Thanks for your question.
Credit reporting agencies are governed by the Fair Credit Reporting
Act. The full text of which can be read at this page from the FTC.
Please bear in mind that there are three national CRAs (credit
reporting agencies): (Equifax, Experian, and Trans Union). They are
competitors and if you are disputing items, it is in your best
interest to contact *each* credit reporting agency separately.
The procedure following a dispute is for the credit reporting agency
to investigate your dispute for free. They typically have a 30 day
period in which to do this. Certain states have a shorter or longer
time period (Massachusetts, Colorado, Connecticut, Maine, or
What typically happens is that the credit reporting agency contacts
whatever creditor is reporting the item (or in the case of public
records, they would investigate with the court in question).
If the creditor provides proof that the item is accurate, it stays on
your report. If your own documentation or the credit reporting
agency's investigation verifies your claim, the item must be
corrected. There is also a provision in the act that allows them to
keep the item on if the request is deemed "frivolous" (for instance,
certain credit repair companies who claim they can "fix" your report
for a fee will inundate the credit reporting agencies repeatedly with
disputes regardless of their legitimacy).
Once that happens, you can ask the credit reporting agency to send out
corrected copies of your report to the various creditors with whom you
have requested credit in a certain time frame.
Section 611 of the FCRA: Procedure in case of disputed accuracy
The FTC also suggests sending your disputes in writing. If you have
supporting documentation, I would include copies of that in your
correspondence (and you should keep copies of that for your own files
as well). They have a detailed explanation of your rights as a
Fair Credit Reporting/Federal Trade Commission - Facts for Consumers
And they also have a template of a dispute letter as well as other
How to Dispute Credit Report Errors/Federal Trade Commission - Facts for Consumers
If you cannot get the situation resolved, you do have the option of
having a short statement (100 words or less) added to your credit
report. The wording would depend on your individual situation and
would be up to you, but every time someone pulled your credit report,
they would see the statement. It would stay on for 7 years. Depending
on the statute of limitations for the item in question, you may not
want to add one. Typically, consumers who have a particularly bad
stretch of credit due to circumstances beyond their control will use
this option. But it is available to you.
Depending on the type of credit you are seeking, another option is to
tell the potential lender ahead of time what the situation is.
Another choice is to contact the creditor in question. Depending on
your individual situation, this may or may not be practical, but the
creditor has the ability to correct inaccurate items as they are the
ones who report the data to the CRA in the first place. Again, I would
advise you to make your requests in writing, enclosing *copies* of
supporting documentation and keeping copies of all of your
correspondence. Moreover, should the creditor claim to correct the
item, ask for a letter confirming that they have fixed the problem.
According to an article on the Early Show's web site, while an item is
in dispute it will not effect your credit score
"Understanding Your Credit Score," by Ray Martin. The Early Show. April 30, 2003
As a consumer you do have rights. About.com has a page with some
suggested letters where you would cc the FTC as well as the offending
No Response to Dispute/Fiscal Forms and Letters/About.com
You can file a complaint with the FTC
And of course, you can always seek redress through legal action. A
previous question asked through Google Answers may be of interest
(please note that the question has some specifics to California only):
Advice for Finding a Consumer Credit Report Attorney
fcra disputes fico site:.gov
credit disputed items fico scores
consumer credit redress
I hope this answers your question. Should you require additional
information or if the links do not work, please ask for clarification
before rating my answer and I will do my best to assist you.