Three major nationwide credit bureaus (Experian, Equifax and TransUnion) keep records of your credit history. As these bureaus report every positive and negative aspect of your financial life, they can sometimes reveal errors in your personal or account information as a matter of course. Correcting that information is almost always possible, though.
To make simple alterations to your personal information like name or address changes, you will need to contact the credit bureaus to notify them about the discrepancy. If you have recently been married and your last name has changed, or you have moved and are living somewhere new but your credit reports haven't yet caught up with you, just send a separate letter to the customer service department of each of the three major bureaus. The letter should contain your old name, new name and social security number so that your account can be located. Once the bureaus receive your personal information, they'll update it.
If you have found errors on one or more of your credit reports, it's up to you to have them corrected before long-term damage is done to your scores. Gather documentary proof that the negative information on your report is false and write three letters clearly stating your position. Make three copies of each original financial form you intend to use as evidence against the error and use a marker or highlighter to indicate the places where your proof can be found. Send one letter and packet of forms by certified mail to each of the three major credit bureaus and request that they investigate the error and make a correction on your behalf. Keep the original forms, a copy of the letter, and the letter's proof of receipt for your own records in case the dispute isn't settled right away. If you're more comfortable operating electronically, all three bureaus have online dispute services and forms.
Dealing with Creditors
If the credit bureau investigates the errors but finds that the creditor disagrees with your evidence, they may not make the corrections as requested. In this case, it's up to you to contact the creditor who is filing false information and have the dispute corrected on their end. Make a copy of all documentary proof and write a letter outlining your position. Send the proof to the creditor with a clear explanation of what you believe has occurred and what you expect to be done about it. Even if the creditor does not fix the problem immediately, they must send a copy of your dispute to each credit bureau, making the negative claim suspect and subject to further investigation by the bureau.
If you have tried to rectify a falsehood on your credit report through both the creditors and the credit bureaus, and have had no success, it may be time to exercise your right to sue. File a lawsuit against the creditor and/or the credit bureau(s) who are reporting incorrect information and thereby affecting your credit history, reputation and your ability to operate financially. Bring your documented evidence, a log of the steps you took to fix the problem before it came to the courtroom, and any evidence you may have illustrating the damage done by the uncorrected error. Be as professional as you can; leave your emotions at home and make your case clearly and honestly for the best results.
Robert Morello has an extensive travel, marketing and business background. He graduated with a Bachelor of Arts from Columbia University in 2002 and has worked in travel as a guide, corporate senior marketing and product manager and travel consultant/expert. Morello is a professional writer and adjunct professor of travel and tourism.