The Internet has changed just about everything, and that includes the world of credit reports and credit repair. Consumers can now access their credit files online and even initiate disputes through credit bureau websites. If you have read our book Credit Scoring Secrets, you are well aware of your credit rights. Of course, the centerpiece of credit repair is the dispute letter. We have our own series of credit repair letters that are available for free to members of ChristianMoneyPlus.com. Today I want to address a frequent question on whether or not to use the online dispute option (now available with all three credit bureaus).
The latest question I received yesterday from a reader that was challenging an item on her credit report that was older than 7 years. She used the online approach and she received an immediate answer - an answer that she did not like. The online portal immediately informed her that the item was verified to be up to date and that it was not going to be removed. This directly contradicted information she had received by mail six months earlier. At that time, her printed credit report listed this item and noted that it would be removed in September of 2014. In the meantime, it appears that it was transferred to a new collection agency. The current owner of the debt is now reporting it as a new item and this is why the online dispute failed.
Of course, the item should still be removed and the fact that it has been picked up by a new collection agency does not change that. This does provide further confirmation of my longstanding belief that online disputes are ineffective. If a consumer challenges an item the credit bureau is obligated to investigate this item within 30 days. In this situation not only does our reader have documentation that the item is older than 7 years, she has a recent report from the bureau confirming this. It also raises serious questions about how the credit bureau could have fulfilled its obligation of an investigation in the five seconds it took for our reader to get her online response.
I advised her to use a certified letter with a return receipt outlining all of the details and demanding removal. I also strongly recommended that she discontinue the use of the online portals for future disputes. These portals seem like the easier option, but they continue to be the least effective method of dispute. Before sending a letter to a credit bureau, be sure that you carefully read their requirements. You must provide proof of your identity and your current address. You don't get to decide what constitutes this proof. Be sure that your letter includes all of the required items or it will be sent back to you with no action taken.
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