Credit Report Errors Can Create Serious Problems
You do your best to be financially responsible. You use credit cards sparingly and make a payment every month. Your mortgage is current, and your car is almost paid off. But then you receive a notice that your interest rates are going up or your credit card was canceled because of your credit report. Credit report errors are common, and many consumers struggle to correct their credit history on their own.
If you have discovered inaccurate credit information in your credit reports, you are not alone. The Federal Trade Commission reported that 26% of American consumers have found substantial errors in their credit reports that could make them a bad credit risk. A Consumer Reports investigation determined that 34% of participants found at least one mistake in their credit bureau report. And 10% said just accessing their credit report was a challenge.
Correcting Your Credit Report is Not Easy
You might think credit bureau mistakes are simple to fix. However, as the executive director of the National Association of Consumer Advocates explains,
“In reality, it is really, really, really hard to fix your credit report… because the credit reporting system wasn’t built for the benefit of consumers. It was built for the companies that use it.”
Unfortunately, most consumers find the credit reporting system difficult to navigate.
Federal law protects your right to review and correct your credit reports. However, not all credit reporting agencies or creditors follow the law. When you find an error in your credit report, but you can’t correct it, turn to an experienced credit report lawyer at Schlanger Law Group for help.
Your Credit Report is a Powerful Document
The information contained in your credit report can cost you—or save you—thousands of dollars during your lifetime. Your credit score can affect:
- Whether you qualify for a mortgage or car loan,
- Credit terms such as interest rates, loan length, or whether you need insurance to qualify,
- Credit card offers, maximum credit limits, and late penalties,
- Whether a landlord will rent to you,
- Insurance eligibility and rates, and
- Other credit-related situations.
With so much riding on your credit history, your credit report must be accurate, or you may suffer serious financial consequences.
Consumers Have Federally Protected Rights
The federal government enacted the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) to protect consumers’ credit report rights. This law regulates:
- Credit Reporting Agencies (CRAs),
- Entities that furnish the information that goes into your credit report, and
- Businesses or people who request and use your credit information.
The FCRA is a complicated law. In general, it:
- Requires creditors and CRAs to ensure credit report accuracy,
- Gives consumers the right to review their credit reports and receive a free copy every 12 months,
- Controls how disputed credit report errors are investigated,
- Requires CRAs and creditors to respond to disputes,
- Ensures inaccurate information is corrected or deleted,
- Requires notification of negative credit decisions in writing, and
- Allows consumers to block identity theft data if the credit bureau can’t verify the information is true.
How do Credit Report Errors Happen?
Credit reporting agencies (CRAs) are in the business of gathering consumer credit information, compiling that data into reports, and selling those reports to potential creditors. The three major credit reporting agencies are Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion. It’s important to understand that CRAs are not loyal to consumers. They cater to the people who pay for the credit report. As a result, the CRAs have no incentive to verify information until you dispute your credit report errors.
Your original creditors—a credit card company, bank, or lender—may report inaccurate information to the CRAs. Some errors are true clerical mistakes or oversights. The company may forget to report a recent payment or update the balance due on a loan. However, unethical creditors may fraudulently report information to the credit bureaus hoping the consumer will simply pay it to clear their credit history.
When CRAs receive credit information, they usually place it in your credit report without verifying the data. It’s up to you to find the error, dispute it, and request correction or deletion.
How to Obtain a Copy of Your Credit Reports and What to Look For
You can request and pay for a credit report at any time. However, you are entitled to at least one free report from the three main credit bureaus every 12 months using these links:
Or you can simply go to the general consumer site, AnnualCreditReport.com to request your free reports. Since each report may contain different information, it is important to review your reports from each credit reporting company.
Consumer Tip: If you don’t suspect any problems, you can stagger your requests and review a different report every four months instead of all three at the same time.
When you review your credit history, look for these possible credit report errors:
- Confused or merged consumer information for example when two consumers have similar personal information like common names or transposed Social Security numbers. Carefully check for:
- Personal information data mistakes including the wrong name, an address you never lived at, or misspelled items,
- Accounts belonging to someone else such as a family member or ex-spouse, or
- Accounts that list you as the owner but you are only an authorized user.
- Inaccurately reported information that happens when a creditor misreports the status of an account. Look for:
- Missing payments or overdue notices when the account is current,
- Inaccurate account balances,
- Incorrect credit limits,
- Outstanding balances on closed accounts,
- The same account is listed several times by different companies,
- Accounts you closed that appear to be closed by the creditor, or
- Incorrect information that was previously corrected or removed but has reappeared.
- Accounts and information you don’t recognize because you are a victim of identity theft. Identity fraud is one of the most complicated situations that can impact your credit report. Look for unfamiliar credit card accounts or loans in your name. When the ID thief doesn’t pay these accounts, it can take years to straighten out an error on your credit report. A tenacious identity theft attorney will know how to handle your stolen identity and help repair your financial life.
You Must Dispute Credit Report Errors to Protect Your Credit Score
If you find an error in your credit report, you must file a dispute to correct the mistake. Start by sending a dispute letter to the Credit Reporting Agency that prepared the inaccurate report. Mail your dispute letter with any documents that support your claim that the disputed items are incorrect. Ask the CRA to correct or remove the error.
You can also dispute credit report errors directly with the creditor that furnished the information to the CRA. Send a separate dispute letter to the creditor but always dispute with the CRA first. Keep copies of everything you send and use certified mail to prove your letters were received.
Consumer Tip: Before you prepare your dispute form, be sure to read our detailed explanation of how to dispute credit report errors so you don’t miss any important steps that could jeopardize your dispute. You can also find sample letters online to start the process. However, we recommend sending a personalized letter instead of using online forms or dispute portals.
You may send these disputes on your own or you can reach out to a credit lawyer to be sure all necessary details and documents are included. This is especially important if you are an identity theft victim. If you file a dispute on your own and the investigation results are not favorable, your dispute is rejected, or you are completely ignored, reach out to the SLG team of consumer protection lawyers immediately.
A Consumer Protection Lawyer at Schlanger Law Group Can Help You Correct Credit Report Errors and Restore Your Financial Future
When you need a lawyer who understands how to correct credit report errors, turn to Schlanger Law Group. We can:
- Deal with the CRAs and creditors,
- Represent your legal interests throughout the entire process,
- Negotiate a fair settlement on your behalf, or
- Go to trial if necessary to ensure your legal rights are protected.
Depending on your situation, you may receive a corrected credit report, compensation for your actual losses, emotional suffering, anxiety, or loss of reputation, and payment of your attorney’s fees and costs. Read some of our other client success stories to learn how we can help.
SLG’s consumer protection lawyers are dedicated, compassionate, consumer advocates. We take on the big CRAs and companies that don’t care about consumers or how inaccurate information can be devastating. We are proud to enforce the federal laws that were enacted to protect you. Learn more by calling (212) 500-6114 or simply click the button below to schedule a free case consultation today.
Schlanger Law Group LLP serves clients in New Jersey, New York, and throughout the United States with consumer protection, class action, credit reporting, and identity theft issues.