When you see erroneous payment or status information in your credit file, you should take up that dispute with your creditor, before contacting the credit bureaus.
Examples of the types of erroneous information you should dispute with a creditor include:
Wrongfully reported late payments
Maybe a creditor reported you as being 30 days past due, but you weren’t. Or perhaps the severity of your delinquency has been over-stated, as would be the case if you were 60 days late paying a bill, but a creditor reported your 90 days late.
If an account in collections contains inaccurate information, contact the creditor to clear up the matter. They may have added additional fees, interest charges or penalties, which caused the outstanding balance to grow enormously. Or perhaps you didn’t even realize you had an account in collections, due to diverted mail or an address change. Whatever the circumstance, if there is a reason for you to dispute collection-account information, you’ll be best served starting with the creditor.
Inaccurately noted account status
Contact any creditors that have mistakenly reported your account status to the credit bureaus. Your account status includes whether your account is open or closed, current or past due, charged off or not, and so on.
Account ownership mistakes
Are there accounts on your credit report showing up as joint obligations, but they’re really just debts of your spouse or someone else? Or what about an account in which you’re listed as an “authorized user” but you’re actually a co-signer and joint user on the account? In each of these cases, you should contact the creditor and ask them to amend or update the account ownership information shown on your credit report.
Negative, erroneous information about your account status
Any negative payment information or comments about your account that are erroneous should be deleted from your credit reports. For instance, if your credit report shows “Account Closed By Credit Grantor,” but in reality, you closed the account, ask the creditor to change it to “Account Closed By Consumer.” Another example: if a creditor has reported inaccurate information about your past credit usage, which would be shown in the “high balance” field of your credit report, request that this information be properly reported as well.
Inaccurate “balance” information
Since your creditors report your balances to the credit bureaus every month, it’s not uncommon to find that there is some lag time between the time that you pay your bills, and the time that your creditors get around to notifying TransUnion, Experian and Equifax about those payments. So don’t be concerned if your “balance” shows $2,200 but you know you made a payment two weeks ago of $200 and your correct balance is really $2,000.
What you should watch out for however, are major discrepancies in your reported balances. For instance, if your balance was reported as $2,200, but it was really $220, then that is something you should contact a creditor about, asking them to correct their records and your credit reports.
For all of the errors mentioned above, and especially for disputes about payments (i.e. how much you paid, the account status, whether or not a payment was late, and so on), always start out by going directly to your creditor and requesting that they delete outdated information or update negative, inaccurate information contained in your credit report.
What to Do When the Creditor Won’t Change the Information
If a creditor doesn’t respond favorably, you’ll need to get more aggressive in your efforts, elevating your requests to supervisors, drafting formal letters, and supplying creditors with any documentation you have that supports your claims. Some of you may even need to embark on a more aggressive campaign, and undertake more serious negotiations with your creditors, as well as collection agencies. If all those efforts fail, your best bet is to then turn to the credit bureaus – Equifax, Experian and TransUnion – and dispute the inaccurate information with them.