Sonya Smith-Valentine, Esq.

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Credit Report Mistakes

Inaccurate information often appears in consumers’ credit reports. One-fourth of the credit reports have serious errors in them. These errors could result in your being denied a credit card, an insurance policy, a job or a mortgage. If you aren’t aware of the errors until you apply for the new credit, loan or job, you may not be able to get the report corrected in time. That’s why consumers should check their credit reports from time to time, and especially before applying for a mortgage or employment. Please contact our office if you have a mistake on a credit report.

Under the Fair Credit Reporting Act (“FCRA”), credit reporting agencies and creditors have a duty to correct inaccurate information. You should send a dispute letter to the credit bureaus requesting correction of any inaccurate information.

Tips for Credit Report Dispute Letters:
– Use your full legal name
– Include as much information as you have to support your dispute, including copies of
documents (no originals).
– Keep copies of everything you send to the credit bureaus
– Send your letters by certified mail, return receipt requested. You will have proof that your
letter was received.
– Send a copy of your letter and supporting documents to the creditor by certified mail,
return receipt requested.

WHAT’S IN A CREDIT REPORT?

Your credit report contains information about how you have handled credit, such as loans or credit card accounts, as well any bankruptcies, tax liens or monetary judgments issued against you. It is compiled by a credit reporting agency, often called a credit bureau. These agencies get the information from creditors, such as credit card issuers and mortgage companies, who regularly send information showing what their account-holders owe and whether the payments were made on time. They also get information from public records. The agencies sell the report to potential creditors, employers, landlords and others who want to check out an individual’s credit history.

AREAS TO WATCH

Inaccurate Entries. Creditors frequently submit inaccurate information to the credit reporting agencies. Many inaccuracies can be fixed by sending a certified letter to the credit bureaus explaining that the debt is reported incorrectly. The credit reporting agencies then notify the creditor of your dispute, and ask them for verification. Often, creditors improperly verify the debt or the credit reporting agency does not do a thorough investigation, and the inaccuracy continues being reported. If this occurs, next try contacting the creditor directly, using certified mail.
Identity Theft. This is now the most frequent consumer complaint filed with the Federal Trade Commission. Creditors and the credit reporting agencies have a legal duty to investigate and clear up the record of the identity theft victim. The first step is to tell the three credit bureaus about the identity theft so they can flag your credit report and prevent further fraudulent credit accounts from being opened. You should also file a police report and contact each creditor.
Bankruptcy Discharge. After receiving a bankruptcy discharge, your credit report should reflect that your accounts have been discharged in bankruptcy. Additionally, your balances should be listed as zero. Often, your accounts are not properly updated with this information after a bankruptcy discharge and your ability to begin to rebuild credit is severely hampered.
Identity Mix-ups. Sometimes the credit file of one person is merged with that of another, resulting in a negative credit history for the person with a cleaner record. The credit reporting agency must clear up the problem and you should notify them in writing if you suspect you have been merged with another person’s credit history.
Obsolete Information. A creditor can only report a debt for 7 years after it becomes delinquent or is charged off. A bankruptcy can appear only for 10 years. Many times debt collectors “re-age” this information and submit a false date to fool the credit reporting agency into thinking that the debt is not obsolete.

REQUESTING YOUR CREDIT REPORT

You are entitled to one free copy of your credit report from each credit bureau each year. The only official site for ordering your free credit report is www.annualcreditreport.com. It was created by the three nationwide credit reporting companies, Equifax, Experian and Trans Union. Make sure you are ordering from the official website.  You can also request your free credit report by telephone by calling (877) 322-8228. When calling for your credit report, you will go through a simple verification process and the credit report will be mailed to you.

We can assist you with correcting errors on your credit reports. We know that the dispute letters that consumers send to the credit bureaus don’t always solve the problem. And credit repair companies just keep sending the same dispute letters. Sometimes correcting an error to your credit report requires the intervention of an attorney, especially one with in-depth knowledge of the credit reporting system. Please contact our office if you have a mistake on your credit report.