How Do You Dispute Just One Item With One Credit Bureau?

J Thomas Black
Board Certified, Consumer Bankruptcy Law- Texas Board of Legal Specialization

We had a client call in a few days ago, and she had settled a debt. Two of the three major credit bureaus had corrected their reports to accurately report the account as "settled." But one credit bureau still showed the full amount of the debt as being due. What should she do?

She should dispute the error, with the credit bureau that is reporting it. Not the creditor, although it is OK to send a copy of your dispute to the creditor. To preserve your rights under the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA), the correct way to use the law, is to dispute the credit error with the credit bureau.

The credit bureau then has an obligation to contact the creditor, and inform them that you are disputing the debt. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) recommends that you dispute the error in writing, and attach copies of any documents that support your position (cancelled checks, receipts for payment, etc.). Once the investigation is complete, the credit bureau must give you the results in writing, as well as a free copy of your report, if the dispute results in a change.

Information about how to dispute a credit error and an example of a dispute letter are on the FTC's website.

If your dispute doesn't resolve the error, you and you are sure you are correct, it is possible to have your dispute noted on your file. It is also possible to bring a court action to compel the credit bureau to correct the error, and seek damages for whatever harm the mis-reporting cause, statutory damages, and attorney fees and costs.