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Your credit report contains important information about you. It
generally includes facts about where you work and live and your bill-
paying habits. It also may state whether you've been sued or arrested
or have filed for bankruptcy. Companies called credit reporting
agencies or credit bureaus compile and sell your credit report to
businesses, which use it to evaluate your applications for credit,
insurance, employment, and other purposes allowed by federal law.
Therefore, it is important that your credit report contain complete
and accurate information.
Some financial advisors suggest that you review your report every
three or four years to check for inaccuracies or omissions. You also
may want to check your report sooner if you are considering a major
purchase, such as buying a home.
This brochure explains how to obtain a copy of your credit report and
how to dispute errors. It also provides a sample dispute letter and
lists resources for additional credit information.
How to Obtain Your Credit Report
If you have been denied credit, insurance, or employment because of
information that was supplied by a credit reporting agency, the Fair
Credit Reporting Act requires the report recipient to give you the
name and address of the credit reporting agency that supplied the
information. If you contact that agency to learn what is in your file
within 30 days of receiving the denial notice, your report is free.
If you simply want a copy of your report, call the credit reporting
agencies listed in the Yellow Pages under "credit" or "credit rating
and reporting." Call each credit reporting agency listed since more
than one agency may have a file on you, some with different
information. You may have to pay a reasonable charge for each report.
How To Correct Errors
You have the right, under the Fair Credit Reporting Act, to dispute
the completeness and accuracy of information in your credit file.
When a credit reporting agency receives a dispute, it must
reinvestigate and record the current status of the disputed items
within a "reasonable period of time," unless it believes the dispute
is "frivolous or irrelevant." If the credit reporting agency cannot
verify a disputed item, it must delete it. If your report contains
erroneous information, the credit reporting agency must correct it.
If an item is incomplete, the credit reporting agency must complete
it. For example, if your file showed that you were late in making
payments on accounts, but failed to show that you were no longer
delinquent, the credit reporting agency must show that your payments
are now current. Or if your file showed an account that belongs only
to another person, the credit reporting agency would have to delete
it. Also, at your request, the credit reporting agency must send a
notice of correction to any report recipient who has checked your
file in the past six months.
If a reinvestigation does not resolve your dispute, the Fair Credit
Reporting Act permits you to file a statement of up to 100 words to
explain your side of the story. The credit reporting agency must
include this explanation in your report each time it sends it out.
Credit reporting agency employees often are available to help you
word your statement.
Be aware, however, that when negative information in your report is
accurate, only the passage of time can assure its removal. Credit
reporting agencies are permitted by law to report bankruptcies for 10
years and other negative information for 7 years. Also, any negative
information may be reported indefinitely for use in the evaluation of
your application for:
* $50,000 or more in credit;
* a life insurance policy with a face amount of $50,000 or more; or
* consideration for a job paying $20,000 or more.
How to Register a Dispute
You must make your dispute directly to the credit reporting agency.
Although the Fair Credit Reporting Act does not require it, the
Federal Trade Commission staff recommends that you submit your
dispute in writing, along with copies (NOT originals) of documents
that support your position.
In addition to providing your complete name and address, your letter
should clearly identify each item in your report you dispute, explain
why you dispute the information, state the facts, and request
deletion or correction. You may want to enclose a copy of your report
with the items in question circled. Your letter may look something
like the one at the end of this brochure.
Send your dispute by certified mail, return receipt requested, and
keep copies of your dispute letter and enclosures. By doing so, you
can document what the credit reporting agency received.
Adding Accounts to Your File
Your credit file may not reflect all of your credit accounts.
Although most national department store and all-purpose bank credit
card accounts will be included in your file, not all creditors supply
information to credit reporting agencies. Those not reporting to
credit reporting agencies include, for example, some travel,
entertainment, and gasoline card companies, local retailers, and
If you have been told that you were denied credit because of an
"insufficient credit file" or "no credit file" and you have accounts
with creditors that do not appear in your credit file, you can ask
the credit reporting agency to add this information to future
reports. Although they are not required to do so, many credit
reporting agencies will add other verifiable accounts for a fee.
SAMPLE FAIR CREDIT REPORTING ACT DISPUTE LETTER
Your City, State, Zip Code
Name of Credit Reporting Agency
City, State, Zip Code
Dear Sir or Madam:
I am writing to dispute the following information in my file. The
items I dispute also are encircled on the attached copy of the report
(Identify item(s) disputed by name of source, such as creditors or
tax court, and identify type of item, such as credit account,
judgment, etc.) This item is (inaccurate or incomplete) because
(describe what is inaccurate or incomplete and why). I am requesting
that the item be deleted (or request another specific change) to
correct the information. Enclosed are copies of (use this sentence if
applicable and describe any enclosed documentation, such as payment
records, court documents) supporting my position.
Please reinvestigate this (these) matter(s) and (delete or correct)
the disputed item(s) as soon as possible.
Enclosures: (List of whatever you are enclosing)
Facts for Consumers from the Federal Trade Commission
For Further Information
The Federal Trade Commission has a series of Facts for Consumers
discussing credit issues.
To obtain free copies of these publications, contact:
Public Reference, Federal Trade Commission, Washington, D.C. 20580;
(202) 326-2222. TDD (202) 326-2502. You also may contact Public
Reference for a copy of our Best Sellers, a listing of the FTC's
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