Section 604 and Section 609 of the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) have similar numbers and refer to consumer reports and/or disclosures. As a result, they’re often confused. But they have different purposes, and only Section 609 will support a dispute letter.
Under the FCRA, Section 604 defines the circumstances under which a consumer reporting agency may furnish a consumer report. This section is titled “Permissible purposes of consumer reports.”
In short, Section 604 covers other agencies and entities that want to see your credit report, while Section 609 deals with your right to see it. Here is some more specific information on both sections:
Section 604 describes when credit bureaus are allowed to release your credit information to different entities, such as:
Section 609 states that consumer reporting agencies (credit bureaus) are obligated to provide a consumer with all the information in their credit file except:
A 609 request can provide you with the source of the information on your credit report as well as the identity of anyone who has obtained a copy of the report for employment purposes over the previous two years and for any other purpose over the previous year. You should also learn the identities of businesses that have made soft inquiries into your reports in the past year (as opposed to hard inquiries — such as would result when you apply for a new line of credit or a loan).
You can get a free credit report once a year under federal law at annualcreditreport.com. But what if you already received your free copy earlier in the year and are worried about new potential errors on your report? In this case, you can fill out a 609 letter to request a current version of your report under Section 609 of the FCRA.
A 609 letter can also allow you to request information that may not be included in a free copy of your credit report, such as signed original credit applications and dates when checks were cashed. Such information can prove useful in identifying and, if necessary, disputing any inaccuracies you may find on your credit report.
The 609 letter itself is not a dispute letter. But it can be used to access information that will allow you to identify errors — if you find any. This, in turn, can form the basis for a dispute letter. The following is a sample letter.
*[Date of letter]*
*[Name of credit reporting agency]:*
In accordance with my rights under the Fair Credit Reporting Act, Section 609, I hereby request the following information from my credit report: [insert the information you're requesting here].
I am referencing my original contract with [name of lender], which includes my signature. I understand that it is my right to view this material under Section 609.
I was made aware of this information by [name of collections agency or account name(s) and account number(s)].
My identification information is as listed below:
Social Security number: [insert social security number here]
Date of birth: [insert your date of birth here]
Attached is a copy of my credit report. Please note that I have circled the information for which I am seeking verification. I have also attached additional documents that may help with this process [list attached documents such as driver’s license, passport, utility bills, etc., which are attached].
If you are not able to verify the account with the original contract, I am requesting that the information be removed from my credit report within 30 days.
Thank you for considering my request. I look forward to your response.
*[Your name]* *[Your address and contact information]*
When going through your credit report, there are a number of potential errors to lookout for. Credit information from someone else with a similar name, address, or Social Security number might show up on your report. You may not have been properly credited for an account you paid off, or perhaps a debt was improperly listed more than once.
Other inaccurate information to keep an eye on includes potential balance errors and data mistakes, such as incorrect credit limits.
You may be a victim of fraud or identity theft, or you may just have inaccurate negative items in your credit history.
A 2012 FTC study found that one in four consumers found errors on their credit reports that might affect their credit scores. The good news is that four in five consumers who filed disputes got some modification to their credit report as a result.
You can dispute errors on your credit report by contacting the credit bureaus, explaining the reasoning for the dispute in a credit dispute letter, and waiting for the dispute review process to conclude. Typically, the credit bureaus will have 30 days from receiving your dispute to review it. However, if you send the credit bureaus more information regarding your dispute, it may take them an additional 15 days, totaling 45 days. The credit bureaus must notify you of their findings within five business days of completing the investigation.
When filing a credit report dispute, you can contact the credit bureaus by phone, online, or by mail.
You’ll want to include information such as letters from creditors with information on how your account should be corrected, documents showing deferment or forbearance, or canceled checks showing payments for which you haven’t been credited. If you have been a victim of fraud, it is important to include a copy of the FTC identity theft report or policy report showing that your account has been compromised.
You can pay a credit repair company to file a dispute for you, but a credit repair company can’t do anything you yourself can’t do for free. You can’t remove negative information if it’s accurate, and neither can they. If they say they can, or offer you guarantees, that’s a red flag. There are credit repair scams out there that might ask you to pay upfront or dispute accurate information on your credit report.
Scams that promise you a new identity or advise you to provide false information could even involve you unwittingly in identity theft and implicate you in a crime that can lead to jail time.
A 609 letter can help you verify information and identify errors on your credit report. It can also uncover “hidden” details that don’t show up in your free credit report. Section 604 explains the circumstances in which the credit bureaus can release your credit information to various entities.
If you find inaccurate information, you can dispute it with the credit bureaus and potentially improve your credit score by removing negative marks that are inaccurate and/or are the result of fraud.
Jeff Smith is the VP of Marketing at Self Financial. See his profile on LinkedIn.
Ana Gonzalez-Ribeiro, MBA, AFC® is an Accredited Financial Counselor® and a Bilingual Personal Finance Writer and Educator dedicated to helping populations that need financial literacy and counseling. Her informative articles have been published in various news outlets and websites including Huffington Post, Fidelity, Fox Business News, MSN and Yahoo Finance. She also founded the personal financial and motivational site www.AcetheJourney.com and translated into Spanish the book, Financial Advice for Blue Collar America by Kathryn B. Hauer, CFP. Ana teaches Spanish or English personal finance courses on behalf of the W!SE (Working In Support of Education) program has taught workshops for nonprofits in NYC.