After pulling and reviewing your credit reports, now is the time to dispute the errors.
First, we need to mention a trap that so many consumers (and lawyers) fall in to that is fatal. It makes “common sense” to dispute only with the company that is reporting the false information (called the “furnisher” in the law). For example, if Capital One is reporting a balance and you know you paid it off, it makes sense to only dispute with Capital One. After all, we might say, what can the reporting agencies do?
The problem is that under the law, the Fair Credit Reporting Act, the furnisher generally has no obligation to do anything with your direct dispute. You need to dispute directly with Equifax or Experian or Trans Union and then let them notify the furnisher of your dispute. Once the reporting agencies notify the furnisher of your dispute, then the furnisher has an obligation to investigate your dispute. We read cases every month from federal courts where the consumers have been thrown out of court on a motion to dismiss because they did not dispute directly with the reporting agencies. The other advantage to disputing with the reporting agencies is that this puts an obligation on them to investigate your dispute as well. We will talk in a later post about how the reporting agencies try to avoid this obligation by what is called “parroting”….
So, now we are going to dispute with the reporting agencies – how should this be done? You can call, write, do an online dispute, or sometimes fax a dispute. What’s the best way? Since this is a blog, you know we like technology. We strive towards a paperless law office (not there yet!) but in disputing errors, we like the old fashioned letter. Send a written letter, and send it certified mail with return receipt requested. Keep a copy of the signed letter. This is so important we will repeat it: Keep a copy of the signed letter. Keep it with a copy of all enclosures stapled to it.
The reason we like the letter approach is too often the reporting agencies will deny receiving your phone call or your fax or your online dispute. This can be fatal to your lawsuit (we will talk more about lawsuits in a later post). To be able to pull out the signed green card and show it is quite satisfying when the agencies have denied receiving your dispute….
What should the dispute letter say? There are all sorts of forms on the internet but in general we recommend a simple letter that lists the account number and name of the account that you dispute. Tell the reporting agency why it is wrong. Enclose supporting documentation unless you know the furnisher already has all the information they need (although if you do this the reporting agency will probably be off the hook).
Where should the letters go? Here are some addresses for you to send your dispute letters to:
Experian Parkway Allen, TX 75013-3701
Trans Union 2 Baldwin Place Chester, Pa 19022
Equifax Information Services,
Peechtree Street, N.W.
Atlanta, GA 30309
After you mail your letter (certified, remember?) then mark your calendar for about 40 days. This gives your dispute letter time to get there, time for the investigation (30 days), and then time for the reporting agencies to respond to your dispute.
Once you get your response, you need to review it. This will be the Fourth Critical Step which we will post soon.
Best of luck!
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