoid your next dispute being thrown out as frivolous you may have to present new, additional evidence. If your tone in the first level was pleasant, then you may wish to be more assertive. Use stronger, more forceful language. Emphasize why this must be fixed or demand it. Don’t swear or be hateful, but turn up the heat as necessary.
It can be a frustrating process. I’d guess many people find it quite unpleasant. It is because of that why there are companies available for hire to do this mess for you. Credit Bureaus particularly dislike them, but if the process was easier then the help wouldn’t be needed. Maybe your situation will be done quickly, but maybe it will take 6 months.
If you are curious about a company doing it, then before you start out on your own, find one that has a free consultation, take your credit reports and talk with them. They may give you a better idea about how easy or difficult it will be for your credit file. Remember, you don’t have to hire them.
Decide which option you are going to pursue. You know your own level of organization and patience, so compare that to how many and how big the errors are. If you are doing it yourself, then get organized and get the supplies you need for the months ahead. Plan your letters and include proof of ID as required for each Bureau and send the handwritten letters certified mail return receipt.
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