Get Your Credit Report
You need to get your report to identify the specific inaccurate entry. You can get your reports free, once per year. I recommend using the tools available at www.AnnualCreditReport.com. See my other Guide on How to Get Your Credit Reports.
Identify Inaccurate Information
Inaccuracies in a credit report may relate to personal identifying information such as your name, date of birth, social security number, address, etc. Account information is referred to as a tradeline. There are also public records that will reflect lawsuits, criminal records, tax liens, bankruptcies and the like. There is also a section called Inquiries that identifies people and entities that have reviewed your consumer file for the purpose of extending you credit, employment checks and account reviews. Inaccurate information can include but is not limited to things like accounts that don't belong to you, inquiries by companies with whom you have no relationship or did not seek credit with, old information that does not belong on the report anymore or accounts that were paid but still show a balance or even accounts showing a blance but were discharged through bankruptcy.
Write a Letter to the Consumer Reporting Agency
Write a legible letter to the Consumer Reporting Agency that is reporting the inaccurate information. Identify with details the inaccuracy and state why the information is inaccurate and any correction that should be made. For example, identify an inaccurate date of birth listed in the report and provide the accurate date of birth, or identify the account name and number listed in the report for an account that you never had and say that the account is not yours because you never opened such an account with the creditor. Provide any supporting documentation that you have to show the inaccuracy and the accurate information that should be on the report. For example, provide a letter confirming your payment in full on an account, where the report is showing that an account is in active collections with a balance owed. Sign the letter.
Send the Letter by Certified Return Receipt Mail
To make sure that the credit reporting agency receives your letter, I recommend sending it by certified return receipt mail. Keep a copy of the letter and any enclosures you provide, get a receipt from the post office for the postage charge, and keep the green card you get in return which shows that the agency received your letter and the date.
Wait for the Credit Reporting Agency to Investigate Your Dispute
The agency has 30 days to perform an investigation of your dispute (which it calls a reinvestigation). If you provide more information during this time, the agency has up to 45 days.
Review the Credit Reporting Agency's Result of the Dispute
The agency will ultimately say what it has done as a result of your dispute. It may verify the information--meaning that it isn't changing it at all. It may modify the entry, which means the entry is still on the report but is now reflecting some new or different information. It may delete the entry entirely.
Submit a Consumer Statement If You Disagree
If you disagree with the result of the dispute, you have the legal right to submit a statement of your dispute, referred to as a Consumer Statement. The agency must include your Consumer Statement with any report it provides to anyone, though the agency may provide only a summary of your statement. Submit your statement in writing, and I again recommend keeping a copy and sending it by certified return receipt.
Consider Violations of Your Rights for Continued Inaccurate Reporting
If the result of the dispute is that the consumer reporting agency is still reporting inaccurate information, you may want to review your situation with an attorney for possible violations of your rights to accurate credit reporting under State and Federal law.
Periodically Review Your Credit Reports for Accuracy
At least once a year you should get your free credit reports and review them for any inaccuracies. This includes reviewing the reports for the reappearance of previously corrected inaccuracies. If an inaccurate entry reappears, the agency is suppose to give you notice of its reappearance. You can then dispute the entry again. If you don't get the notice, the agency is in violation of your rights under the Federal Fair Credit Reporting Act.