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Improving Your Credit Report

Improve your credit report for your mortgageUnder the FCRA, both the credit reporting company and the information provider (the person, company, or organization that provides information about you to a credit reporting company) are responsible for correcting inaccurate or incomplete information in your report. To take advantage of all your rights under the FCRA, contact the credit reporting company and the information provider if you see inaccurate or incomplete information.

1. Tell the credit reporting company, in writing, what information you think is inaccurate. Include 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 that you dispute, state the facts and explain why you dispute the information, and request that the information be deleted or corrected. You may want to enclose a copy of your report with the items in question circled. Send your letter by certified mail, return receipt requested, so you can document what the credit reporting company received. Keep copies of your dispute letter and enclosures. A sample dispute letter is provided on the FTC’s website, to view the sample letter click here.

Credit reporting companies must investigate the items in question — usually within 30 days — unless they consider your dispute frivolous. They also must forward all the relevant data you provide about the inaccuracy to the organization that provided the information. After the information provider receives notice of a dispute from the credit reporting company, it must investigate, review the relevant information, and report the results back to the credit reporting company. If the information provider finds the disputed information is inaccurate, it must notify all three nationwide credit reporting companies so they can correct the information in your file.

When the investigation is complete, the credit reporting company must give you the written results and a free copy of your report if the dispute results in a change. (This free report does not count as your annual free report under the FACT Act.) If an item is changed or deleted, the credit reporting company cannot put the disputed information back in your file unless the information provider verifies that the information is, indeed, accurate and complete. The credit reporting company also must send you written notice that includes the name, address, and phone number of the information provider.

If you request, the credit reporting company must send notices of any correction to anyone who received your report in the past six months. A corrected copy of your report can be sent to anyone who received a copy during the past two years for employment purposes.

If an investigation doesn’t resolve your dispute with the credit reporting company, you can ask that a statement of the dispute be included in your file and in future reports. You also can ask the credit reporting company to provide your statement to anyone who received a copy of your report in the recent past. Expect to pay a fee for this service.

2. Tell the creditor or other information provider, in writing, that you dispute an item. Be sure to include copies (NOT originals) of documents that support your position. Many providers specify an address for disputes. If the provider reports the item to a credit reporting company, it must include a notice of your dispute. And if you are correct — that is, if the information is found to be inaccurate — the information provider may not report it again.

Accurate Negative Information

When negative information in your report is accurate, only the passage of time can assure its removal. A credit reporting company can report most accurate negative information for 7 years and bankruptcy information for 10 years. Information about an unpaid judgment against you can be reported for seven years or until the statute of limitations runs out, whichever is longer. There is no time limit on reporting information about criminal convictions, information reported in response to an application for a job that pays more than $75,000 a year and information reported because you’ve applied for more than $150,000 worth of credit or life insurance. There is a standard method for calculating the seven-year reporting period. Generally, the period runs from the date that the event took place.

Adding Accounts to Your File

Your credit file may not reflect all your credit accounts. Most national department store and all-purpose bank credit card accounts are included in your file, but not all. Some local retailers, credit unions, and travel, entertainment, and gasoline card companies are among those that usually aren’t included.

If you’ve been told that you were denied credit because of an “insufficient credit file” or “no credit file” and you have accounts with creditors that don’t appear in your credit file, ask the credit reporting companies to add this information to future reports. Although they are not required to do so, many credit reporting companies will add verifiable accounts for a fee. However, if these creditors do not generally report to the credit reporting company, the added items will not be updated in your file.