It’s imperative for any consumer to thoroughly look through their credit report on a routine basis—at least once a year at an absolute minimum. Not only should you monitor your credit overall, but you’ll want to look carefully at the individual items on your credit report and see what it is exactly that is affecting your score, whether it’s good or bad. Monitoring your credit report is essential because it can allow you to see if there are any accounts open in your name that you weren’t even aware of, or if there are accounts that are in negative standing that you simply forgot about. You can potentially stop identity theft in its tracks by monitoring your credit report regularly. It’s also important to note that not all negative items on your credit report that you weren’t aware of is a sign that someone got a hold of your credit information; it’s not uncommon at all for credit reports to contain errors. If you notice something that shouldn’t be there, you’ll want to take action as quickly as possible and dispute the item, because it can bring your credit score down. Here’s what you’ll want to do:
Gather paperwork that can back your claim
In certain situations, you’ll usually need to provide documentation that can support your dispute and show that your claim is valid. For instance, you might notice a date that is incorrect, and you can provide a copy of a bill or other document with the correct date. If you notice something on your credit report that you don’t even recognize, you won’t need to worry about providing documentation.
Write a dispute letter
In addition to gathering any necessary paperwork to support your claim (if applicable), you’ll also need to address a dispute letter to the credit bureau(s) reporting the account on your credit profile. In your dispute letter, include as much detailed information as possible, including the exact account, any pertinent dates, amounts, and so on. Also state why you believe the item to be inaccurate. Although you may be able to dispute any credit report mistakes you find online, it’s also a good idea to take it a step further and send a letter in writing through certified mail. Be sure to also retain a copy (including any documents you’re sending) for your own records.
What happens next
After you file your dispute, the credit bureau(s) will look into it and pass the details along to the source—for instance, your credit card issuer or mortgage lender. That party will then look into the details of your dispute and determine if an error was made, or if more information is needed. This will usually happen within 30 days from the date your dispute is made. If you haven’t heard anything within 30 days, contact the credit reporting bureau you made the dispute with and ask for a status update.
If your dispute is turned down
There are a number of reasons why your dispute could be turned down. If your dispute is rejected, you might be able to file a new claim or appeal it, depending on the specific details of the item in question.
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Nothing above is meant to provide financial, tax, or legal advice. You should meet with appropriate professionals for such services.