Credit reporting agencies sometimes make mistakes on consumer credit reports. The Federal Trade Commission estimates that 16 percent of credit reports have errors. Some of these involve listing on-time payments as late. This can adversely affect your FICO credit score firm because your payment history accounts for 25 percent of your total score. The Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) enables you to have those late payment reports removed from your credit report.
Review all of your credit reports to determine whether late payments are being reported. Equifax, Experian and TransUnion are independent agencies so the information on each report may differ. You are entitled to a free report annually from each if you request it from annualcreditreport.com.
Compose a letter to each of the agencies that lists erroneous late payments on your report. The letter should state what is wrong with the current entry and explain how the information needs to be changed. Ask the agency to investigate and report its results to you within 30 days, which is required under the FCRA.
Print or photocopy as much evidence as possible to support the assertions in your letter. This can include credit card statements listing your payments as on time, canceled checks or money order receipts. Make a copy of the credit report, too, and circle the disputed items mentioned in your letter.
Mail the information using certified mail with a delivery receipt. Mailing addresses for the credit reporting agencies are available on their websites. The 30-day investigation period starts when the credit reporting agency receives your correspondence, according to the Federal Trade Commission.
Review the responses you receive from each agency to ensure that the erroneous late payment report was removed. The credit reporting agencies must contact your creditors within the 30-day period. The late payments must be taken off your reports if the creditors cannot prove they are accurate.
Tips and Warnings
- You may be able to remove a late payment from your credit reports even if you really did make it after the due date. Call your creditor if this is the first time you’ve been late. Ask if it will agree to report the payment on time, emphasizing that you are a good customer and that this was only a one-time occurrence. You may also be able to get it to waive any late charges if you are a good, long-time customer. Check your credit reports to make sure the company keeps its word.
- Do not dispute late payments that are being reported legitimately. Bills.com warns that credit reporting agencies can refuse to deal with disputes that appear to be frivolous.