According to a recent study in the New York Times, up to 25% of American credit reports contain errors of some kind. These could be harmless errors like outdated personal information or more serious ones like fraudulent accounts. We recommend that international students review their credit reports after a year of using credit in the US. Once you’ve requested your free report from Equifax, Experian, or TransUnion, review it carefully for errors. If you find any, here’s your next steps:
Document the Errors
You have to prove, to the best of your ability, that the information listed is wrong. If, for example, you see the wrong spending limit listed for one of your credit cards, attach official documents from your bank indicating the correct spending limit (circle it with red pen to be absolutely clear). If you see a monthly payment listed as late, attach a bank statement indicating that it was made on time. Again, most of your financial documentation is filled with information, so make sure you clearly highlight the item you’re referencing. Repeat this step for each error, providing separate documentation for each.
Write a Dispute Letter
Like a cover letter for a school or job application, your dispute letter will explain clearly the information you’ve attached for the credit bureau to review. The Federal Trade Commission offers these guidelines to follow when writing your letter. Collect your documentation, your letter, and your credit report (with each error highlighted or circled), make copies of everything, then mail it.
What Comes Next
Now, it’s a matter of waiting. Although the credit bureau will typically investigate your dispute within 30 days, that simply means they’ve notified the creditor or lender who reported the wrong information in order for them to confirm the mistake on your credit report. Once it’s confirmed (or denied), the creditor reports to the credit bureau then informs you of the outcome with a revised credit report indicating the change that was made. This credit bureau will notify each of the other credit bureaus of the change. If you haven’t received a response after 40 days, you should follow up with the credit bureau.
Make sure you review your credit report carefully, clearly indicate mistakes, attach detailed documentation, and patiently wait for your corrected credit report!