It’s a good idea to monitor your credit report so that you can be aware of any out of the ordinary charges or comments. Here’s how to dispute anything that shouldn’t be there.

While the majority of the time, your credit report will be accurate, occasionally there are items that are reported incorrectly by your creditors. These might include:

  • Late payments
  • Amounts still owed
  • Accounts appearing open that should be closed

There are many reasons that a creditor might have incorrect data on your report. Data on the report may lag in what’s actually being done on your account, so if you recently closed an account, it may take a while for this to appear on your report. A payment may not have been processed by the due date, leaving a late payment mark on your report.

Most of these issues can be amended if you send a letter disputing the problem to the credit monitoring agency.

Why You Should Care

Your credit score affects many things, from getting a loan to your next job. It’s important to know what your score is and what the activity on your credit is to ensure it’s all accurate to your actions. It’s also a good way to ensure you’re not a victim of identity theft, and that someone isn’t using your cards and pretending to be you.

First Steps

If you recently made a change to your credit, wait up to 60 days to let your credit report reflect the change. Also, log into your credit accounts online to see if anything strange shows up that reflects the discrepancy that appears on your report. The more information you are armed with, the easier disputing it will be.

Next: Write a Letter

Craft a letter to the credit reporting agency you’re working with. There are three: Experian, Transunion and Equifax. The letter should list the charges or issues you’re concerned with, as well as any documented proof that this is incorrect. Request that this be removed.

Send your letter by certified mail, and get a return receipt so that you know when the letter has been received. Once the reporting agency gets the request, it will contact the creditor on your behalf to determine whether your request is valid. The agency must act within 30 days of your request by law, and once the investigation is complete, you will receive written notice. If it changes your credit report, you will be given a free copy of your report, which doesn’t go toward your annual free copy.

You may also choose to send notice to your creditor that you are disputing the item. This can be a good idea, so that the creditor has this on file.

In the event that the creditor says your dispute isn’t valid, you are able to submit a brief 100 word statement that will appear below the item on your credit report. This will appear to anyone who views your credit report. While it’s best to get the issue removed completely from the report, this is the next best thing.

Staying on Top of It

Take advantage of getting a free credit report from each of the three agencies each year, and take the time to review it in detail. Look to see who has viewed your credit report. It should only be people you’ve given access to your information, such as a credit card company you applied to open a card with, a landlord you granted permission to do a background and credit check, or a potential employer. Anyone else may be a red flag that you’re being looked at as a potential identity theft victim, so contact your reporting agency to find out more.