Our Attorneys Answer Common Questions About Credit Report Problems
Below are some initial questions many clients have when they first contact The Consumer Law Group, P.C.. The questions below can address many initial concerns you may have. If you don't find the answers here, you may contact us for answers to more complex questions or questions specific to your case.
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What is the most effective way to dispute an error on my credit report?
When an error shows up on your credit report, it can wreak havoc with your personal and financial life. In today’s world, credit reports and scores are used for many aspects of our lives, from getting a job, to renting an apartment, to obtaining financing to purchase a vehicle. Errors on a report should be disputed as quickly and thoroughly as possible in order to minimize their damage. Fortunately, consumers are entitled to certain protections under the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA). However, it is important to understand how best to file a dispute.
Tips for Filing a Written Dispute Over Errors on Your Credit Report
In order to maximize your chances of having an error on your credit report corrected, it is important to following the below tips when it comes to submitting your dispute to the credit bureau:
- Do not utilize the credit bureau’s online dispute form. These forms typically only allow you a small amount of space in which to describe your complaint.
- Always submit a dispute in writing by certified mail and keep dated copies of everything you send.
- Send a copy of the dispute to the party that furnished the inaccurate information at the same time as it is submitted to the credit bureau.
- Always include as much information as possible in your letters. Attach supporting evidence if you have it.
- Address only one dispute per letter. Often, consumers uncover multiple errors on their credit report. Each error should be addressed in its own detailed letter.
As a consumer, you are also entitled to consult with an attorney in order to protect your rights under FCRA. If you spot an error on your credit report, we can help. We have helped many clients restore their credit. Check out our client testimonials page to learn more.
What do I do about judgments on my credit report that I know nothing about?
If you find your wages garnished, or you are getting debt collector calls due to a judgment you know nothing about, or a judgment is on your credit report that you know nothing about, what do you do?
This can be a complicated process. If you did not appear at the trial for a debt, a "default judgment" was obtained against you. This means that since you did not appear, and since the court had information that the lawsuit was "served" on you, it deemed that you had notice of the lawsuit and simply chose not to appear to disputed the alleged debt. Assuming you did not know about this trial because the address that the "process" (a legal term for the warrant in debt or Complaint in which the creditor alleged you broke the law and owed it money) was served was not where you lived, and if you did not know about the upcoming trial, then you have a right to file a Motion To Rehear in the same court in which the trial occurred. The grounds for getting the judgment "set aside" (which should stop any garnishment attempts by the creditor), is that the "service" of the process was never properly made on you, and since you did not know about the trial date, you did not appear. The clerk may have the Motion to Rehear form, which you fill out, providing the reason for the motion (i.e. you did not live at the address on which the file indicates the "process" was served), and that you do not owe what the creditor claims you owe. So you also request that you want the judgment set aside and another trial date set so you can have your day in court. If garnishment proceedings have been filed, but no money was actually paid to the creditor, then ask the clerk to ask the judge to postpone the garnishment hearing until your Motion To Rehear has been heard. You then get a hearing date from the clerk, at which you need to appear with any documents and witnesses that can prove you did not live at the address that the original complaint or warrant in debt was served.
What is the Fair Credit Reporting Act?The Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) promotes the accuracy, fairness and privacy of information in the files of consumer reporting agencies. This can be related to credit fraud or identity theft.
*You must be told if information in your file has been used against you.
*You have the right to know what is in your file.
*You have the right to ask for a credit score.
*You have the right to dispute incomplete or inaccurate information.
*Consumer reporting agencies must correct or delete inaccurate, incomplete or unverifiable information.
*Consumer reporting agencies may not report outdated negative information.
*Access to your file is limited.
*You must give your consent for reports to be provided to employers.
*You may limit "prescreened" offers of credit and insurance you get based on information in your credit report.
*You may seek damages from violaters.
*Identity theft victims and active duty military personnel have additional rights.
For more information on any of these points please contact us.
If I am unhappy with the way my vehicle is performing, should I stop making payments on it and let it be voluntarily repossessed?
No. The lender has nothing to do with any mechanical problems your vehicle is having. If you stop making payments, the lender could repossess the vehicle, sell it for less than you owe, and still sue you for the difference. If the car is sold, that makes a case against the dealer difficult because the car is evidence.
How does a voluntary repossession of a vehicle hurt me?
A voluntary repossession will be put onto your credit report and as such, will make your credit score lower. Also, it really does not help much, other than possible avoiding a claim for some of the costs of repossession. After a vehicle is voluntary repossessed it will be sold by the lender at auction, and if the purchase price at the auction is less that what you still owe on the vehicle, the lender usually files a lawsuit against your for the difference. Thus, voluntarily taking the car to the lender or dealer, rather than having them come to your home or employment to repossess the vehicle, only saves the possible claim for towing costs and any embarrassment when the tow truck drives off with your car and the neighbors are watching.
Your Credit Report: What should you know?
In today's rocky economy, having good credit standing is vital for the typical consumer. Few of us go through life without needing to borrow money from a bank or finance center. Whether you are approved for the loan and at what interest rate depends largely on your credit history. At The Consumer Law Group, we understand the importance of maintaining good credit. In the interest of promoting consumer fairness and awareness, we have provided the following summary of rights and protections you are afforded when it comes to your credit. If you've ever applied for a charge account, a personal loan, insurance, or a job, someone is probably keeping a file on you. This file might contain information on how you pay your bills or whether you've been sued, arrested, or have filed for bankruptcy. The companies that gather and sell this information are called Consumer Reporting Agencies, or CRAs. The most common type of Consumer Reporting Agency is the credit bureau. The information sold by Consumer Reporting Agencies to creditors, employers, insurers, and other businesses is called a consumer report. This generally contains information about where you work and live and about your bill-paying habits. In 1970, Congress created a law that gives consumers specific rights in dealing with Consumer Reporting Agencies. The Fair Credit Reporting Act protects you by requiring that Consumer Reporting Agencies furnish correct and complete information to businesses for use in evaluating your application for credit, insurance, or a job.
Was I denied credit because of a bad credit report?
If you applied for and were denied credit, the Equal Credit Opportunity Act requires creditors to tell you the specific reasons for your denial. For example, the creditor must tell you whether the denial was because you have no credit file with a Consumer Reporting Agency or because the Consumer Reporting Agency says you have delinquent obligations. This law also requires creditors to consider, upon request, additional information you might supply about your credit history.
How do I locate the Consumer Reporting Agency that has my file?
If your application was denied because of information supplied by a Consumer Reporting Agency, that agency's name and address must be supplied to you by the company you applied to. Otherwise, you can find the Consumer Reporting Agency that has your file by calling those listed in the Yellow Pages under credit or credit rating and reporting. If it was Experian, Trans Union, or Equifax, use the information below or on our home page.
Do I have the right to know what the credit report says?
Yes, if you request it. The Consumer Reporting Agency is required to tell you about every piece of information in the report and, in most cases, the sources of that information. Medical information is exempt from this rule, but you can have your physician try to obtain it for you. The Consumer Reporting Agency is not required to give you a copy of the report, although more and more are doing so. You also have the right to be told the name of anyone who received a report on you in the past six months. (If your inquiry concerns a job application, you can get the names of those who received a report during the past two years.)
Is this information free?
Yes, in certain circumstances. If your application was denied because of information furnished by the Consumer Reporting Agency, and if you request a copy of your report within 60 days of receiving the denial notice, you are entitled to the information without charge. You are also entitled to one free credit report once in any 12-month period, if you certify in writing that you: - Are unemployed and intend to apply for a job in the next 60 days; - Are receiving public welfare assistance; or - Believe that your report is wrong due to fraud. If you don't meet one of these requirements, the Consumer Reporting Agency may charge a reasonable fee, usually about $9.00. There is a central site that allows you to request a free credit report once every 12 months from each of the nationwide consumer credit reporting companies: Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion. Please visit annualcreditreport for more information. (See our link to this site in our RESOURCES section.)
What can I do if the information on my credit report is inaccurate or incomplete?
Notify the Consumer Reporting Agency. Be as specific as possible. They are required to reinvestigate the items in question. You should also contact directly the creditor or other person who gave the incorrect information to make sure their records are in order. If the new investigation reveals an error, a corrected version should be sent, on your request, to anyone who received your report in the past six months. (Job applicants can have corrected reports sent to anyone who received a copy during the past two years.) If you dispute the accuracy of the information in your file and the Consumer Reporting Agency deletes it, the agency cannot put the disputed information back into your file without notifying you in writing. If you contact a consumer reporting agency to dispute the accuracy or completeness of information in your file, the reporting agency may forward your dispute to the creditor or other person who furnished the information to the agency. But you also should still contact that source of information directly. Many creditors have a special address for this purpose, and have a duty to avoid reporting inaccurate information. Also, if you tell anyone that you dispute the accuracy of information, then that person must note that the information is disputed whenever it is provided to a consumer reporting agency.
If these inaccuracies do not get removed, contact us. We will discuss with you (at no charge) exactly what you need to do as well as give you an idea if you have a possible legal case under the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) against the credit reporting agencies (CRA) or the furnisher of the inaccurate information to the CRA. Under the FCRA you are entitled to any damages you have suffered, emotional distress, statutory and punitive damages for willful violations of the law, and legal fees.
What can I do if the Consumer Reporting Agency won't modify the credit report?
The new investigation may not resolve your dispute with the Consumer Reporting Agency. If this happens, have the Consumer Reporting Agency include your version of the disputed information in your file and in future reports. You may submit a written statement of any length to be included in your file, although if the Consumer Reporting Agency assists in writing a clear summary of the dispute, the statement may be limited to 100 words. At your request, the Consumer Reporting Agency will also show your version or a summary of your version to anyone who recently received a copy of the old report. There is no charge for this service if it's requested within 30 days after you receive notice of your application denial. After that, there may be a reasonable charge.
How long can Consumer Reporting Agencies report unfavorable information on my credit report?
Generally, seven years. Adverse information cannot be reported after that, with certain exceptions:
- Bankruptcy information can be reported for ten years
- Information reported because of an application for a job with a salary of more than $75,000.00 has no time limit
- Information reported because of an application for more than $150,000.00 worth of credit or life insurance has no time limit
- Information concerning a lawsuit or judgment against you can be reported for seven years or until the statute of limitations runs out, whichever is longer.
If you believe that inaccurate or incomplete credit information is being used against you, you have rights. Learn more about the Fair Credit Reporting Act and how we can help you here.
What if I think a Consumer Reporting Agency has violated my rights under the law?
You may wish to seek the advice of an attorney. In some cases, but not always, a Consumer Reporting Agency which has violated the Fair Credit Reporting Act must pay your attorney's fees. Although the Federal Trade Commission cannot act as your lawyer in private disputes, information about your experiences and concerns is vital to the enforcement of the Fair Credit Reporting Act. Please send questions or complaints to the FTC, Washington, D.C. 20580.
How do I order a copy of my credit report?
To order copies of your credit reports, write to each of the following Consumer Reporting Agencies:
Post Office Box 2002
Allen, TX 75013
TRANS UNION CORPORATION
Post Office Box 2000
Chester, PA 19022-2000
EQUIFAX CREDIT INFORMATION SERVICES
Post Office Box 740241
Atlanta, GA 30374
What can a consumer do if there is an error on his credit report?
As a safety precaution, a consumer should randomly obtain a copy of his credit report to insure it is accurate, about once every 6 months or at least once a year. When a consumer finds an error on his report, he needs to send a certified letter formally disputing the error with each of the three major credit bureaus, listed on this site, with a copy of the current report attached with the error highlighted. The credit reporting agencies must comply within 30 days either with notice of removal of the error, or with an explanation of the entry. If the consumer does not receive correspondence from the agencies within this 30 day period, the agencies may be in violation of the Fair Credit Reporting Act, and the consumer should contact The Consumer Law Group immediately.
What should a consumer do if his identity has been stolen and used to obtain credit?
The consumer should first be aware that identity theft is a crime that must be reported to the police authorities. A stumbling block is that, often, this crime is perpetrated by a family member, and the victim does not want to get his family member in trouble; in which case, there is not much we can do. But once the victim does press charges and the state is successful in prosecuting the criminal, the consumer then must formally dispute the items on his credit report. The consumer should obtain a current report from all three credit agencies and highlight the disputed items. The credit agencies are required to respond within 30 days. The agencies must notify you of removal of the item(s) or notify you of the validity of the item(s). If not, then the agency may be in violation of the Fair Credit Reporting Act, and the consumer should contact The Consumer Law Group immediately.
What are some ways to avoid Credit Fraud Identity Theft?
1. The next time you order checks, have your initials (instead of your first name) and last name put on the checks. If someone takes your checkbook, they will not know if you sign your checks with just your initials or your first name, but your bank will know how you sign your checks. 2. Do not sign the back of your credit cards. Instead, put “PHOTO ID REQUIRED.” 3. When your are writing checks to pay on your credit card accounts, do not put the complete account number on the “For” line. Instead, just put the last four numbers. The credit card company knows the rest of the number, and anyone who might be handling your check as it passes through all the check processing channels won’t have access to your credit card number. 4. Put your work phone number on your checks instead of your home phone. If you have a Post Office Box, use that instead of your home address. If you do not have a Post Office Box, use your work address. Never have your Social Security number printed on your checks. You can add it if it is necessary, but if you have it printed, anyone can get it. 5. Place the contents of your wallet on a photocopy machine. Copy both sides of each license, credit card, etc. You will know what you had in your wallet and all of the account numbers and phone numbers to call and cancel. Keep the photocopy in a safe place. You should also carry a photocopy of your passport with you when you travel either here or abroad. 6. If your credit cards are stolen, file a police report immediately in the jurisdiction where they were stolen. This proves to credit providers you were diligent, and this is a first step toward an investigation (if there ever is one). 7. If your credit cards are stolen, call the three national credit reporting organizations immediately to place a fraud alert on your name and Social Security number. The alert means any company that checks your credit knows your information was stolen, and they have to contact you by phone to authorize new credit. The numbers to the three credit reporting organizations are: A. Equifax: 1-888-766-0008 B. Experian: 1-888-397-3742 C. Trans Union: 1-800-680-7289 The number to the Social Security Administration fraud line is 1-800-269-0271.
How do I get my annual free credit report?
Visit www.annualcreditreport.com. You can also call 1-877-322-8228, or write: Annual Credit Report Request Service, P.O. Box 105821, Atlanta, GA 30348-5281.