When you’re trying to repair your credit, you have a number of ways to go about it. One of the easiest ways to improve your score is to have inaccurate information corrected or removed from your credit report. Although you can work directly with the creditor to correct information, you can also reach out to the credit bureaus to file a dispute.
One method of filing a dispute that’s often included in credit repair advice is sending a 609 Dispute Letter. Under the terms of the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA), Section 609, consumers have the right to request information related to their debts.
The 609 Dispute Letter method is based on the notion that credit bureaus must remove any information that cannot be verified, and that by making a written request for them to provide proof of your debt (up to and including a copy of the signed application for credit) that would be difficult or impossible to produce, you can have the information deleted.
Although some companies charge consumers for 609 letter templates, and claim that it can easily clean up your credit, it’s not actually that simple. In fact, even the name “609 Dispute Letter” is incorrect.
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Section 609 of the FCRA
The FCRA was passed to ensure that the information reported by the credit bureaus is accurate and fair to consumers. It gives consumers specific rights related to their credit report, including the ability to dispute information and request evidence of information that’s been reported.
Section 609 of the FCRA specifically provides the right to request details about the information contained in your report. Under the terms of this provision, credit bureaus must give you all of the information contained in your credit report, details about the source of the information, and details about anyone who has requested a copy of your report.
Section 609 also includes a provision that a summary of your rights as a consumer be provided with the information you requested. It does not, however, mean that the credit bureau needs to provide specific documentation, including applications, correspondence, or other details of your account.
Although Section 609 gives you the right to request information about your credit report, it’s actually Section 611 that allows you to dispute this information. Section 611 states that when you dispute information, the credit bureau is required to investigate the information again and notify you of their findings. The investigation process includes contacting the original creditor to verify the information provided; if you have provided evidence supporting your dispute, the credit bureau is required to share that with the creditor.
Depending on the outcome of the reinvestigation, several things can happen. Section 611 states that if your dispute is deemed valid, the credit bureau must correct or delete the incorrect entry within three days. If reinvestigation shows the information is correct, then it stays.
The credit bureaus also have the option to decline a reinvestigation if they deem that the dispute is frivolous or irrelevant. Ultimately, then, the effectiveness of a so-called 609 Dispute Letter depends in large part on your ability to state your case and provide evidence that the information on your report is incorrect.
What Does a 609 Letter Do?
Sending a 609 Dispute Letter to the credit bureaus serves as official notice that you believe information on your report is incorrect. It’s a statement of your rights as a consumer according to the FCRA, and specifically identifies the information that needs to be corrected. It also outlines the information you’re including, such as the documents that prove your identity, and a copy of your credit report with the information you’re disputing highlighted.
Most importantly, the letter serves as your official request to have incorrect information removed from your report. However, while you might request copies of documents proving your debt, nothing in the FCRA requires credit bureaus to keep or provide these documents.
Therefore, while you might be led to believe that if a credit bureau cannot provide proof that you ever applied for credit, they need to delete the information, that’s not accurate. All Section 609 does is provide the right to request information, while Section 611 allows you to dispute it.
Dispute Letter Sample
While a 609 Dispute Letter isn’t a guarantee that negative information will be removed, it can be effective when the information on your credit report is legitimately incorrect and having a negative effect on your score.
Before writing the letter, gather information about the accounts you’re disputing, including the name of the creditor and account number. Make copies of your credit report, as well as identifying documents including your driver’s license, passport, and documents to prove your residence (mortgage paperwork or rental agreement).
The letter should be short and direct, and focus on what you’re asking for and why. A sample letter follows:
Dear (Experian, TransUnion or Equifax),
In accordance with rights guaranteed by the Fair Credit Reporting Act, Section 609, I am requesting information about an entry on my consumer credit report. Per that provision, I am entitled to detailed information about the source of this information.
[List account names and account numbers.]
Enclosed is a copy of my credit report. I have highlighted the account I wish to have reinvestigated and verified. I’ve also included proof of my identity in the form of [list documents you’ve included].
If the account information contained on my report cannot be verified by the original contract, I request that it be removed from my credit report within 30 days.
Other Ways to Fix Errors on Your Credit Report
Sending a 609 Dispute Letter isn’t the only way you can dispute information on your credit report. You can request a reinvestigation and corrections in other ways, including:
- Submitting an online form: When you access your credit report online, you can dispute specific items right from the report using the credit bureau’s online form.
- Mail a dispute form: Credit bureaus also provide downloadable forms that you can fill out and mail in with evidence supporting your dispute.
- File a dispute by phone: Call the credit bureau’s dedicated dispute hotline to make your claim.
- Visit in person: If you live near a credit bureau customer service center, you may be able to visit in person to request a copy of your report and file a dispute.
If none of your dispute efforts work, you may be able to add a customer statement to your credit report explaining your case. These statements are typically short (no more than 100 words) and will be attached to your credit report and viewable by anyone authorized to view your file.
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