Your credit score has a lot to do with the opportunities you get and the financial security you experience in life. According to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), more than 20% of all American citizens have at least one error on their credit report. Unfortunately, removing them before they do significant damage can be tough, especially if you don’t know what steps to take.
Errors and negative marks on your credit report can remain for several years, even if you bring the problem to the attention of the three major credit reporting bureaus (TransUnion, Equifax, and Experian). In fact, nearly 70% of all consumers with credit report errors still saw problems after they disputed them with the appropriate parties.
To get rid of the errors that are wreaking havoc on your credit report once and for all, it’s important to initiate an effective process through the right sources. By getting the attention of the credit bureaus, you can prevent incorrect information from ruining your creditworthiness. In this article, we will discuss the steps you need to take to efficiently dispute errors on your credit report through Equifax.
Disputing the Major Errors
When disputing the big errors on your credit report, it’s sometimes helpful to hire a team of professionals to do it for you. However, such a strategy can be very expensive. Luckily, it’s possible to get it done on your own if you know what to do and how to do it.
A major error is defined as any negative or misrepresented information on your credit report that hurts your credit score. Such things can include charge-offs, collections, repossessions, foreclosures, short sales, judgements, late payments, and bankruptcies. Keep in mind, however, that the more recent the error is the more it decreases your overall credit score.
You have the right to an updated and accurate credit report according to the Fair Credit Reporting Act. This means that credit bureaus like Experian must investigate lenders’ claims about debt. Unfortunately, a lot of consumers neglect to have their credit report errors resolved because Equifax believes there is no valid claim. Usually, the refusal is a result of incorrect information or a lack of documentation. Below you’ll find the proper language and steps needed to effectively dispute major errors.
STEP ONE: IDENTIFY
To fix major errors on your credit report, you first have to know where they are and how they got there. By getting a comprehensive copy of your credit profile, it’s much easier to identify the problem areas. Analyze your report and if you spot an error, take notes for later so you don’t forget what to work on. With Equifax, consumers are entitled to at least one free copy of their credit report each year.
STEP TWO: CONTACT
The next important step to effectively disputing errors on your Equifax credit report is to use the information you found in your analysis to contact each creditor. While most errors on your report usually involve accounts you’re familiar with, that is not always the case. Errors having to do with familiar debt are common as well. However, delinquent debts often don’t surface until lenders buy or sell the debt to a third party.
Therefore, to get an accurate record of the debts affecting your credit report, you must get in contact with the original creditor. At that point you can ask them to send you the documents associated with each account. Be sure to look for things like account activity and the current owner of each debt. Also, make sure you receive a detailed record showing how much money you owe. If the account is current, ask the creditor to give you details regarding the error. Many times, major errors are little more than the result of a credit card company accidentally reporting a delinquent payment. So, simply contacting the creditor or bank can help you avoid filing a lengthy and complicated dispute.
Keep in mind, however, that certain errors are due to identity theft. Fraud and unauthorized use of a credit account are very common these days, with more than 70% of all U.S. citizens becoming the victim of identity theft at least once in their lives. It typically happens when an unscrupulous person or entity gets ahold of your account information without your knowledge or permission. Fortunately, stopping this type of credit report error often requires little more than simply contacting your bank immediately. However, it’s nearly impossible to stop these errors if you neglect to look at your credit report often.
Once you get in contact with your bank and creditors concerning identity theft, they will likely help you get things worked out. Banks usually fix the effects of fraudulent activity from your credit report as soon as you complete their process. To further protect yourself from that happening again, be sure to place an identity theft fraud alert on your Equifax account as soon as possible. The sooner you take care of it, the better your chances of preventing future problems.
STEP THREE: GATHER
Next, you’ll want to gather the appropriate documents and make sure they all have complete and accurate information on them. Even after you get everything you need from the banks and creditors, you may need more. This may include:
- Evidence of the payments you’ve made
- Collection letters
- Records of settled judgements
- Copies of police reports (which is usually only necessary when you’re the victim of identity theft)
- Identity theft affidavit
Sometimes, even a quick screenshot of a completed payment can help. Especially if you’ve been subject to ID theft, gather as much information as possible. This will help convince Equifax that they can no longer depend on the data entries you’re disputing. Disputes without the necessary documentation usually get dismissed by Equifax and the other credit reporting bureaus, so be thorough. Include copies of hard evidence even if you have screenshots. Equifax will investigate your dispute more aggressively that way.
STEP FOUR: DISPUTE
Once all the above steps are completed you will be ready to effectively dispute major errors from your report. One option is to send a dispute letter to Equifax Information Services. If you prefer to send error disputes online, simply use the Equifax Dispute Portal on the Equifax website. The portal lets you write your letters, upload the appropriate documents, and thoroughly explain the reason for your dispute. Just make sure you keep a copy of each letter in your records.
Usually, consumers receive communication from Equifax via email when they submit disputes online. Hand-written letters, on the contrary, are answered via mail. Either way, it’s important to include everything required on your first attempt to avoid having to redo everything or submit extra documentation later.
STEP FIVE: FOLLOW UP
Remember that even the credit reporting bureaus have rules they must abide by. In fact, they only have 30 days to investigate any dispute a consumer submits. So, if you write a dispute letter in person or online, be sure to follow up with it to ensure they’re doing their job. Technically, Equifax must do the investigation without your help. However, the documentation you submit will certainly help.
Within that 30-day window, Equifax will either confirm or deny the error you disputed. If they confirm it, your file will get updated immediately. If Equifax agents change anything on your report, they will then provide you with a free copy of it. If they deny your dispute, you will receive a letter in the mail or via email explaining why.
Disputing the Uncertain Data
Uncertain or questionable information on your credit report can damage your scores just as much as identity theft or fraudulent reporting. In fact, many credit reports contain duplicate items or delinquent marks placed there in bad faith. Those types of marks tend to be much harder to dispute because they contain partial accuracy. Furthermore, it can be very expensive for Equifax to investigate those matters. Therefore, the added expense may convince Equifax to simply dismiss your claims.
To prevent that from happening, you’ll need to move forward strategically. Avoid credit jamming, which is defined as disputing all negative items on your credit report at one time. Keep in mind that Equifax is more likely to dismiss your dispute request if they believe you’re credit jamming. To make things easier, it may be helpful to hire a credit repair company. But, if you wish to do things on your own to save money, be sure to do so with a proven technique.
Disputing the Trivial Errors
While fixing the major and questionable errors on your credit report is important, it’s also vital that you attend to the minor errors that do little to no harm to your credit score. Things like the name and address on each of your accounts matter more than you think. Although updating that information won’t boost your scores, they will help to keep your report more accurate.
Interestingly, Equifax recommends that consumers check and update their personal information at least once a year to ensure there are no inaccuracies. These trivial errors don’t require a dispute letter or documentation but neglecting to update them can make you more susceptible to identity theft and false reporting. Like error disputes, Equifax has up to 30 days to fix the issue.
Further Details You Need to Know
- There is never any fee associated with filing a dispute with Equifax unless, of course, you decide to hire a professional credit repair company to help.
- More information on ways to effectively file a dispute with Equifax and the other credit reporting bureaus can be found on the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) or Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s websites.
- You may also submit your dispute request directly to the business that provided the incorrect data.
- Changes made to your credit report after filing a dispute are dependent solely on the information/documentation you provide with your dispute letter(s).
The credit reporting agencies will always make changes based on the information you provide and whatever they’re given by the creditor(s) in question. If you choose to submit your dispute directly to a business/creditor, be prepared for that entity to investigate the issue on their own which may result in a less than ideal outcome. Both avenues will render a notification letter within 30 days or less.
Documents needed to successfully file a dispute with Equifax or creditors directly can be found and downloaded online, complete with concise instructions on what to do with each document. Remember to never upload or mail original documents, only the copies since all documents you submit become property of the bureau or creditor.
The Final Verdict
Errors on your credit report can do a lot of damage to your financial security and the opportunities you receive. Low credit scores, no matter the cause, will make it difficult to get approved for loans or require you to put up collateral and/or pay hefty interest fees. By quickly and efficiently improving your credit report by deleting the errors via a well-executed dispute, it’s much easier to get your scores back to where they need to be.
Remember, when filing a dispute, include the proper documents that feature the following information:
- Your full legal name
- Your date of birth
- Your social security number
- Your current address
- Your place of employment
- Your relative account information
- Any loan or credit limits
- Your outstanding balances
- Your current account statuses
- The date each account was opened
- The payment history on each account
Depending on how and why you’ve decided to file a dispute with Equifax, you may also need the following information:
- Collection accounts
- Public records
- Accounts sold to collection agencies
- Tax information (liens and W-2s)
- Bankruptcy paperwork
- Foreclosures and wage garnishment documentation
- The number of hard inquiries
- Identity theft affidavits
- Police reports
Furthermore, it’s always best to file disputes via mail since online and/or phone disputes don’t offer consumers as much protection. Moving forward, just make sure you stay on top of your credit report so the need to file disputes is unnecessary.