I found  incorrect information on my credit report. How do I correct it?  Do I notify the creditor? Do I notify the credit reporting bureaus (TransUnion, Equifax, Experian)?

Answer:  Protections under the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA)  are triggered when you notify the credit reporting bureaus of a disputed credit reporting item.

This means you might need to notify a specific creditor that you dispute their reporting.  But beware the law of unintended consequences. In some cases, contacting the creditor can be a touchy situation because you might inadvertently acknowledge a debt and re-start the statute of limitations. Consider consulting an attorney before contacting any creditors / debt buyers about credit report errors.

But, you also need to notify the credit bureaus. This is because it is the notice to the bureaus that triggers certain legal protections under the FCRA.

If the creditor continues to report the incorrect information as “undisputed,” it might have violated the Fair Credit Reporting Act.

In some cases, the most efficient way to handle a dispute is as follows:

  1. Send the creditor a letter disputing the inaccurate information.* (but SEE BELOW for caveat.)
  2. Wait a few days to give the creditor time to start processing your dispute.
  3. Dispute the inaccurate information with all three bureaus.
  4. Wait for the bureaus to get “updated” information from the creditor.
  5. If the updated information from the creditor does not note the item as “disputed,” the creditor has possibly committed an FCRA violation.
  6. For 30-45 days days, continue to check your credit report for corrected information.
  7. The bureaus usually have 30 days to investigate, but have 45 days when your dispute is in response to information in a free annual credit report.
  8. If the information goes uncorrected 30 days after your dispute and / or you have an FCRA violation as described in (5) above, contact an attorney to help.