How to Write Dispute Letters That Work
While going through a credit report, no one likes to see negative information. And while you can’t remove information such as a late payment or collection account from your credit file simply because it’s negative, if your credit report shows inaccurate or incomplete information, you can submit a dispute asking the credit reporting agency to investigate the information in question.
The dispute will be sent to the source of the information, in most cases the company that holds the account. If the lender determines that the account is being reported incorrectly, they will update or remove the account to correct the information.
If you’re disputing information on your Experian credit report by mail, start the process of writing a credit dispute letter by filling out a dispute form—or follow the simple guidelines that will be discussed in this article for writing your own letter. Remember that the quickest way to resolve an issue with your credit report is to complete the dispute process online. Let’s get started with what a dispute letter is.
- What Is a Credit Dispute Letter?
- Do Sending Dispute Letters Work?
- What is a 609 Letter?
- How Can I Write a 609 Letter?
- What Should I Say When Disputing my Credit?
What Is a Credit Dispute Letter?
Writing to a credit reporting agency (Experian, TransUnion or Equifax) to notify them that you believe certain information on your credit report is inaccurate is sometimes referred to as a “credit dispute letter.” In your dispute letter, you’ll list any items you feel are being reported incorrectly and tell the credit reporting agency specifically what is incorrect and how you believe the item should be reported instead. If you’re disputing information on your Experian credit report, we will begin the investigation process when we receive the letter; the process can take up to 30 days to complete.
Read Also: How to Use Factual Dispute Methodology
Your right to dispute information contained in your credit file originates with the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA), a federal law that regulates the way credit reporting agencies can collect, access, use and share the data they maintain in your consumer reports. As part of the FCRA, you have the right to access your credit report for free from each of the credit bureaus (at AnnualCreditReport.com) and to dispute any information that you believe is inaccurate or incomplete.
When you dispute information on your credit report, the credit bureau will generally contact the information provider (usually a lender or other business) and ask them to verify that the account is being reported correctly. If the lender finds that there is information that needs to be corrected, they will update or delete the account accordingly.
If you’ve been searching online, you may have come across the term “609 dispute letter” as a tool for improving your credit. What’s a 609 letter? The term refers to section 609 of the FCRA, which outlines your right to request copies of your credit reports. (Technically, it’s section 611 that affirms your right to dispute the information, but that’s beside the point.) You can purchase 609 dispute letter templates online, but there’s no real value in doing this: Disputing information on your credit report is free when you go directly through the credit reporting agencies, and you don’t need any specific template to do so.
Do Sending Dispute Letters Work?
A dispute essentially lets you challenge the accuracy of any information on your credit reports that you believe to be incorrect or questionable.
Here are some key points to remember.
- You can submit disputes with the companies who created your credit reports in the first place (Equifax®, TransUnion®, and Experian™).
- You can send disputes to your creditors (like credit card issuers) or debt collectors directly.
- Your disputes can be initiated online (credit bureaus only), over the phone, or using old-fashioned snail mail.
- You have the right to handle credit disputes by yourself.
- You can also pay a reputable credit repair professional to do the work for you, if you prefer.
Sometimes, disputing an item you don’t recognize with a 609 letter (along with a reference to your right to dispute) might result in a deletion if a disputed item on one of your credit reports isn’t verifiable, like perhaps a collection account or late payment.
However, other times you can send a dispute letter (609 or otherwise) and the item in question will be verified, so it will stay on your reports.
The bottom line is there’s no surefire way to remove an item from your credit reports before the law requires its removal. This is true whether you opt to send credit repair letters you create yourself, purchase a template, or hire a pro to do the work for you.
The FCRA gives you the right to dispute information. It doesn’t guarantee its removal.
Still, there is nothing wrong with exercising your rights to have your credit report information investigated and verified. There are plenty of people who happily claim positive results by using the 609 credit repair method.
What is a 609 Letter?
A 609 letter is a method consumers can use to request the removal of erroneous items or unsubstantiated entries from their credit reports. As stated above, 609 letters are named after section 609 of the FCRA. This gives you the right to request information about the items listed on your credit reports but not specifically to dispute them. So, although 609 letters are often called dispute letters, they’re not actually disputing anything on your credit report just yet. Your right to dispute information in your credit report is covered in sections 611 and 623 of the FCRA.
The idea behind the 609 letter is that if the credit bureaus can’t produce certain records required to verify a given debt, then they must remove that debt from your credit report. So basically, 609 letters give you the information you need to draft follow-up letters to dispute any errors under sections 611 and 623. Although 609 letters are very helpful in getting this process started, it’s important to remember that there is no credit repair secret or silver bullet. Still, a 609 letter can open the door for you to solicit help from the credit bureaus.
There are some specific things that 609 letters can’t do. In general, a 609 letter is not a legal loophole that consumers can use to remove accurate information from their credit reports. This means they can’t relieve you of any verifiable debt. If a credit bureau is able to verify your debt, it will stay on your report. They also can’t relieve you of your existing debt. This is a common question from consumers who are trying to avoid collection agencies. If the debt has been verified, is accurate, and is not old debt, then sending a 609 letter won’t help you remove it from your report or stop collection efforts.
How Can I Write a 609 Letter?
There is nothing proprietary about the format or wording of a 609 letter. 609 letters are legal documents, not creative materials, so they’re not protected by copyright. And, there is no evidence suggesting that any particular dispute letter format is more effective than another. You might find that some companies will advertise that their letter template will work better than other letter templates because of how it’s formatted. Don’t fall for this.
In fact, you can write a 609 letter on your own as long as you include the right information. Below is our guide for how to draft your 609 letter, what to include in it, and how to send it.
Step 1: Get your free credit report.
Before writing a 609 letter, request a free copy of your credit report online to check it for any erroneous negative items. When reviewing your credit report, make sure all reported debts are accurate.
Step 2: Write your 609 letter.
Once you have your report and you know what you’d like to dispute, create a letter that has the following information:
- Personal information: Include your full name, date of birth, address, and phone number.
- Attorney information: If you have an attorney include their name and contact information.
- Account number with the credit bureau: Include your account number with the credit bureau that gave you the credit report. Your account number should be listed directly on the credit report.
- A statement asserting FCRA rights under section 609: Include a statement indicating that you are exercising your right under the FCRA, section 609, and you are requesting all information related to debts listed on your credit report. State that you are entitled to all documents related to each item, including each original credit application and contract containing your signature.
- What items or entries you’re requesting information about: Make a list of the items on your credit report that you’d like information about along with all dates associated with each item. These should be the items you plan to dispute. If your credit report has many disputed items, instead of listing them in the letter, you can circle the items in your credit report and then refer to the report in your letter.
- Your credit report: Always include your most recent credit report. Make sure to circle and highlight every item on your report that you want information about.
- Proof of identity: You must also provide appropriate proof of identity. To do this, include a copy of your government-issued ID, like your driver’s license or passport, and your Social Security number.
- Request for removal. In addition to requesting information about items in your credit report, include a statement reminding the credit bureau that if they cannot verify an item by locating the original contract or other documents necessary to validate a given item in your credit report, they must remove that item within 30 days.
- Reference to enclosures. Enclosures are all the other documents you’re sending to the credit bureau along with the letter. At the bottom of the letter under the header “Enclosures” add a list of all other documents you’re sending to the bureau.
Step 3: Mail your 609 letter via certified mail with a return receipt.
Once you’ve drafted your letter, sign it. Then, make copies of the letter and all other documents you plan to send to the credit bureau. Send the letter and all other documents to the appropriate credit bureau via certified mail and request a return receipt. When you send mail via certified mail and request a return receipt from the United States Postal Service, they will give you the certified mail receipt at the time of mailing. Then, they will send you the return receipt once the mail is delivered. Don’t lose this receipt or your certified mail receipt.
Addresses for all three credit bureaus are as follows:
Equifax Information Services LLC
P.O. Box 740256
Atlanta, GA 30374
P.O. Box 4500
Allen, TX 75013
TransUnion LLC Consumer Dispute Center
P.O. Box 2000
Chester, PA 19016
Although you can draft and send a 609 letter by yourself, it’s always best to seek professional advice from a credit repair lawyer or credit counselor, especially if you’re not familiar with the formal correspondence. Professionals like lawyers and counselors can assist you with the 609 letter, any follow-up dispute letters, and other aspects of your debt relief and credit repair efforts.
There are no guarantees that a 609 credit dispute letter will help you remove negative information from your credit report. Whether the bureau removes an item will depend on whether there were erroneous items in your credit report, whether the bureau can locate the documents required to verify the debt(s), and how clearly the items are disputed. Still, 609 letters will help you get the dispute process started. By requesting information from credit bureaus, they must provide all information in your credit file related to the items you’ve inquired about.
If the credit bureau is not responding to your 609 letter or any follow-up letters, you can also report their behavior to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), which is the federal agency charged with enforcing the FCRA. Filing a complaint with the FTC will put additional pressure on the credit bureau to respond and also to fix any errors in your credit report.
What Should I Say When Disputing my Credit?
If you find something in your credit report that doesn’t belong there, here’s what to do.
Step 1 – Identify any credit report errors
Review your credit reports periodically for inaccurate or incomplete information. You can get one free credit report from each of the three major credit bureaus — Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion — once a year at annualcreditreport.com. You can also subscribe, usually at a cost, to a credit monitoring service and review your report monthly.
Some common credit report errors you might spot include:
- Identity mistakes such as an incorrect name, phone number, or address.
- A so-called mixed file that contains account information belonging to another consumer. This may occur when you and another consumer have the same or similar names.
- An account incorrectly attributed to you due to identity theft.
- A closed account that’s still being reported as open.
- An incorrect reporting of you as an account owner, when you are just an authorized user on an account.
- A remedied delinquency such as a collections account that you paid off yet still shows as unpaid.
- An account that’s incorrectly labeled as late or delinquent, which could include outdated information such as a late payment that’s over 7 years old or an incorrect date regarding your last payment.
- The same debt was listed more than once.
- An account is listed more than once with different creditors.
- Incorrect account balances.
- Inaccurate credit limits.
How an error on your credit report can affect you
Is it really necessary to keep close tabs on your credit report? Can one error really have an impact on you? Yes. Your credit report contains all kinds of information about you, such as how you pay your bills, and if you’ve ever filed for bankruptcy. You could be impacted negatively by an error on your credit report in many ways.
To start, it’s important to understand that credit reporting companies sell the information in your credit reports to groups that include employers, insurers, utility companies, and many other groups that want to use that information to verify your identity and evaluate your creditworthiness.
For instance, if a utility company reviews your credit history and finds a less-than-favorable credit report, they may offer less favorable terms to you as a customer. While this is called risk-based pricing and companies must notify you if they’re doing this, it can still have an impact on you. Your credit report also may affect whether you can get a loan and the terms of that loan, including your interest rate.
Step 2 — Contact the furnisher
Your next step is to contact the furnisher or the company that provided the erroneous information, which could be an entity like your bank or a utility company. Verify their records and confirm the error. You may be able to resolve the issue at this point. If the issue can’t be resolved, contact the credit reporting bureau directly.
Step 3 – Dispute Your Credit Report’s Errors
Under the Fair Credit Reporting Act, both the credit reporting bureau and the company that reports the information about you to the credit bureau are required to accept disputes from consumers — and correct any inaccurate or incomplete information about you in that report.
The U.S. Federal Trade Commission (FTC) recommends taking these actions:
- Tell the credit bureau, in writing, what information you think is inaccurate. The Federal Trade Commission provides a sample dispute letter that makes this step easier. The letter outlines what information to include, from presenting the facts to requesting that the error be removed or corrected.
- Include copies, not originals, of materials that support your position.
- Consider enclosing a copy of your credit report with the errors circled or highlighted.
- Send your letter by certified mail with “return receipt requested” — to ensure the letter is delivered. Keep your post office receipt.
- Keep copies of everything you send.
Where to send your dispute letter
Send your credit report dispute letter to the credit reporting bureau, as well as to the company that reported the inaccurate information about you.
Step 4 – Allow time for the investigation
Credit reporting bureaus must investigate the disputed items. The process usually takes fewer than 30 days. They’re required to send relevant information to the information provider — meaning, whoever reported the disputed item. The provider must investigate the dispute and report back to the credit reporting bureau.
If you’re right — and it is an error — the information provider has to notify the three major credit bureaus so they can correct the information in your credit reports.
A frivolous credit report dispute
The credit bureau or the company that provided the information (the furnisher) also can determine that your claim is frivolous, in which case they can decide not to investigate your claim. But they must let you know they’ve declined to investigate your dispute by written notice within five days.
Step 5 – Follow up after the investigation
Here’s what to expect when the investigation is complete:
- The results of the investigation, in writing, from the credit reporting bureau.
- A free copy of your credit report, if the report has changed.
What about parties who have seen your incorrect information? You can ask the credit bureaus to notify them of the corrections, the FTC says. This includes:
- Notifying anyone who received your report in the past six months.
- Sending a corrected copy of your report to anyone who received it in the past two years.
But what if the investigation doesn’t resolve your dispute? If the furnisher continues to report the error, you can ask the credit bureaus to include a statement in your credit file that describes your side of the dispute and it will be included in future credit reports. For a fee, you can usually ask the credit bureau to send a copy of the statement to anyone who has recently received a copy of your report.
Read Also: What to Dispute on a Credit Report
Also, if you believe you were treated unfairly or a valid error remains on your credit report, you can file a complaint with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. The CFPB is required to forward the complaint to the company with which you have an issue. The CFPB usually will provide you with a response within 15 days.
How long can it take for an error to be corrected on your credit report after the dispute is resolved? Credit bureaus have five business days after finishing their investigation to notify you of the results.