Keeping tabs on your credit report is a smart move. The detailed look into your financial history can be used to evaluate your applications for credit loans, insurance and even employment. And because your credit report informs your credit score, any errors on your report can unnecessarily hurt your score — and your ability to qualify for the best rates or other financial perks. Needless to say, you want your credit report to be accurate.

Errors can range from relatively innocuous mistakes, such as a misspelled name or incorrect credit limit, to more egregious issues of identity theft. But no matter the severity of the error, here’s how to dispute an error on your credit report.

WRITE A LETTER

If you find an error, the first step is to initiate a dispute. While you have the option of doing so online or by phone, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) recommends disputing your credit report by letter. In writing, identify yourself, fully explain the error in question, and ask that it be removed or corrected. The FTC has a template to help you get started.

GATHER SUPPORTING DOCUMENTS

In addition to the letter, make a copy of your credit report with the error clearly marked, as well as any supporting documents. These might include credit card or bank statements, loan forms or even your birth certificate. Remember to make copies of everything.

CONTACT THE CREDIT BUREAU

Errors can be made by any or all of the major credit bureaus: Equifax, Experian and TransUnion. To contact the credit bureau(s) that generated the erroneous report, the FTC advises that you send your letter and documents by certified mail with “return receipt requested.” This ensures your dispute is received and provides a paper trail if you need to reference your case.

CONTACT THE INFORMATION PROVIDER

According to the Fair Credit Reporting Act, both the credit bureau and the company that provided the inaccurate information (usually a financial institution such as a bank or credit card company) are liable for correcting any errors on your report. So you’ll also want to send a copy of the paperwork to that company as well.

WAIT ABOUT 30 DAYS

The credit bureau typically has 30 days to look into your dispute and forward your documents to the company that provided the incorrect information to conduct its own investigation. If it confirms the error, the provider must inform all three credit bureaus and have them correct the false information. The bureaus will give you another free copy of your credit report for you to confirm the correction. If the error is not corrected, you can request that a record of your dispute be added to your file so anyone who pulls your credit report in the future will see that you filed one.

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