- A consumer credit report is governed by the Fair Credit Reporting Act. The FCRA places certain obligations upon credit bureaus, which are required to make a credit report available to consumers for review. It also provides consumers with several rights, including the right to view a credit report at any time and to dispute inaccurate data on a credit report. The FCRA also limits the amount of time negative information can remain on a report.
- Under the FCRA, negative credit accounts can only remain on your report for up to seven years. There are certain exceptions. Chapter 7 and Chapter 11 bankruptcy can remain for up to 10 years, and unpaid tax liens can remain for up to 10 years in California and indefinitely in all other states. If an account is present on your report but it has passed the applicable statue of limitations, you have the right under the FCRA to file a dispute with the credit bureau and have that item removed.
- When you file a dispute, the credit bureaus are required under the FCRA to investigate that item. When filing a credit report dispute, you can do so at the credit bureau's website using the online form, which allows you to specify the items in dispute and the reasons. You can also file a dispute over the phone with a customer service representative or by mail. A mailed dispute should include a dispute letter that lists the disputed items, reasons for the dispute and any supporting documentation, if applicable. Bureaus have up to 30 days to complete the investigation and make corrections.
- Under the FCRA, credit bureaus are not required to remove an item from your credit report that is within the statue of limitations, even if that particular item is negative, as long as it is accurate. The bureau is also not required to investigate disputes it considers frivolous, such as disputing the same item repeatedly without providing supporting evidence to uphold your claim. Also, bureaus are not required to provide consumers with a free credit score. The Fair and Accurate Credit Transactions Act, an addendum to the FCRA, gives consumers one free credit report from each of the three major credit bureaus each year but not a credit score.
- You should not hire a company to remove items from your credit report. The claims made by these types of companies could be a scam, according to the Federal Trade Commission. The FCRA gives you the right to remove inaccurate or erroneous items yourself for free. Also watch out for any website that offers a free credit report but requires the use of a credit card. This may mean you're signing up for a free trial to some product offer that will charge your card each month if you don't cancel. The official site to obtain your free credit report under FACTA is annualcreditreport.com.