Correcting Credit Report Errors
Practical insights from powerhouse attorney, author and speaker Bradley Bailyn.
Your credit rating and report can affect your life in more ways than you might imagine.
Obviously, it has a direct impact on the interest rate you will pay when taking out a loan or financing or leasing a major purchase like an automobile.
But you may or may not be aware of the fact that your credit information can affect the rate you pay for car insurance, and whether or not you are approved for an apartment lease.
So knowing this, it is crucial that you regularly review your credit report, (at least twice a year is my recommendation), to see if it contains any errors that could negatively impact on your life and lifestyle. This is true especially in this day of large amounts of credit information being hacked and widespread identity theft.
You should know that it is not all that unusual for a credit report to contain errors, sometimes significant ones. (FTC statistics from 2012 showed about 20% of reports had errors). Always check to see if there are signs your identity has been stolen, both on your credit card bills and credit reports.
An attorney I know once had his credit card information stolen, which he discovered when looking at his credit card bill and seeing cigarette purchases made at a Bronx gas station.
He didn’t smoke, and he’d never been to the Bronx. Being an attorney, he was able to quickly resolve the problem with his credit card company, but people who aren’t lawyers may get more of a run around, more of a delay, when trying to correct errors on credit card bills and credit reports.
When you spot errors on your credit report, you should know your rights under the law, and for maximum benefit, hire an attorney that is experienced in correcting such errors.
Federal legislation that protects your credit reporting rights is mainly found in the FCRA, or the Fair Credit Reporting Act. One of the provisions of that body of law, is the three major credit reporting agencies, Equifax, Transunion and Experian, are required once a year at your request to provide you with a free copy of your credit report.
Take advantage of this, and realize that your credit information and your FICO score may vary among these three reporting agencies. They aren’t perfect, and sometimes their personnel aren’t all that careful when it comes to accurate reporting of information.
For your free credit reports, don’t contact the reporting agencies individually, go to this site: https://www.annualcreditreport.com/index.action
So, let’s say you receive your reports and some of the information contained in it is incorrect. What are your rights?
You certainly have the right to be represented by a private attorney of your choosing. (No, this isn’t Legal Aid; you are going to have to make payment arrangements with your attorney). Your attorney should be knowledgeable about your rights under the FCRA, and when a credit reporting agency sees a lawyer’s letterhead on a challenge to their reporting, they are likely to pay more attention to it and pay that attention more quickly than they would from a protest just coming from a consumer.
Your challenges will be addressed in writing with copies of all backup documentation related to proving the error. Your attorney will best know how to organize and present this information in a professional manner.
A credit reporting company must investigate a challenge to the accuracy of their reports, unless they deem it frivolous. Your challenge, backed up by documentation and coming from your attorney won’t be deemed frivolous. They will take it very seriously.
If your attorney is successful in challenging the disputed information, the credit reporting company must notify all reporting agencies that contain the inaccurate information, and provide you with a corrected credit report for free; which does not count as a free report with respect to your annual entitlement to one. Your attorney can also see to it that entities that received your erroneous credit report within the last six months, will receive the corrected reports.
You may be aware that a number of credit inquiries may temporarily lower your credit score, but a challenge to the accuracy of the information contained therein does not. There is no down side to a credit report challenge done in good faith.
It seems every month there is a report of some major credit granting business getting their information hacked. You’ve probably heard horror stories about people whose credit was ruined by identity thieves. Don’t be a victim.
Take advantage of your right to annual free credit reports, review them, and if you should find incorrect information on them, or indications of identity theft, you should contact an experienced debtor-creditor attorney as soon as possible.