How To Fix Your Credit Report When Creditors Won't Admit Their Mistakes

If you find an error on your credit report, fixing it is often a painless process. Notify the credit bureau and if the creditor can’t verify the information, it gets removed. If it doesn’t, here are steps to take towards getting your credit report right, cribbed from the Wall Street Journal.

• Review all three credit reports.
• Start your dispute with the credit bureaus
• Contact the creditor
• Monitor credit reports carefully.
• Maintain records of the dispute.
• Be patient.
• Consider a lawyer.

Check out the article for a more in-depth explanation and some helpful websites. — BEN POPKEN

Making Credit Files Right [WSJ via Consumer World Blog]

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  1. yetiwisdom says:

    See also this sample letter

    You will find a copy of this credit report enclosed containing this inaccurate data highlighted in yellow and circled in red (Use one method or both). The following information that I have highlighted/circled is wrong because the report states that: (LIST THE INACCURACY). This is not the case because (LIST REASONS WHY THE LISTING IS WRONG)…

  2. IttyBiggy says:

    The article leaves out valuable information like the time limit. After a certain amount of time, if you haven’t paid on it, they have to take it off anyway, even if it was correct information. Under the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) the time varied from state to state, but I think the law has changed now to standardize that to something like 7-1/2 years, but only if it’s new credit, otherwise old rules apply, but don’t quote me on that because while I read the FCRA when I was having problems with bad information on my credit report, I haven’t read the newer FCIC rules that have come into effect since then. I’m still 99% sure there’s an enforceable time limit though.

  3. thrillhouse says:

    @IttyBiggy:

    I’m not sure on this, but if the debt is correct and unpaid then I think they can re-report the debt and restart that 7 year clock. Not sure on that, but I wouldn’t count on it washing away just because you waited them out.

    Also, long overdue debt will likely become a charge-off, where the company basically writes you off as an un-collectable deadbeat. That will be a long 7 years if you plan on using your credit score.

  4. IttyBiggy says:

    @thrillhouse:
    You’re right about it being a long 7 years if you’re just planning on ditching something and riding it out. I think the rule that they could send it to collections or re-report the debt is now recodified as the only clock starts at the first non-payment, and in x years it has to be removed, and doesn’t re-activate on creditor-side activity. I think the old FCRA was unclear on that, but FCIC clarified it. I swear I read that, but can’t remember exactly.

    I do know that rule saved me when I wanted to buy a house, because a creditor was lying and saying I owed them money, and I’d never heard of them or anything about them, and lived in a different state.

  5. Mr. Gunn says:

    The 7 year thing is real, read the FCRA(yeah, right!). The Fed issued a opinion letter stating that the 7 year clock starts from the first reporting of the debt, and nothing can restart it. Some shady collection agencies will sometimes try to report old debt as new debt, but if you can catch them doing that, you can sue them and win damages of $1000.

    The process is as follows:

    Dispute with the bureaus first, either in writing or online. Creditors have online systems that match the info in their systems with that of the bureau, which will result in a “validation” if they match. However, this in itself means nothing, merely that they both have the same possibly incorrect info.

    Next, using a letter such as this, send a letter to the collection agency or creditor. The Wollman decision states that a computer generated printout of the info in their systems isn’t adequate, and they must provide the original signed contract, or a copy thereof.

    So when they say the debt has been validated and they send you anything other than the actual signed contract, send this asking for proof that you owed the debt in the first place. They have to send you a copy of the original signed contract, or they have failed validation, and are trying to collect on a debt which they have no right to collect.

    You can then send a letter to the bureaus, or you can sue the collector for collecting in bad faith, at which point they may elect to remove the item rather than be liable for $1000 per violation.

    The creditors have to not only provide proof, but they must provide proof in a timely fashion, i.e. 30 days. If they don’t respond in that time, they’ve failed validation and the bureau must remove the item.

    If the filter will allow, I’d like to link to some info on correcting inaccuracies in your credit report.

  6. Mr. Gunn says:

    Read the info I linked to above(last link). It answers every single question that has been asked in any of the posts about credit here. There are citations of all of the relevant cases and FTC Letters. It tells you everything you need to know, clears up all of the misunderstandings, and tells you exactly what your rights are. Reading and understanding it should be your first step in correcting any inaccuracy, because the bureaus and collectors could care less if something is wrong or not, so you gotta start from a position of strength.

    The original post was archived, but I snagged a copy from google’s cache, so apologies for the non-hyperlinkedness.

  7. IttyBiggy says:

    @Grady: Great posts, thanks!

  8. Scott in DC says:

    What do you do when a supposed creditor lists items on your credit report, but the account # and contact number they provide on the report are invalid? Somehow the company can get back to experian in a day saying the debt is valid, but when I call their offices nobody can find me in their system at all! I’d pay the $20 they say I owe them just to get it over with, but they can’t even find the account!

  9. Mr. Gunn says:

    They often scramble the account numbers in your report for “privacy”. If they can’t find you by name or SSN, it sounds to me like it’s time for a validation letter.

  10. Fuzzy_duffel_bag says:

    What can you do if you dispute a unpaid account, but neither the company reporting it, or the collection agency they dumped it to will work with you to hammer out some sort of payment plan (or listen to you that the amount they claim is incorrect?) A lawyer is involved, and Chase says it’s out of their hands because it’s in collections (but still shows up under Chase and also under the collection agency on the credit report) and the collection agency is a bunch of assholes who only want full payment?

  11. Hackoff says:

    So how about this…

    What if I missed my payment due date for my Chase credit card and they called me up to ask for payment over the phone. The phone representative who called me told me that I should pay over the phone to prevent the late payment from being reported to the Credit Bureau’s.

    The Chase representative reiterated that if I didn’t make a phone payment that it was very likely that the late payment would go on my credit report. So, like a good responsible customer I made payment over the phone. I then confirmed that my account was up-to-date and that there would be no reporting of late payment.

    Fast forward 3 months and guess what? Chase reported my payment as 30 days late. My credit score took at 70 point hit. I called Chase back the day after I checked my score. First I spoke to a general CSR who told me I would have to talk to a supervisor to have this issue addressed. I ended up getting transferred to another department because the people who “make payment phone calls” are located in a different place. The person who answered spoke poor English and was likely a contractor in a foreign country. When I told her my story she said I would need to talk to Customer Service!

    Back to another CSR who gets her supervisor involved. I explained that I am trying to refinance my mortgage to avoid losing my house and that this report was going to make it nearly impossible for me to refinance. The supervisor sounded like a recording as she stated that the only circumstance in which Chase will pull a late payment that is reported to the Credit Bureau’s is if they Chase actually made a mistake (that could be proven). She said that Chase is governed by strict laws that require them to report exactly what is happening with each and every customer every month. Oddly enough I have three other credit cards (with other lenders) and none of them have ever reported me for a late payment even when one was made (a rare occurrence).

    So here I am stuck with a ding on my credit report. My APR on my mortgage is set to go up which translates to roughly an extra $1,000 per month. The ding makes it highly unlikely for me to get a better rate and if I can’t make my mortgage payments… well there goes my home. Let me tell you that my wife and daughter are not thrilled at the idea of having to be renters again. Especially since we have already paid so much money in interest on this loan (don’t ask).

    What the hell should I do?

  12. nitenurse says:

    i recently viewed my 3-in-1 credit report online and it may as well have been written in greek.. it made very little sense and no contact #’s were available to call for questions.. there are items to be disputed plus does anyone have any idea how and why “SSN variations” show up on your report?? before my divorce the only ssn variation listed was my own – now my ex spouse’s ssn is listed as well as his address during our separation.. there is also an unknown ssn showing up that ive googled to identify the person but to no avail.. i certainly suspect some kind of fraudulent activity.. not sure where to start in the process of clearing up this mess…any ideas ???

  13. howie_in_az says:

    I’ve found that sending the creditor a nastygram citing the Fair Credit Reporting Act and threatening to sue (and discuss this in public at shareholder meetings) makes companies move. Make sure you tell them that action will be taken after 30 days.