What Does a Credit Reporting Agency Have to Do When You Dispute an Item on Your Credit?
If you check your credit or get your credit reports, you’ll always see the same basic message: If you don’t agree with something on your credit reports, you can always dispute what’s there. But what can you actually dispute, and what happens when you file a dispute?
What Can be Disputed
You cannot dispute everything that is incorrect on your credit. The credit reporting agencies (CRAs)—Equifax, Experian and Transunion—can only investigate things that are, on their face, incorrect.
So, for example, if you are Jane Smith from Doral and a Jane Smith from North Carolina’s hospital debt ends up on your credit, that is something that is on its face inaccurate, and that can be verified as inaccurate with a reasonable investigation by the CRA or the creditor (for example, by getting the records or checking dates of birth).
However, let’s say that your landlord said you could move out early, but now he is charging you for the months that were left on your lease that he said you would not be charged for. That is a factual dispute between you and your landlord, which the CRAs don’t have to, and can’t, verify as accurate or inaccurate.
What Happens When a Dispute is Submitted
When you submit a dispute to a CRA, the dispute is sent to the original creditor for investigation. The creditor is supposed to do some kind of investigation, and report back to the CRA, but the CRA cannot just take the creditor’s word—it must do its own investigation.
This is often called “parroting,” where a CRA simply reports a disputed item as accurate or inaccurate solely based on what the creditor reporting the dispute says.
Because the CRA must do its own investigation, it violates the fair credit reporting act (FCRA) when it parrots, or when it simply does a cursory or no investigation at all.
Since only three companies handle most of the country’s credit, you can imagine the volume of disputes that they receive. In many cases, disputes are handled overseas, by operators who may only have time to give a quick look at hundreds of disputes every hour. They are hardly uncovering every rock and stone to look into your dispute. As a result, they often do not do what is required by the FCRA in conducting a complete and thorough investigation.
You, the consumer also must do your part—although there is no legal language required to file a dispute, you should give enough information that the CRA has some background to conduct the investigation. For example, a consumer could simply say “this is too old to be on my credit,” or “this account is not mine,” or “this was discharged in bankruptcy” or give a short description of why an item is incorrect or should not be on the credit report.
Also remember to send your disputes to the correct addresses for the CRAs. Although some companies offer online dispute processes, it may be better to do it with an actual letter.
Has a creditor or a credit agency refused to remove an item on your credit that should not be there? Contact Jacobs Legal in Miami today to discuss your credit and the rights you have to protect having incorrect items remain on your credit.