Credit reports are crucial and utilized regularly to determine an individual’s creditworthiness to secure financing, loans, employment, housing, credit, and insurance. Negative marks on your credit report lower your overall creditworthiness and score and can follow you for years, affecting a potential lender, landlord, or employer from accepting your applications. Late payment, even one, alter your report and score negatively and continue to until the account is made current.
Unfortunately, payments that were made on time can be reported as being late to the credit agency for a number of reasons, damaging your report. Fortunately, there are steps you can take to have incorrect late payment information corrected:
- Access your credit report: Inaccurate information on your credit report can damage your creditworthiness for months or even years if not discovered. All of the major credit reporting agencies, Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion, provide one free copy of credit reports per year. For a nominal cost, all three also offer paid subscriptions for unlimited access to your account. Keep in mind that your report can differ between these agencies, as they may not all collect the same information.
- Review your reports: Regularly reviewing your credit report and knowing what information is correct is the easiest and fastest way to spot inaccuracies, such as notices of late payments, which typically appear as:
- Bills paid on time but were reported as late. Double-check your dates and payment confirmation to verify when you made the payment.
- Old late payments that should no longer be included in your credit report. One late account on your credit report can compound with time if not discovered early. As each month passes with the original date reflecting a late payment, the negative marks on your credit rating worsen. This information should be removed from your report seven years from the first date of the initial late payment.
- Dispute errors: If you discover incorrect or outdated late payments on your credit report, you have the right to file a dispute with the credit agency that issued the report. You also have the right to dispute the error with the creditor reporting the information, such as the credit card issuer, lender, or collection agency.
How Do I Dispute Incorrect Late Payments?
If you believe a payment has been mistakenly reported as late, you can file a dispute to have the information corrected. Draft a written letter explaining which information is incorrect, why you are disputing it, and request the information be corrected. Reference the following supplemental information you should gather and include:
- Social Security number and date of birth.
- Proof of identity with a government-issued ID, such as a driver’s license or passport.
- Proof of birth, death, or divorce documents.
- Current and past addresses for the previous two years, along with copies of bills confirming your name and address.
- A copy of the credit report showing the incorrect information and the related account.
- Loan documents, bank, or credit card statements showing payments and dates.
- If the inaccurate information is related to identity theft, include copies of the police report and Federal Trade Commission (FTC) complaint.
Once you have gathered all documentation, file your dispute with the credit agency responsible for reporting the inaccuracies. Before submitting, check each agency’s website or call customer service to find out how each agency handles disputes and what information they seek. Each agency may have different procedures.
Inform the business that supplied the information to the credit agencies, such as a credit card company, loan provider, or bank, and ask them to discontinue reporting the inaccurate information until the dispute investigation is completed. It should be noted that there is no guarantee that the business will do so.
What Should I Expect After I File a Dispute?
When the credit agency receives your dispute, they are required to investigate it within 30 days and inform the business supplying the information of their determination. If the agency feels the dispute is incomplete, they will request additional information from you, and the investigation will cease until they receive the additional documents. The investigation will also cease if they determine the dispute to be irrelevant or frivolous.
Should the investigation reveal that the information is indeed incorrect, the credit agency and business are required to correct it, inform you of the correction in writing, and provide a free copy of the corrected credit report for your records. Also, the agency is also required to notify any business that reviewed your report, such as a lender, within in the past six months, and for the past two years for any that reviewed your report for employment purposes.
What Should I Do if the Agency Refuses to Correct the Report?
If the credit agency investigation determines the information to be accurate based on verification by the business and make no report changes, you can take additional measures to correct the problem, such as:
- Contact the creditor who supplied the inaccurate information and demand they inform the credit reporting agency to have it removed. If you receive a letter from the creditor agreeing the data is wrong, send a copy to the agency to correct your report.
- Gather additional information supporting your claim and file another dispute with the credit agency with the new, relevant information. You will only be successful in initiating another investigation if you are able to provide new information.
- File a complaint against the credit reporting agency with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, who will inform the credit agency and follow up on your dispute.
- File a complaint with the FTC against the creditor who supplied the original inaccurate information to the credit agency if they refuse to revise the information.
- Add an explanatory statement to your credit report to be included in any report that includes the disputed information. Credit agencies are required to include the statement if you submit one.
- Submit a complaint to your state attorney general’s office, consumer protection agency, senator, or congressional representative.
- Hire an attorney and file a lawsuit against the credit agency or creditor. Under the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA), you are entitled to sue for negligence or noncompliance within five years after the initial reporting of inaccurate information, or two years after you discover it, whichever comes first. An attorney experienced in handling credit-related issues can help you assert your rights under the FCRA.
Negative information on a credit report can affect nearly every aspect of your life and your ability to obtain housing, insurance, or employment, even when information is incorrect. You have the right to dispute information contained in your credit report. Francis Mailman Soumilas, P.C. can help you have your report corrected. Call 215-735-8600 or contact us online to schedule a no-obligation free consultation. If your rights have been violated, you may be able to sue for damages, including coverage of attorney fees and other costs. Located in Philadelphia, Chicago, New York, and San Francisco, we serve clients nationwide.