Credit Report Errors / Identity Theft
Believe it or not, inaccurate information often appears in consumers' credit reports. Estimates have ranged anywhere from single digit percentages to over three quarters of all reports containing some type of error. The truth is, no one really knows exactly what percent of credit reports maintained by the big three credit reporting agencies ("CRAs") Experian, Equifax and Trans Union are wrong - but virtually everyone agrees it's not uncommon.
These errors could result in your being denied a credit card, an insurance policy, a job or a mortgage, or, more likely, paying more for it. 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 periodically, especially before applying for a major loan or a mortgage.
Under federal law, you are entitled to one free copy of your credit report from each reporting agency each year (click here to learn more). You are also entitled to a free report if a company takes adverse action against you such as denying your application for credit, insurance, or employment and you ask for your report within 60 days of receiving notice of the action. The notice will give you the name, address, and phone number of the consumer reporting agency. You're also entitled to one free report a year if you're unemployed and plan to look for a job within 60 days, if you're on welfare, or if your report is inaccurate because of fraud, including identity theft. Otherwise, a CRA may charge you up to $9.00 for another copy of your report within a 12-month period.
Here is a list of some of the more common credit report issues:
Inaccurate Tradelines. Sometimes banks and merchants submit inaccurate information to credit reporting agencies. Many inaccuracies can be fixed by sending a "dispute letter" to the offending CRA or CRAs (always by certified mail). The CRA then notifies the creditor of your dispute, and asks them to verify the accuracy of the disputed information. Occasionally, creditors improperly verify the debt or the CRA does not do a thorough investigation, and the inaccuracy continues being reported. If this occurs, next try contacting the creditor directly (again, always using certified mail). Meanwhile, continue to submit new disputes to the CRA, including any new information concerning the inaccuracy.
Identity Theft. This is now the most frequent consumer complaint filed with the Federal Trade Commission, and is typically the most difficult problem to completely clear up on a credit report. The Federal Trade Commission has prepared an excellent summary of what to do if you suspect you are or are about to become an identity theft victim. Most of that summary is reprinted here for your convenience.
Impermissible Access. Your credit report is accessible only for limited purposes. Surprisingly often, companies will unlawfully access your credit file for marketing or other unauthorized purposes. This is a serious invasion of privacy. Carefully review the portion of your credit report that lists who accessed your information.
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, accounts are not properly updated with this information after a bankruptcy discharge. This may hamper your ability to rebuild your credit.
Merged Files. Sometimes accounts can appear on a person's credit report that seemingly have come from out of the blue. This is often caused by what is termed "merged files," and it happens when two people's credit information is merged because of confusion concerning one or more of the same or similar personal identifiers.
Failure to Report Account as "Disputed." Creditors and debt collectors must report an account as "disputed" if you notify them, even if they disagree. Some creditors simply ignore this requirement. Use certified mail to let the creditor know that you dispute the account and expect it to be reported that way.
Obsolete Information. A creditor can only report a debt for 7 years after it becomes delinquent or is charged off. A bankruptcy can appear for 10 years. Sometimes debt collectors will "re-age" a debt and submit a false date to fool the credit reporting agency into thinking that the debt is not obsolete.
In the past, Attorney Robert E. Duff defended one of the CRAs, Trans Union, in FCRA cases in Indiana and all over the Midwest. Today, he represents consumers who have claims under the FCRA against Trans Union*, Experian, and Equifax, and against banks, credit card companies and other creditors. If you've had difficulty clearing up your credit report, contact The Law Office of Robert E. Duff at 800-817-0461 or contact him online for a consultation.
* The Indiana Rules of Professional Conduct prohibit a lawyer from revealing confidential information relating to the representation of a former client and from using such information in litigation against the former client.