If your request to remove an erroneous item on your credit report is denied after going through the dispute process, Section 611b of the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) entitles you to add a statement (100 words or less) to your file giving your version of the dispute. The credit bureau must normally include a summary of your statement in future reports. If you’re thinking of telling your story, here are the steps to follow:
- Assess the damage. Make sure you have seen recent versions of your credit reports from all three bureaus (Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion) to determine where the offending information appears. The three bureaus are separate companies and may contain slightly different information. You can obtain free copies of your credit reports annually by visiting AnnualCreditReport.com.
- Go through the dispute process first. Make sure you have gone through the formal dispute process before adding a statement to your file(s). If you have submitted a dispute, have you waited long enough for the process to work? Adding a consumer statement should be your last resort.
- Determine if it’s worth it. While adding a statement may make a difference in some rare circumstances, don’t overestimate its influence. In fact, it will most likely go unread. Today, most lending decisions are not made by an individual—they are made by a "credit scoring" system. A credit score is basically a statistical formula creditors use to determine your creditworthiness and adding a statement does not improve your credit score.
- Write your statement. Be honest, and obviously, concise. For example, if you are divorced and have a defaulted loan on your credit report that was supposed to be paid by your spouse, briefly describe the situation along with any facts that support your claim that the problem was not your fault. Be sure to stick to the facts; your credit report is not a good place to bash an ex. In fact, it is very important to choose your words carefully because they cannot be edited or deleted.
- Submit your statement. You can submit your statement to the credit bureaus by mail or online. Check the bureaus’ Web sites for specific instructions.