A Guest Post from my friends at Consumer Law QA -
If you have ever been asked to pay for a credit report, then you probably didn’t realize that the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) demands that all of the 3 nationwide consumer reporting companies, which are Experian, Equifax and Trans Union, are obliged to provide you with a copy of your credit report free of charge. You can request your free credit report at Annualcreditreport.com.
This report is only issued if you request it and it should be provided once in a 12-month period. If you require further credit reports within the same 12-month period then you will be asked to pay. The FCRA prioritizes the privacy and accuracy of any information held by the consumer reporting companies. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has the job of enforcing the FCRA requirements. If you have a credit dispute leveled at one of these companies, then you should compile a credit dispute letter, which is your legal right. You may download a credit dispute letter sample here.
A credit report should include personal information about yourself, such as your place of residence, the method you use to pay your bills, if you have ever been sued and if you have ever filed for bankruptcy. Your credit worthiness is also included in the report, through providing information about how much available credit you have and your present debt situation. The approved reporting companies are allowed to sell the information provided in your report to insurers, creditors, employers, and any other businesses that may use it to assess any applications you have made for credit, employment, or, for example, renting a house.
It is vital to you that all information is correct, particularly if a potential employer, an insurance provider or the owner of a property you wish to rent requests the information. If some information is incorrect then you are entitled to lodge a credit report dispute to the reporting company concerned by using a credit dispute letter. Sometimes, there are old debts remaining on your credit report.
Usually, there is no need to do anything to erase repaid debts from your credit report, as these should be deleted automatically from the credit report. However, if outdated accounts still remain, you can make use of the credit report dispute process to ensure they are removed.
In the credit dispute letter you should write down what information you have found to be inaccurate in the report and why it is not accurate. You should then ask the credit reporting agencies to investigate the matter and delete or amend the disputed information as soon as possible. If you have any documents to prove your situation, then you should make copies and include them with the letter. A list of these should be written at the bottom of the letter, so the person who opens it will be able to account for the enclosures. Never send originals, as it is far too stressful worrying if they will ever be returned.
You can also include a copy of the credit report, ticking or circling the items that have been reported incorrectly. Don’t forget to send the letter by using certified mail. Also, ask for a return receipt, so that you will know that the reporting company actually received your letter and any additional enclosures. Before mailing the credit dispute letter, make sure you have made a photocopy, so that you have a complete record of the correspondence at hand, if required.
If the furnisher (debt collector or creditor) of the information does not respond to the investigation, the item must be deleted. But the time frame is not necessarily 30 days because the CRA may request an additional 15-days if it receives information from the consumer relevant to the investigation.
If the furnisher does not respond, the CRA must treat the information as “unverifiable,” which means that it must promptly delete the information and notify the furnisher of the deletion. If the furnisher wants to reinsert that information, the furnisher must certify that the information is complete and accurate. Then the CRA must notify the consumer in writing within five business days after the reinsertion. If you find it difficult to file a credit dispute on your own you should contact a consumer law lawyer to help you with it.