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What Are 609 Dispute Letters?
In order for a credit reporting agency to report anything onto a consumer’s credit reports, it has to be verifiable. The law makes it clear that before the information can be reported onto a consumer’s credit reports the credit bureaus are required to verify it, and that they are supposed to retain copies of that verifying information, and that they have to provide consumers with some of that information when it is requested.
609 letters challenge the credit bureaus right to report information about consumers and asks to see the verifying information that the credit bureau is then required to provide. If they don’t, then they have no legal right to report the information onto a consumer’s file, regardless of whether it is valid or not.
Because the credit reporting agencies only deal in snippets of electronic data and usually DO NOT actually maintain records or verify information (as generally prescribed by law) before they place it onto the consumer’s credit file, they can’t comply with many 609 letter requests and are legally required to stop reporting the information. Even when challenged with a 609 letter however they generally will not stop reporting negative information until the final, anticipated step in many successful dispute processes, which is filing a complaint with a consumer protection agency.
This process might sound similar to the debt validation or method of verification disputes, however it is different.
There is a section of the FCRA which describes what the credit bureaus must do to be in compliance with the law. Many people are confused as to how this process is supposed to work, but the credit bureaus have the legal responsibility of verifying debt, themselves, before they report it – and then providing to consumers a copy of the information they used to verify the debt when requested. It’s a little different than debt validation or method of verification, extremely powerful, and not that well known.
It’s important to note that this process does not discharge debt. If a consumer has a legitimate debt that they owe, they will still owe that debt, even if it doesn’t appear on their credit reports. What this process does is essentially make that particular debt invisible to other potential creditors, who won’t know about it because it won’t be appearing on a consumer’s credit report.
609 letters are a highly effective tool that credit repair agents can deploy on behalf of their clients. The method described here can provide a phenomenal boost to one’s ability to secure credit, particularly when combined with filing a complaint, however it does not mean that the debt magically goes away or isn’t collectible.
This method simply makes the debt a private matter by removing it from the consumer’s credit reports, and thus allows consumers who have been negatively affected a second chance at great credit and all of the opportunity that that provides.
How To Write 609 Credit Dispute Letters
Step 1: Gather credit reports and identify dispute candidates
How do consumers do that?
Annualcreditreport.com is the official, government run website that exists solely to provide consumers with a copy of their credit reports each year, for free. Occasionally people report difficulty in obtaining their reports from there. If for any reason a consumer cannot access a copy of their reports, (for instance, they have already requested a free copy this year), then they will need to find a paid provider online.
Having the most current reports is very important. To find a provider you or your client can search Google for a 3-bureau credit report provider. Make sure that whichever company you or your client goes with provides all 3 credit reports. That is a very important requirement in order to be successful in credit repair. If a paid provider is utilized, your client will need to enter their credit card information and read the fine print very carefully as they will likely be signing up for a recurring monthly charge of around $20 to $40 dollars depending on chosen options. In many cases, this expense is well worth it.
Find a paid provider for you or your client:
1. Go to Google and type in “3-bureau credit report”
2. Sign up with a company for their “$1 Trial”
3. Download your credit reports (create a new folder and save them to your computer)
4. Take note of your credit score, if it is offered
Once you have all three credit reports, you are ready to remove the negative information from them for you or your client.
Step 2: Identify the negative items and prepare your letters
Sit down at your computer and open up the credit reports one by one.
Find the negative accounts you or your client wish to dispute.
Don’t be surprised if some accounts are listed on some reports, but not on others. For instance, it would be completely normal to have an account from “XYZ Bank” listed on Experian but not TransUnion or Equifax.
Pick one report to start with, and use the information from that report to generate a dispute letter to that bureau.
Step 3: Your Correspondence
These letters aren’t about disputing the circumstances or legitimacy of anything appearing on a consumer’s credit reports. They are about challenging the credit bureaus procedural right to report information about consumers. If the credit bureaus don’t have the “evidence” required by law to report information about a consumer (which they usually don’t) then they must remove it.
In general, a credit repair operator can be successful using this tactic by following the old KISS principle – Keep Everything Short and Simple. Simple is the most important key word here. The credit bureaus probably do not have the documentation required by law to report negative information about your client, and a credit repair entrepreneur will call them on it. There is no need to provide additional elaboration or statements.
609 Letters May Not Work For Newer Accounts
If the age of the account that you are disputing for yourself or your client is older than the state’s statute of limitations to file a lawsuit to collect debt, then this tactic can work very well, however be careful if the disputed account is very new or very large.
When sending this letter to the bureaus, they will forward it to the debt collector and then the debt collector will be forced to look at the account information to determine what response they will provide to the bureaus. This costs the collector’s business money, and so they look at disputed accounts with much more scrutiny than others, and if they determine they can simply send a lawsuit to the address listed on the dispute letter, they will. It is going to cost them money to respond to a 609 letter, so they will only do it if they think they will collect.
If the disputed account is very young then consumers may want to consider holding off on sending these particular letters until it is older than their state’s statute of limitations to file a lawsuit to collect. That being said, some consumers have reported success sending these letters earlier, and every account is different.
Download the letters from the section on the left if you think your client’s account is a good candidate. Before you print out the letter make sure to fill in the credit bureau name, address, etc. Also fill in the account name and numbers fields where applicable. There is only space for 4 accounts per letter. Even if there is more than 4 accounts that need to be disputed, it is recommended to only send them 4 per letter. If necessary, a consumer can add 4 at a time to separate letters and mail them a few days apart.
Print the dispute letter 3 times, one for each credit bureau.
Prepping 609 Dispute Letters
Before printing out the letters, copy the negative account names and account numbers off of the individual credit reports and add it to their corresponding letters. So if you’re writing out your Experian letter, take the account names and numbers off of the Experian credit report. Obviously do the same for your Equifax and your TransUnion letter and credit reports. Write the account names and numbers exactly as they appear on the reports.
If the account names or numbers are different on your Experian report than they are on your Equifax report, then write the account names and numbers differently for your Experian and Equifax letters. In other words, make sure the letters match up exactly with their respective credit reports. Also, most times the credit reports you receive will have account numbers which end with xxxx. Just copy the account numbers exactly as they appear in the reports, with the xxxx’s included.
Next you will want to take your letters, your credit reports, your I.D. and your social security card to your bank or library to have your letters notarized. With a few Google searches you should be able to find someone local who will do it for free. The reason you want your letters notarized is simply because it makes your paper trail that much more robust for the last step of the dispute process, which is filing a complaint, and takes away any wiggle room the credit bureaus have to try and use stall tactics such as claiming that they couldn’t verify your identity, address, or other information.
Notarizing your letters is an optional step for all dispute letter mailings, and as noted can help prevent the bureaus from trying to stall by responding to your disputes with requests for additional information.
Next, take your letters to the post office and mail them to the credit bureaus. Make sure you send the mail certified with return receipt requested. This is a little more expensive but it is required.
When you get home, sit back down at your computer and setup a dispute tracking folder on your computer. In it place the copies of your credit reports in one folder, and copies of the notarized letters you sent in another. You could name your top folder “Disputes”, and inside it create folders named “Experian”, “Equifax”, and “TransUnion”. Inside each of those folders create a folder named “Round 1”. Place the letter you just sent, along with a scanned copy of the certified mail receipt you received from the post office. This is very important so make sure you keep an accurate, detailed record of the letters you have sent and the proof from the post office.
When you receive the return receipt make sure you immediately scan those into each “Round 1” folder so that you have a complete paper trail consisting of the letter itself, the date you sent it, and the date it was received by the credit bureau.
[Your return address] [Date]
[Debtcollector name] [Debtcollector Address]
Re: [Account numberforthedebt,ifyou haveit]
Dear [Debtcollector name]:
I am responding to your contact about a debt you are trying to collect. You contacted me by
[phone/mail], on [date] and identified the debt as [any informationtheygave you aboutthedebt]. Please supply the information below so that I can be fully informed:
Why you think I owe the debt and to whom I owe it, including:
• The name and address of the creditor to whom the debt is currently owed, the account number used by that creditor, and the amount owed.
• If this debt started with a different creditor, provide the name and address of the original creditor, the account number used by that creditor, and the amount owed to that creditor at the time it was transferred. When you identify the original creditor, please provide any other
name by which I might know them, if that is different from the official name. In addition, tell me when the current creditor obtained the debt and who the current creditor obtained it from.
• Provide verification and documentation that there is a valid basis for claiming that I am required to pay the debt to the current creditor. For example, can you provide a copy of the written agreement that created my original requirement to pay?
• If you are asking that I pay a debt that somebody else is or was required to pay, identify that person. Provide verification and documentation about why this is a debt that I am required to pay.
The amount and age of the debt, including:
• A copy of the last billing statement sent to me by the original creditor.
• State the amount of the debt when you obtained it, and when that was.
• If there have been any additional interest, fees or charges added since the last billing statement from the original creditor, provide an itemization showing the dates and amount of each added amount. In addition, explain how the added interest, fees or other charges are expressly authorized by the agreement creating the debt or are permitted by law.
• If there have been any payments or other reductions since the last billing statement from the original creditor, provide an itemization showing the dates and amount of each of them.
• If there have been any other changes or adjustments since the last billing statement from the original creditor, please provide full verification and documentation of the amount you are trying to collect. Explain how that amount was calculated. In addition, explain how the other changes or adjustments are expressly authorized by the agreement creating the debt or permitted by law.
• Tell me when the creditor claims this debt became due and when it became delinquent.
• Identify the date of the last payment made on this account.
• Have you made a determination that this debt is within the statute of limitations applicable to it? Tell me when you think the statute of limitations expires for this debt, and how you determined that.
Details about your authority to collect this debt.
• I would like more information about your firm before I discuss the debt with you. Does your firm have a debt collection license from my state? If not, say why not. If so, provide the date of the license, the name on the license, the license number, and the name, address and telephone number of the state agency issuing the license.
• If you are contacting me from a place outside my state, does your firm have a debt collection license from that place? If so, provide the date of the license, the name on the license, the license number, and the name, address and telephone number of the state agency issuing the license.
I have asked for this information because I have some questions. I need to hear from you to make an informed decision about your claim that I owe this money. I am open to communicating with you for this purpose. In order to make sure that I am not put at any disadvantage, in the meantime please treat this debt as being in dispute and under discussion between us.
In addition to providing the information requested above, please let me know whether you are prepared to accept less than the balance you are claiming is owed. If so, please tell me in writing your offer with the amount you will accept to fully resolve the account.
Thank you for your cooperation. Sincerely,
How Will The Bureau Respond?
After sending 609 dispute letters, or any dispute letters, a number of things might happen. The most likely scenario is that consumers will receive a letter from the bureau with them trying to use a stall tactic. Common responses include the following:
1. Stating that they cannot verify a consumer’s identity
2. Asking the consumer to fill out additional forms
3. Stating that they don’t understand the nature of the consumer’s request
4. Stating that the consumer needs to contact the original creditor or collector instead of them
5. Stating that the consumer’s letter was suspicious and they aren’t taking any action on it
6. Stating that they won’t be providing a response for some other reason
7. Responding with intimidating or threatening sounding language
8. Other responses which fail to address the challenge of your letter
No matter what their response is, if they don’t provide the consumer with a letter containing the proof of verification or stating that the items will be deleted, then they are most likely trying to avoid this issue and not complying with the law. Any of the above responses will simply be evidence of their non-compliance. Despite what some may think, consumers have no legal responsibility to continue to send the CRA’s additional letters or information before they file a complaint, even if the bureau claims that it didn’t receive or couldn’t verify it.
Consumers are not employees of the credit bureau, and therefore it isn’t their responsibility to ensure that the letters they send are opened and read by the bureaus, or that the information they send is correctly entered into the credit bureau’s database. That is the sole responsibility of the credit reporting agencies, and the law doesn’t say that they are let off the hook just because they claim that they can’t figure out how to read or process a plainly written letter in the English language which has been notarized and delivered to their office.
As consumers, once disputes are mailed the burden is on the credit bureaus and others to comply. If they can’t process it correctly then that is a problem with their internal record keeping or compliance departments, not a problem with any individual consumer’s dispute letters.
Consumer protection laws don’t state that a consumer must send “Round 1” of letters, then wait around for an inadequate response to send “Round 2” of letters, then send “Round 3”, of letters… on and on and on.
The law says the bureaus have 30 days to take action, not that they have 30 days plus 30 days plus 30 days.
As long as a consumer’s letters are well documented, worded correctly and legitimate, it is the bureau’s responsibility to address the issues, not the consumer’s responsibility to continue to ask them to fix it time and again. In fact, the only reason additional “rounds” of dispute letters are sent is to continue to generate additional paperwork that will be used in the complaint filing portion of the dispute process to support the claim that the bureaus are not complying.
Notarizing dispute letters will also help to ensure the bureau can’t use a stall tactic based on not being able to verify the consumer’s information.
Whatever the response of the credit bureau is, don’t be intimidated if they send you or your client a letter which sounds threatening. That is just their attempt to scare consumers away from continuing their disputes.
What If The Bureaus Delete Some But Not All?
Many times the bureaus will remove certain accounts but leave others.
If this happens, simply print out a new letter, list the accounts that remain, and send it again using the exact same process. Make sure that if they send you a letter which says an account has been removed, you do not send that same account number again.
You will do this for four “rounds” of letters. If, after you have sent this letter and supporting documentation four times and they have not complied by removing all of the information you have requested that they remove, it will be time to escalate your dispute process to the next step.
How To Force Compliance From The Credit Bureaus
So far this course has detailed how to send 609 dispute letters to the credit bureaus, receive responses back from them, and keep detailed records of the process resulting in a paper trail that can now be used in the consumer’s anticipated final step which is to file a complaint and force compliance.
The CFPB is outstanding at policing credit reporting agencies, collectors, and others who routinely skirt the law in their everyday operations. Submitting a complaint through them is very powerful, and thorough documentation will be very important to the CFPB. This is where the professional dispute management process of the professional credit repair operator can generate fantastic results for their clients.
The process for filing a complaint with the CFPB is quick and easy.
First, just go to the CFPB website at http://www.consumerfinance.gov/.
In the upper right hand corner you will see a link that says “Submit a Complaint”. Click it, and then click the blue “First Login” link to create your account. Once you login you will click “Submit Complaint”, then scroll down a little and click the “Credit Reporting” link. Click the blue “Get Started” box at the top to begin.
Next check the circle next to the “Credit Reporting Company’s Investigation” statement. Go down and check the circle next to “Problem with statement of dispute”. Next to “Have you disputed the issue with the credit reporting company and received a final response?” check “Yes”.
Next is a box which says “Describe what happened so we can understand the issue.” Here you will enter your simple explanation of what has happened during your dispute process. You can use the following as an example:
“On (date of original letter) I sent a document to (name of credit reporting agency) requesting proof that they had verified several accounts on my credit report prior to reporting the information. Since that time I have sent 3 additional letters requesting this data, which they have not provided.
Consumers are entitled to review the original sources of the information reported, including originating documentation. Since no information at all has been provided by the bureau, it is impossible to verify that these accounts are being reported accurately.
Please direct (name of credit reporting agency) to promptly remove the unverified items from my credit report until they can verify their legitimacy.
I have attached copies of all letters sent, along with receipts from the U.S. Postal Service indicating the mailing dates and the date they were received by the credit bureau, along with copies of all correspondence I have received from the bureau.
Thank you very much for your help.”
Next you will want to upload your supporting documents. These will be the letters you sent to the credit bureaus, the responses you received from them and your mailing receipts.
After that you will need to do the entire complaint process two more times. That way you will have submitted complaints and supporting documents for Experian, Equifax and TransUnion. It should only take about 5 minutes or less to file each complaint.
The credit bureaus take these complaints very seriously, however they will still continue to try to use stall tactics. After you submit your complaint through the CFPB the bureaus will respond directly through the CFPB interface. You will receive an email when they do. Just login and read their response. If they are still playing games, such as stating that they aren’t required to maintain records or that they can’t verify your identity, simply click the green “Dispute” button to let the CFPB know that you don’t agree with the bureaus.
When it asks why you are disputing the credit bureau’s response, you can simply write something to re-affirm to the CFPB the details of your dispute. Because you have provided them with a well-documented paper trail of your efforts to make the credit bureaus comply with the law, you can use the following statement as an example:
“This credit bureau has still not issued a proper response to my original dispute, however this information is still being reported by the credit bureau onto my credit report. Please direct this consumer reporting agency to immediately cease and desist from reporting information pertaining to the disputed accounts at once.
Thank you very much for your help in resolving this matter it is greatly appreciated.”
From there, the CFPB will review your dispute, take it from there, and negative information remaining on your credit reports will be removed in accordance with the law.
The 609 dispute letter system is short, simple, and powerful. You have the right to have information removed from your credit report if it is unverifiable, and now you know the exact steps to take to make that happen.
Some people get great results with the first letter, but most take 3 or 4 letters to fully achieve what this process can accomplish. Don’t be surprised if you send this exact same letter to all three bureaus and one of them removes almost everything while another only removes 1 or 2 initially. Just follow the plan, send your additional letters, then file your complaint. Remember, the law is on your side and the credit bureaus have to comply with it. They may try and stall all the way through the complaint filing process, but eventually you will win.
One last thing. Don’t talk to the credit bureaus on the phone, or by email, or other online methods. Keep all of your communications thoroughly documented through these certified letters so that you can present them to the CFPB. The law is specific about additional rights that consumers have when they present their disputes in writing, and those protections sometimes don’t apply to emails, phone conversations, and disputes filed online.
Module 7 References
1. “15 U.S. Code § 1681g.Disclosures to consumers”; https://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/text/15/1681g
2. “Definition of KISS Principle” ;http://www.businessdictionary.com/definition/KISS-principle.html
3. “The Easy Way to Fix a Credit Report Error” ; https://www.huffpost.com/entry/credit-report-errors_b_1535957
4. “Experian stall tactics (a forum discussion)”; https://ficoforums.myfico.com/t5/Rebuilding-Your-Credit/Experian-stall-tactics/td-p/629429
5. “File A Compliant Via Consumer Financial Protection Bureau”;https://www.consumerfinance.gov/complaint/