Do you have errors on your Equifax credit report? Dings, blemishes, negative items that shouldn’t be there? If so, you’re in the right place.
The purpose of this article is to share precisely how to file your Equifax dispute, including the most common stumbling block, and why this is so effective at improving your credit score. The Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) is the federal legislation that enables us to do this.
It’s your consumer right to challenge and dispute any item on your credit reports, so long as you believe the item is inaccurate, misleading, or made in error. This is how we’re going to clean up credit report dings, blemishes, and remove the negative items.
You see, your credit score is a lot like your Grade Point Average (GPA) in glory school days bygone. It doesn’t matter if you’re acing all your courses, if you’re failing underwater basket weaving, because this negative mark is going to ruin your overall GPA.
This is also true of your credit score, and why we must take action to remove negative items from your credit reports. On a sidebar, the FCRA also clearly answers how long does bad credit stay on your credit report?
For the majority of items, it’s a maximum of seven long, expensive, and embarrassing years. Did you catch that? Most people don’t.
Seven years is the maximum amount of time. In other words, there is no minimum amount of time any negative item must remain on your credit report.
Listen, if O.J. can get early release from real prison, don’t you think we can get you early release from bad credit prison? We can, every year millions of negative items are removed from consumer’s credit reports. In 2016 alone, over 9 million negative items were removed.
How To Dispute Equifax
The very first step is to grab a current, updated copy of your Equifax credit report. You can do this for free, once every 12 months by visiting annualcreditreport.com. You won’t be able to get your free annual credit report, directly from Equifax.
Once you have this, we need to review it in detail. We’re looking for all the items we’d like to potentially challenge and remove. Next, we need to decide how to dispute credit report items, because we can file our dispute online, over the phone, or by mail.
The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) in an article, suggests folks file their credit report dispute by mail. This will require you to create a credit dispute letter. In your letter, you need to identify the item or items you’re disputing, the reason, and copies of any supporting evidence.
Reasons to dispute credit report items are many and include: not my account, balance is wrong, dates are incorrect, account is paid, and many more. In addition, a few examples of supporting evidence would be a returned check, divorcee decree assigning a debt to a spouse, bank statements that reflect payment, etc.
Once Equifax receives your dispute, you’ll be contacted by mail, and notified if your dispute is considered valid or frivolous. If it’s valid, Equifax is required to investigate the item.
They’ll call it a re-investigation. Nonetheless, they’ll contact the data furnisher (company reporting your account information) and request they verify your account. If it is verified, it may be updated with accurate information, such as accurate date’s of activity or total balance.
If the item is not verified, then in compliance with the FCRA, this means Equifax must remove the item from your credit report. This is how to clear bad credit items, and do so legally, by exercising your consumer rights. Typically you’ll receive the results of your investigation, within 30 days, potentially up to 45 days, relatively quickly.
If your Equifax dispute is deemed frivolous, they won’t investigate the item. Instead, they’ll notify you it was deemed frivolous, and they’ll request additional information. Comply with their request, and we’ll share coming up why this is a very common result.
If you file your dispute by mail, you’ll need to send your dispute letter to the following address:
P.O. Box 740256
Atlanta, GA 30374-0256
Another alternative is to file your Equifax dispute online, this is probably the most convenient. You’re welcome to do it this way, but our preferred method is by mail. Regardless, if you file your credit report dispute online with Equifax you’ll need to visit this URL address: https://www.equifax.com/personal/disputes.
Once, there you’ll see on the screen a little blue box in the top right corner, that says “submit a dispute.” Naturally, click on this, and it’ll pop open a new window that walks you through the process.
You’ll first need to provide some basic identifying information, so they can locate your Equifax credit file. And then next to each item or what’s called a tradeline on your credit report, there will be a little box that says dispute. Of course, click on that.
You’ll again need to provide a reason for your dispute and upload any supporting evidence. Once Equifax gets your dispute, you’ll be notified via email if the dispute is considered valid or frivolous. You’ll also be notified of the investigation results via email, if the item was removed or verified or updated with accurate information.
3. Over The Phone
The third way to dispute Equifax is to do it over the phone. This is the same process, except you’ll need to call 1-866-349-5191, to do this.
The big drawback to this method is providing the supporting evidence. You won’t be able to submit everything at once, your dispute and the supporting evidence. As we mentioned, both us and the FTC, suggest using the old-fashioned snail mail approach.
Listen, it’s virtually guaranteed Equifax is going to find your dispute frivolous and they’ll request more information. Before we share why it’s so dang um difficult and many people would say impossible to fix bad credit.
Did you know the FTC studied the accuracy of American’s credit reports in 2012? What did they find? Straight from their press release: “One in five consumers had an error on at least one of their three credit reports.”
That’s millions of American’s with total, blatant errors on their credit reports. Not accounts in dispute, but mistakes. These errors are costing real, and big money for consumers.
This was the original intention behind the passing of the FCRA. Congress wanted to give the regular, everyday, hard-working American a way to tell the credit bureaus there’s a mistake on their credit reports. And it needs to be fixed, because it’s screwing up our life.
The Most Common Stumbling Block
Look, your Equifax dispute has an unbelievably high chance of being viewed as frivolous. You probably have better odds of winning the lottery, than you do getting Equifax to view your first dispute request as valid.
You see, the credit reporting industry composed of Equifax, TransUnion, and Experian earn annual revenues of around $4 billion. Not one single nickel of this money is earned by investigating consumer disputes or correcting even the most obvious of errors on consumer’s credit reports.
In fact, this is only an expense for the credit bureaus. That’s why Congress felt it so necessary to pass federal legislation way back in 1970, requiring the credit bureaus to do this.
Let’s be real clear, the money the credit bureaus spend investigating items on your credit report or any consumer’s credit report is otherwise profit. This money is very directly profit and returns paid to stockholders.
Don’t you think in the over 40 years the credit bureaus have been mandated by federal law to take on this expense and cost of doing business, they’ve invested a substantial amount of time and money and resources trying to figure out how to at least minimize this expense? Of course.
The most effective way they’ve discovered in all these years is to simply stall. Make it as complicated, as convoluted, and virtually impossible for regular folks to not scream and pull their hair out when trying to repair credit. Doubt my words?
Let me share, just one example, a woman in 2013 named Julie Miller sued Equifax and was awarded $18.6 million by a federal jury. Julie woke up one day to discover 38 bogus collection accounts were on her Equifax credit report.
Of course, this ruined her otherwise excellent credit score. Julie did exactly what the FCRA says, and filed her Equifax dispute, and they found it frivolous. And requested more information.
Julie complied and over the next two years sent them her W-2’s, pay-stubs, tax returns, hair samples, DNA, and her firstborn child. Yes, small exaggeration.
Nevertheless, after two years, Julie was still getting the run-around. This is on the most valid dispute of any, someone else’s collection accounts were mistakenly showing up on her credit reports. Two years and they still claimed her dispute was frivolous.
Unbelievable. And a federal jury thought so too. This initial award was later reduced by a federal judge to $1.8 million. Here’s the big kicker, Julie’s reduced compensatory damages were for only $180,000.
Her punitive damages were, even after the reduction, a full nine-times her compensatory damages or $1,620,000. For the uninitiated, the compensatory damages are the actual, real-life damages, intended to make you whole again.
Whereas the punitive damages are for the annoyance, frustration, and aggravation of dealing with this ordeal. In other words, a federal judge found Equifax’s behavior so reprehensible that he gave Julie, nine-times as much as her actual, real-life, damages. That’s a statement.
Listen, all three credit bureaus have been fined repeatedly by our government both the FTC, and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) for violating consumer rights and the FCRA. In addition, too many more consumer lawsuits, beyond just Julie’s.
In 2015, all three credit bureaus collectively agreed to pay $6 million and settle with 31 state attorney generals for allegedly violating consumer rights. It was alleged that all three credit bureaus were just ignoring consumer disputes.
In recent years, 60 Minutes aired an episode featuring this story. The credit bureaus ain’t your friend. They don’t earn any revenue from correcting your credit reports, and instead spend money they could keep otherwise.
So here’s the million dollar question. If we all know our credit reports are very inaccurate from the 2012 FTC study, and we know the credit bureaus haven’t complied with the FCRA in the four decades plus, since its original passage.
Why on earth, would we let the credit bureaus first decide if your dispute is valid or frivolous? Isn’t that exactly like asking them if they want to throw some of their profits and money out the window? Yes, of course.
The reason is pretty easy to see. It’s because the credit bureaus pump millions of dollars every year into Washington lobbyists to influence our poli-tricksters. Because anyone with even the faintest understanding of the credit report dispute process, can very easily see the massive conflict of interest in letting the credit bureaus decide if a consumer’s dispute is frivolous or valid.
It’s absurd. Yet, so predictable. It’s about as practical as giving free healthcare to everyone, sure buddy! That’s proven effective. And so has the current situation with the credit bureau dispute process.
The latest amendment to the FCRA, that all these millions of dollars in Washington lobbyists bought, in our opinion, is enabling you to dispute a data furnisher directly. In other words, rather than dispute the credit bureaus, you can dispute the company reporting the information about your account, directly, and thus bypassing the credit bureaus.
It’s possible there are some cases where this may be appropriate, such as identity theft. But, we personally believe, it’s nothing more than an attempt to make the credit dispute process more convoluted and complicated, with the purpose of discouraging folks from disputing credit report items.
They clearly didn’t need any additional information from Julie Miller. They were obviously just screwing her. Do you really believe, Julie was just an outlier, or does it seem more reasonable that this is their standard response?
Rest assured, it’s the standard response. Just as one last example, before we wrap this up. Many moons ago, the credit bureaus were required by our government to create toll-free phone numbers so consumers could call in and file their dispute by phone.
The credit bureaus did create the toll-free phone numbers. But, what did they neglect to do? They, neglected to actually hire or have any staff members answer these phones. No joke.
There were reports of consumers waiting over 30 hours on hold. What a nightmare, and I don’t know how anyone could be more blatantly disrespectful of government oversight or regulation. This is people’s finances, and they’re very literally screwing millions of Americans.
We can understand a little, because it’s estimated the credit bureaus receive over 8 million dispute requests, every year. And we can imagine some of these disputes, must arrive with ketchup and barbecue stains, and all sorts of unusual activity.
Yet, some disputes are valid, legitimate, and they still get deemed frivolous. We don’t share this to discourage you, because you can clear credit history dings, blemishes, and remove negative items. Millions of items are removed every year.
Instead, we share this in the spirit of the timeless book The Art of War. Because as the book says, you must know your adversary before going into battle. We want you to understand who you’re truly dealing with when you’re working to fix your credit, so you can have accurate and appropriate expectations about how to get rid of bad credit.
By the way, it’s essential to also take action to clear credit file dings, blemishes, and remove negative items from your other two credit reports too. This would be with Experian and TransUnion. For example, if you have a charge off account on all three of your credit reports.
Naturally, you’ll need to file an Equifax dispute, and in addition, you’ll also need to file a TransUnion dispute, and Experian dispute. Each credit bureau, has their own unique credit file about you, and correcting one credit report, won’t fix all three.
Please, whatever you do, don’t just give up and live with a low credit score, and not for seven long, expensive, and embarrassing years. Can you really afford to just sit and wait seven years?
Can your family afford to sit and wait seven years? We hope not. You can improve credit yourself, and if you go at it alone, it’s vital you keep a cool head, stay organized, and remain persistent.
Keep in mind, your credit score is a lot like your GPA in school days past. It doesn’t matter if you’re acing all your classes, if you’re failing The Art of Walking, because this negative mark is going to ruin your overall GPA.
This is also true of your credit score. And why it’s so critical to clean up your credit report dings, blemishes, and remove the negative items. We encourage our members to consider professional, legal, and legitimate credit repair companies to help with credit correction.
Because in 2016 alone, over 9 million negative items were removed from consumer’s credit reports. One of the best credit restoration companies is The Credit Pros. They’ve helped client’s successfully remove late payments, collections, charge offs, judgements, liens, repossessions, foreclosures, bankruptcies, and many more negative credit report items.
Get a free credit consultation with a certified FICO professional by calling toll-free 1-877-418-7596. And for more tips, techniques, and strategies about how to fix credit score with Dan Willis, sign up for our free newsletter and join our congregation.
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