Your credit report influences your ability to obtain a loan and the interest rate you’ll pay on that loan. Some employers will even check your credit report for clues to your financial situation. Maintaining an accurate credit report is crucial to your financial health, so you should request a free copy of your credit report and dispute any errors you find. If a creditor won’t remove a disputed bill from your credit report, you have the option of telling your side of the story to those who request copies of your report.
In order to convince a creditor to remove a bill from your credit report, you have to formally dispute the bill. It’s not enough to say you don’t owe the money -- you have to prove it. First, you need to write a letter to the credit reporting agency that explains your reasons for disputing the charge. You’ll also need to provide copies of evidence to back up your claim. If you’ve paid off a bill, send copies of the final payment, statements showing a zero balance, a letter saying the account has been paid in full -- anything that upholds your claim.
The Creditor's Side
The credit reporting agency will contact the creditor and give them copies of this information. They have a responsibility to review the information and act on it within 30 days. If they decide not to remove the bill, they have to explain why. This may be because they feel the information you’ve provided isn’t sufficient evidence to prove your claim. The credit reporting agency will inform you of the company’s decision and let you know if any changes have been made to your report. The reporting agency can’t remove a charge from your report -- only the creditor can do so.
After a Refusal
If the creditor refuses to remove a disputed bill, you should write another letter to the credit reporting agency, stating again your reasons for disputing the bill and why you feel the inclusion of the bill on your credit report does not accurately reflect your credit status. Ask the credit reporting agency to place the letter in your file and to make it available to anyone who requests a copy of your credit report. You may have to pay a fee for this additional service.
You’ll need to repeat this process for all three major credit reporting agencies: Experian, TransUnion and Equifax. Though having a disputed bill on your credit report can be a hassle, the information about that bill will only remain on your report for seven years. You can request a free copy of your credit report from all three credit reporting agencies once a year to monitor the status of the disputed bill.
Cynthia Myers is the author of numerous novels and her nonfiction work has appeared in publications ranging from "Historic Traveler" to "Texas Highways" to "Medical Practice Management." She has a degree in economics from Sam Houston State University.