Consumers who find errors on their credit reports legally have the right under the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) to view their information and dispute any blemishes found.
If you’ve never heard of a 609 letter, the following article will help you understand its purpose, your legal rights in obtaining a free copy of your credit report, when you should write to credit reporting agencies, and how to write a follow-up dispute letter.
An FCRA Section 609 letter is one you write to the credit bureaus to request copies of your credit reports. Consumers are allowed only one free copy annually of each of their credit reports from the three credit bureaus.
This can be a useful approach if you’ve already visited annualcreditreport.com and downloaded your free credit reports for the year.
Using a 609 letter to request your credit information requires the credit bureaus to verify information on your credit reports that may not be found in a simple free credit report download. This “hidden information” can include original credit applications with signatures, dates that payment checks were cashed and other specifics.
While it’s not a surefire method, a 609 letter often can open the door for you to solicit help from the credit bureaus. With the information they provide, you can investigate items on your report that require scrutiny — especially if you find you need to request validation, dispute claims, or challenge errors.
When you can access the full information in your credit file, you can more easily explain and address any negative items causing your credit problems.
A credit repair company might offer to get the information you seek, and even get inaccurate or unverified items removed from your records. But before you pay them anything for these services, be sure they’re legitimate and not running a credit repair scam. Also know that these companies can’t do anything you couldn’t do on your own, for free.
According to a U.S. Federal Trade Commission study, one in four consumers has identified errors on their credit reports. These errors can lower credit scores, which, in turn, can prevent them from obtaining access to credit or favorable lending terms.
Section 609 is the portion of the FCRA that addresses a consumer’s right to request copies of their credit reports and any associated information. It specifically outlines that credit bureaus must disclose information to consumers concerning their credit report details.
In other words, thanks to the FCRA, the reporting agencies have no right to withhold your own information from you.
Once a 609 request is made by a consumer, the information disclosed in their credit report must be shared at the time of the request. The information should include:
1) The source the information came from, except when the information is used solely to prepare an investigative consumer report.
2) Identification of every person that obtained a consumer report:
3) Businesses that have made soft inquiries into the reports within the past year, including:
It’s important to understand that Section 609 doesn’t require credit bureaus to provide proof of your accounts, but it does allow you to lawfully dispute information you believe to be incorrect or impossible to verify.
Typically, if you think there might be an error on your credit report, you would write a 609 letter to obtain evidence that might reveal info about the error in question. If you make such a request, the credit bureaus should be able to provide you with the requested information.
You should write a 609 letter if you want to:
Once you identify an item to dispute, you’ll have a stronger basis to have it removed. Credit bureaus are required to remove disputed information requested by consumers if it can’t be verified or confirmed. These agencies also are obligated to give you a description of the credit report dispute process.
Keep in mind that if credit bureaus can verify the information as accurate, they don’t have to remove it from your report. But if they can’t, there may be no evidence of the item you’re requesting information about.
This means there might be an inaccuracy or outdated information on your credit report. If this is the case, you’ll need to take further action. Any credit dispute should be enacted via a separate letter. This distinction is further explained below.
An FCRA Section 609 letter is not the same thing as a dispute letter. It’s a written request by a consumer to obtain and verify the validity of information found on their credit report. A dispute letter is often the next step after a 609 letter.
Reporting agencies are not required to remove accurate credit-related information — even if it’s derogatory — unless the information is outdated under Section 605 or the credit information cannot be verified as accurate. Examples of items that would stay on your report: correct information related to verified late payments, or an unpaid utility bill that’s gone to collections.
If you write a 609 letter and, upon receipt and investigation, the credit bureaus find that the information you’ve requested is not verifiable or is outdated, they might take it upon themselves to remove the blemishes from your reports. But, it’s important to know, this isn’t always the case.
It’s common for consumers to have to write a second letter to dispute the negative and incorrect items found on their credit reports. The right to lawfully dispute negative credit information is outlined under Section 611 of the FCRA. In some cases, the reporting agency may choose not to pursue the process further if it’s decided the dispute is unnecessary or irrelevant.
If you’ve requested your credit reports and found negative credit information you believe to be incorrect or outdated, you can seek more detailed information from the credit reporting agencies by writing a 609 letter.
Here is a sample letter to help you construct your own 609 letter.
Dear [insert name of credit reporting agency],
Per my rights under Section 609 of the Fair Credit Reporting Act, I am requesting information regarding [the item in question] on my credit report. I understand that I am entitled to view the source of this information, which is the original contract that contains my signature.
This information was brought to my attention via [insert prospective collection agency or account name, list account numbers associated].
I have included my identification information below:
Social Security number: [insert SSN here]
Date of birth: [insert date of birth here]
I have attached further information that might aid in your search, including: [any other information that might be useful in determining your identification, such as copies of your driver’s license, passport, or cellphone bill.]
I have also included a copy of my credit report, with the account for which I’m requesting verification circled and highlighted.
If you are unable to verify the account with the original contract, the information should be removed from my credit report within 30 days.
Thank you for your attention in this matter. I look forward to your response.
[Your address and contact information]
Since credit history is a primary deciding factor for lenders to approve or deny applications, it’s important that the details on your credit reports contain accurate information. Negative items can make your credit score drop and prevent you from being approved for loans — or, if approved, lock you out of favorable credit terms.
If you find you’re being denied loan or credit card approval due to bad credit, you’ll want to seek answers to why your credit applications aren't being approved. The information on your credit reports may be incorrect, or you may be unaware your credit score has been damaged by identity theft. Under Section 609 of the FCRA, you have the right to find out.
You should write a 609 letter to determine if there are inaccurate items listed on your credit reports that are making lenders see you as a credit risk. Once you find the negative source of the information, you can follow up with a plan to build or rebuild your good credit.
Lauren Bringle is an Accredited Financial Counselor® with Self Financial – a financial technology company with a mission to increase economic inclusion by helping people build credit and savings so they can build their dreams.
Our goal at Self is to provide readers with current and unbiased information on credit, financial health, and related topics. This content is based on research and other related articles from trusted sources. All content at Self is written by experienced contributors in the finance industry and reviewed by an accredited person(s).
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