Category Archives: Disputing Credit Reports

Information related to disputing inaccurate information on your credit report in Fairfax, Arlington, Alexandria, Sterling, Manasass, Woodbridge, Fredericksburg, Stafford, and Richmond, Virginia.

How do I get a free copy of my credit report?

The FCRA requires certain credit reporting agencies to provide you with one free copy of your credit report per year. The important thing to remember is the correct website to visit in order to obtain your free credit report. The website is:

When you visit the website, you will need to know basic details about your financial life in order to answer security questions. Initially, you will enter obvious items like your name, address, and social security number.  As you enter a specific credit reporting agency website, you will answer more difficult questions about your financial history to verify your identity.  Examples include prior street address names and numbers, monthly payment amounts for certain debts, and maybe even the names of prior roommates.

You do not need to purchase anything to obtain a free copy of your credit report.  You may be solicited for optional items like credit scores and credit monitoring, but you need not purchase anything in order to see your free credit report.

Because their are three main credit reporting agencies, I like to review one free report every four months by staggering the individual reports that I obtain for free.  A good reference point is near your birthday with scheduled reminders to get another free report four months later.  By viewing credit reports in this fashion, you are getting periodic snapshots to make sure that no new inaccuracies are on any credit report.

I would print off and maintain in your records the copies of the reports that you obtain.  This creates a baseline snapshot of your credit file if you are ever the victim of identity theft, a mixed credit file, merged credit file, or multiple credit files.  Monitoring the contents of your credit file is important in protecting your future.  Do not delay, get a free copy of your credit report today.


Reporting Restrictions On Old Obsolete Credit Accounts.

If you were wondering when old, derogatory, yet accurate credit information comes off your credit report, there is good news and bad news regarding FCRA provisions that restrict the reporting of old or “obsolete” credit information on your credit file.  The good news is that the FCRA places significant restrictions on what old derogatory information may be reported on your credit file by a credit reporting agency.  The bad news is that in practice, the rules provide opportunities for unscrupulous debt collectors to “re-age” derogatory credit information, so it remains on your credit file longer than permitted by law.

With many exceptions, the general rule is that a consumer can expect to have derogatory credit accounts remain on their credit file for seven years. The date of the first delinquency determines the beginning date for calculation of the obsolescence period.  The end date for the reporting of derogatory information depends on the type of debt and circumstances surrounding the debt.  It is important to note that the date of first delinquency for the debt should not change if the debt is sold and is not altered by payment arrangements.

A credit reporting agency may report an account that is not charged off for seven years from the date of first delinquency.  An account that has been charged off or placed for collection more than 180 days after the date of first delinquency may be reported by the credit reporting agency for seven years and 180 days.  Finally, if the account is placed for collection or charged off before the expiration of 180 days from the date of first delinquency, the seven year period runs from the date of charge off or when the account is first placed for collection. Bankruptcy will remain on your credit file for 10 years, and different time periods apply for judgments, tax liens, criminal records, and certain student loans.

Sometimes a debt collector will “re-age” an old past due debt that should not otherwise appear on your credit file.  Re-aging occurs when the debt collector incorrectly reports the initial date of delinquency, commonly as the date that they acquired the debt. By reporting the account in this fashion, the seven year reporting period is improperly extended, which causes the collection account to remain on the consumer’s credit file longer than permitted.  Debt collectors like debts to remain on a consumer’s credit file because it provides them significant leverage to obtain payment on an old account.

If you are the victim of old information that should be removed from your credit report, your best recourse is to dispute the information with the credit reporting agency by informing them of the facts and circumstances supporting your position. For information on disputing inaccurate information in your credit file, please see my earlier blog post:

In addition to FCRA claims against credit reporting agencies and furnishers related to old, obsolete credit information, the re-aging of collection accounts by a debt collector may also be a violation of the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act.  Given the different rules at play regarding this topic, you should not hesitate to contact a local consumer protection lawyer.  I am located in Virginia at 571-313-0412, but I would be happy to speak with you about your situation for a potential referral to a lawyer in your area.


What happens after you send your credit dispute letter.

After you have mailed your credit dispute letter and supporting documentation to a credit reporting agency (CRA), the process typically results with your letter being
outsourced to another country like India, Costa Rica, Jamaica, or the Philippines
for processing.  Whether you disputed credit information with Equifax, Experian, Trans Union, or another CRA will ultimately determine the particular country in which your dispute is outsourced.  When the CRA receives the credit dispute letter, it normally has the dispute letter with attachments scanned into its system.  Next, the CRA has the foreign-based processor review the letter and documentation to identify your particular type of dispute and select a code number that best describes your particluar dispute. At this point, the CRA must notify the furnisher of your dispute. The FCRA presently requires that the CRA must notify the furnisher of the dispute within five business days of receiving your credit dispute letter.  The CRA will send notice of your dispute through an electronic system known as E-OSCAR via a form called an Automated Consumer Dispute Verification form or “ACDV”.  The furnisher of the disputed credit information will receive the ACDV and has a duty to conduct a reasonable investigation of the dispute.

I think that it is helpful to imagine your credit dispute letter running on two parallel train tracks, one with the CRA and one with the furnisher of the information.  When the CRA reviews your dispute, if it determines that the disputed information is inaccurate,
incomplete, or cannot be verified, it has to delete the item of information or change the information as appropriate given the results of its reinvestigation.  The time required for a CRA to complete its investigation depends on certain factors and can be extended, but a good rule of thumb is that a CRA has about thirty days to complete the investigation of your credit dispute.  In addition, the furnisher of the disputed credit information also has a responsibility to investigate your dispute.  The furnisher should make a detailed inquiry into its records to assure that the information reported is full, complete, and accurate.  Often times the furnisher will only check its computer records to determine if it has already made a decision regarding the disputed account and will not conduct the thorough analysis required.  After the furnisher completes its investigation, it will send a response to back to the credit reporting agency.

When the investigation of your credit dispute letter is concluded, the CRA must send you notice of the results of the reinvestigation. The results of the reinvestigation will typically be mailed to you unless you have authorized some other method of notice.  The notice of the results of the reinvestigation should also include notice that you may request a description of the procedure used to determine the accuracy of your disputed
information.  It can be a good idea to request this information from a CRA if incorrect information remains on your credit file or if the source of the information is of dubious origin.  You will also receive notice of the right to have previous users of your credit file notified of the disputed account.  Finally, you also have the right to place a statement of dispute in your credit file describing why you believe a certain item of information is incorrect.  As with the credit dispute letter you send, you will want to keep a copy of the results of the reinvestigation of your dispute letter. If you have many disputes with multiple CRAs, you will probably want to purchase a multi-pocket file folder as your records will become numerous. If your disputed credit report information remains on your credit report following the initial credit dispute letter, I would recommend that you contact an attorney that specializes in credit report litigation.


How you can dispute inaccurate Equifax, Trans Union, and Experian credit reports.

Under the FCRA, a consumer must initiate the dispute of an inaccurate credit report directly through a credit reporting agency (CRA) in order to trigger the provisions of the act. This means that you must send your credit report dispute letter including documents related to your dispute to the CRA (typically Equifax, Trans Union, and Experian). You may also want to provide a copy of the dispute to the furnisher of the incorrect information, but providing the information directly to the furnisher will not trigger your FCRA rights.  After the CRA receives the dispute, it has a duty to send a notice of the dispute to the furnisher of the information.  Under the FCRA, both a CRA and a furnisher have a duty to conduct a “reasonable investigation” of the information that you have disputed.  Because reasonableness can often be in the eye of the beholder, I believe that certain information will probably increase the chances that an investigation of your credit report dispute will be resolved in your favor.

First, I believe a good dispute letter should clearly identify your name, address, social security number, and date of birth.  By providing this information, you reduce the chance that the CRA can claim that they could not locate your credit information in their data base.

Second, you should clearly identify the account(s) that you are disputing as well as describe the facts supporting your position why the credit reporting is incorrect.  Often times a CRA can claim that they do not want to resolve disputes between you and a third party furrnisher.  To minimize this argument, you can identify the facts that demonstrate why your position is clearly correct and reference as many documents as necessary to demonstrate why the information reported is inaccurate.  You should also include the supporting documentation as part of your dispute package. Letters, invoices, and/or contracts involving the furnisher of disputed information can make for good proof of your argument.  In the event that you are a victim of identity theft, you should also include an identity theft affidavit, police report, and/or identification of the police report number with the investigating officer named.

Third, I would include a statement that describes how the inaccurate credit reporting is hurting you and request that the CRA take immediate action to solve your problem.  Whether that means correcting an inaccurate account, deleting a judgment that is not yours, or removing a false criminal conviction from an employment report, you should request that the CRA stop reporting the inaccurate information.  If you have lost a job because of an inaccurate employment credit report or lost a mortgage because of an inaccurate credit report, I would tell the CRA in the dispute letter.

Finally, I recommend that you personally sign your letter, make a copy of the signed letter including the attachments for your records, and mail the letter via both first class mail and certified mail return receipt requested.  The Federal Trade Commission also publishes information that you can consult when disputing inaccurate information which is located at  If you ever have any questions, you can also contact me.