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Disputing a Credit Report Error

Q. There’s an error on my credit report. How do I fix it?

A. Don’t rely on the online dispute forms offered by the three major credit reporting bureaus. Their check-box choices will pigeonhole your dispute into general categories, weakening your chances to prove negligence, says the National Consumer Law Center.

Instead, the center recommends that you send a written request for an investigation to all three major credit bureaus, with “return receipt” notification. Your letters should explain your dispute in detail and note all actions you’ve taken to resolve it—such as the time and dates of telephone calls made, and with whom you spoke. Include whatever evidence you can find to discredit the company that’s reporting the damaging information about you, such as complaints of past inaccuracies.

Make specific recommendations on actions the credit bureaus should take to investigate the matter—such as interview customer rep John Jones, with whom you tried to settle the matter.

You should also send a return-receipt letter to the bank or company that claimed you were financially remiss. Dispute in detail its information about you.

Then—follow up. Telephone or write again if you don’t hear back. The bureaus are required to give you the results of the investigation in writing and a free copy of your report if the dispute results in a change.

For more details, see page 35 of a report by the National Consumer Law Center.

A Federal Trade Commission web page has more tips and a sample dispute letter.

Dispute letters should be mailed to:

* Experian

P.O. Box 2104

Allen, TX 75013

* Equifax Information Services

P.O. Box 740256

Atlanta, GA 30374

* TransUnion Consumer Solutions

P.O. Box 2000

Chester, PA 19016-2000

Sid Kirchheimer writes about health and consumer issues.