By Shawn Smith, Fort Jackson Army Community ServicesMay 15, 2014
FORT JACKSON, S.C.(May 15, 2014) You have just pulled your free credit reports from www.annualcreditreport.com and are conducting a thorough review. While reviewing the administrative data, you notice an address and a phone number you do not recognize. You remember reading or hearing something that mentioned ways of finding if you have been the victim of identity theft, so you quickly highlight the two entries. As you continue reviewing the reports you find a credit card account that does not belong to you and an outstanding collection account for a company you do not recognize. "I had no idea this stuff was on there," you mumble to yourself. Now what?
There are three ways to dispute errors on your credit reports. The easiest way is to complete disputes online. In order to complete the online disputes you will need credit reports that have report numbers that can be obtained from Annual Credit Report. Once you have the reports you can go to each credit reporting agency's website to begin the disputes:
-- Equifax: https://www.ai.equifax.com/CreditInvestigation/home.action
-- TransUnion: https://dispute.transunion.com
The second way to dispute items is by phone. When you retrieve your credit reports from Annual Credit Report, a phone number will be included on each report to initiate disputes.
The final way to complete disputes is via mail. If you choose this method, all correspondence should be sent certified mail. This will provide you with confirmation when the mail was received by the credit reporting agencies.
Once the disputes are submitted, the credit reporting agencies will investigate the disputed items, usually within 30 days. The credit reporting agency must forward the data you provided to the organization that provided the information. Upon notification of the dispute from the credit reporting agencies, the information provider is required to investigate the validity of your dispute through the review of their records and information you provided. After that, the information providers report their findings to the credit reporting agencies.
If the information provider finds inaccurate information it must notify all three credit reporting agencies to make the necessary corrections to your credit file.
Upon completion of the investigation, the credit reporting agencies are required to provide the results in writing. If the dispute resulted in a change to your credit reports, the credit reporting agencies must provide you with updated credit reports. If you were denied credit due to the errors, you may request the credit reporting agencies to provide the updated reports to the creditor that denied you credit.
It is imperative to maintain your credit reports and understand the steps to take to rectify errors in an expedite manner. Failure to be proactive may result in you becoming reactive when you are denied an auto or mortgage loan.
For those who have security clearances, credit report errors may put the security clearance at risk. In fact, at least 25 percent of clients with security clearance issues had to complete disputes for items listed on their intent to deny packet. Simply put, do not let errors jeopardize your credit health.
For more information about credit reports or for financial counseling, call an Army Community Service financial counselor at 751-5256.