Something horrible is being reported about you and you want it gone. It’s holding you back from getting the things you want and deserve, including meeting your personal goal of joining or remaining in the esteemed 800 Club. No surprise it’s the most frequently asked question here. After all, to reach such a score, you’ll not only need a considerable amount of positive data listed on your credit reports, you can’t have anything on them that’s negative either.
When you spot a wart that’s marring the beauty of your rating, your initial instinct may be to slice it off by filing a dispute with the credit reporting agency. But can you? That depends on the kind of ugly information that’s showing up.
The fact is, you can only use the credit report dispute system under specific circumstances. I assure you, simply wanting something purged is not reason enough. Not by a long shot.
So here are the items that you can legitimately dispute and then have removed from your consumer credit report. Once deleted, your scores will escalate.
According to the Fair Credit Reporting Act, a federal law, a person’s credit report can only list accurate and timely information. However it’s not uncommon for mistakes to show up, and some of them will shave vital points from your credit score. Read through your credit report carefully and make sure everything is as it should be. If you see anything that’s incorrect, you can (and should) dispute it. These may include:
- Fraudulent accounts. If you’re a victim of identity theft, a crook could have taken out cards and loans in your name.
- Inaccurate balances. This can also be a sign of fraudulent activity.
- Satisfied accounts that are showing up as outstanding.
- Payments noted as late when you paid on time.
- Accounts that were falsely sent to collections.
- Incorrect personal ID data. (Mind that identification is not a credit scoring factor, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t set the record straight.)
- Inquiries you didn’t make. Hard pulls for credit products are scoring factors, so if it looks like someone has attempted to take out a loan or credit card in your name, even if they weren’t successful, it’s eligible for dispute.
Just think: did I do this? Is it correct? If not, go forth and dispute.
Accounts that should have aged off
Even if the negative information on your report is true, in most cases there is a set time frame where it can remain on your credit report.
Satisfied judgments can stay for five years from the date it was filed.
Most other information may remain for seven years, including:
- Late payments
- Charge-offs (a notation that the creditor remove the debt from its books), accounts that were sent to collection agencies
- Chapter 13 bankruptcy (from the date of filing)
- Monetary judgments from civil lawsuits that are showing up in the public records section of your report.
A Chapter 7 bankruptcy will remain for ten years from the filing date.
If these time frames have run and they’re still haunting your reports, you can use the dispute system to nudge them off.
While this doesn’t happen very often, sometimes accurate accounts are listed more than once. When they are, it might appear that you owe double what you really do, and that will surely affect your score.
Student loans are the biggest culprit because they are sold and resold many times through their lifespan and mix-ups do happen. Collection accounts can be troublesome too. If it appears that your debt is listed twice, it’s eligible for a dispute.
Although you can petition to have the duplicate removed, the one that’s correct will stay until it must be removed by law.
The dispute process
Now that you know what you can dispute, you’re ready to jump in and do it. You have a couple of choices. The first is to go to one of the credit reporting agencies websites and use its online dispute form. It’s fast and easy, but you have to agree to an arbitration clause. That means you give up your option to argue your case in front of a jury if things don’t go your way. Which is why I recommend the second way. Dispute them by mail – as you do not have give up this right. It’s a little more laborious but for extra protection it’s a good idea.
Use the Federal Trade Commission’s letter as a guide. Send it to one of the credit reporting agencies: TransUnion, Experian, or Equifax
Oh, and you don’t have to notify all three credit reporting agencies. You can choose just one and it will alert the others:
P.O. Box 7404256
Atlanta, GA 30374-0256
P.O. Box 9701
Allen, TX 75013
P.O. Box 2000
Chester, PA 19022-2000
However you file the dispute, the agency has 30 days to investigate. After that you’ll receive notice of the outcome, and hopefully it will be in your favor. The more proof you have that you’re in the right, the better. Some will be easy. Dates don’t lie, so if an item should have aged off six months ago, you’ll probably have no trouble. But if it’s a matter of a collection agency that says you still owe, you may have to provide a lot of supporting documents and really press the matter.
Why go to all that trouble to be in the 800 Club?
Credit scores that are 800 all the way to 850 are the best in class. Achieve it and it shows the business world that you are a credit master. It indicates that you’re an extremely low credit risk. When you are, the very best financial products will be available to you. Want credit cards with the most premium of rewards and loans with incredibly low interest rates? Join the 800 Club. And if that means making the effort to dispute everything that you can, do it. Just don’t try to remove something that must, by law, be there. Either fix the problem or wait it out.