You have the right to expect accurate, error-free credit reports. Literally, it’s your federal right under the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA). Yet, despite the credit reporting agencies’ best efforts to comply with the law, it’s no secret that credit reporting errors still occur.
According to a study completed by the Federal Trade Commission, as many as one in five consumers may have mistakes on their credit reports. And while it sounds alarming that 20% of Americans could have credit reporting errors, others estimate the frequency of such credit inaccuracies to actually be much higher.
Regardless of the actual number, the fact remains that when credit report errors occur they can be a big deal. Those errors could hurt your credit scores (FICO® and VantageScore®) and cost you money or opportunities.
Credit reporting errors should never be ignored, but what exactly can or should you do when mistakes happen? Depending upon who you ask, you’ll probably receive different advice.
One popular online theory suggests that 609 credit dispute letters could be the answer to your credit problems.
Before getting into 609 dispute letters, let’s first take a look at general credit report disputes and how they work. A credit dispute is a right that you are afforded under the FCRA. A dispute essentially lets you challenge the accuracy of any information on your credit reports that you believe to be incorrect or questionable.
Here are some key points to remember.
- You can submit disputes with the companies who created your credit reports in the first place (Equifax®, TransUnion®, and Experian™).
- You can send disputes to your creditors (like credit card issuers) or debt collectors directly.
- Your disputes can be initiated online (credit bureaus only), over the phone, or using old-fashioned snail mail.
- You have the right to handle credit disputes by yourself.
- You can also pay a reputable credit repair professional to do the work for you, if you prefer.
What Are 609 Dispute Letter Templates?
Disputes themselves aren’t anything new. They’ve been around for nearly five decades, since the FCRA was passed in 1970. However, there is a specific type of dispute, known as the 609 credit report dispute letter, which has been gaining internet notoriety recently.
609 dispute letter templates, according to some, offer you a secret way to remove negative items from your credit reports. You can purchase these templates with varying promises of success.
Others offer to create and send in the special dispute letters on your behalf, for a fee. And while there is nothing wrong with buying a 609 letter template PDF to make your life a little easier by outsourcing the work, it’s probably helpful to understand what you’ll be paying for upfront.
Essentially a 609 letter is the same thing as a debt validation letter, only based upon a specific section of the FCRA. (If you already guessed that it’s FCRA Section 609, give your brain a kiss.)
Take note that these are debt validation letters — you’re only asking for the debt to be verified, not necessarily removed from your credit reports.
Ironically enough, Section 609 doesn’t specifically give you the right to dispute information on your credit reports. That’s covered in sections 611 and 623 of the act. What Section 609 does cover, however, is your right to request further information about items on your credit reports.
Upon request (again, it’s up to you to be proactive), the credit reporting agencies must disclose:
- All of the information in your consumer credit files (with a few exceptions)
- The sources of that information
The credit reporting agencies do not have to disclose:
- Your credit scores
- Your Social Security number (if you ask for it to be hidden)
Of course, Section 609 goes on to cover disclosures and about ten pages worth of other requirements and instructions for the credit reporting agencies to follow. These are just the highlights commonly used in the 609 credit repair strategy.
Sample 609 Letter
Looking for an actual 609 sample letter? Here’s a very basic example of how a 609 dispute letter might be worded. You should send 609 letters by certified mail (return receipt requested) so you can track them, ensure they arrive, and time the response.
Dear Credit Bureau,
I’m exercising my right under the Fair Credit Reporting Act, Section 609, to request further information about items on my credit report.
LIST ACCOUNT NAMES AND ACCOUNT NUMBERS
I wish to see the original sources of the information reported including, but not limited to, the original contract or service agreement with my signature. If you can’t provide me with this information, please remove the accounts immediately as neither your agency nor I can verify that they are reported accurately.
Address, Social Security number, Date of Birth
Are 609 Letters Effective?
Absolutely. Sometimes, disputing an item you don’t recognize with a 609 letter (along with a reference to your right to dispute) might result in a deletion if a disputed item on one of your credit reports isn’t verifiable, like perhaps a collection account or late payment.
However, other times you can send a dispute letter (609 or otherwise) and the item in question will be verified, so it will stay on your reports.
The bottom line is there’s no surefire way to remove an item from your credit reports before the law requires its removal. This is true whether you opt to send credit repair letters you create yourself, purchase a template, or hire a pro to do the work for you.
The FCRA gives you the right to dispute information. It doesn’t guarantee its removal.
Still, there is nothing wrong with exercising your rights to have your credit report information investigated and verified. There are plenty of people who happily claim positive results by using the 609 credit repair method.