Allow me to start this post by stating that everyone should know what is on their credit report. We are affected by our credit score in countless ways. Want to buy a car? Want to finance a home? Interested in a student loan? Would you like to get a good job? Maybe you are interested in renting an apartment? Your credit worthiness will come into play in any of those scenarios. The time to start looking at your credit report is NOT when you are ready to make a big purchase. The time to start looking at your credit report is NOW. That way, when the opportunity presents itself you will be ready.
Ok, so what is the first step? Go to www.annualcreditreport.com. Everyone is allowed to go to this site once a year to obtain a free credit report from each of the major credit reporting agencies (Trans Union, Equifax, and Experian). If you are unable to use this website for whatever reason, order your reports from the reporting agencies directly. This may cost you a few bucks, but making sure your credit report is reported accurately is priceless.
Now that you have your credit reports (make sure you have all 3), take a good look at them. Look at the names of the creditors. Look at the dates of reported activity. Make sure your personal information is not confused with someone else’s. Has your identity been stolen? Check the payment status for each account. Is your payment history accurately reported? Did you close an account yourself, but the reporting entry shows that the creditor closed the account? Have you settled a debt only to find that the “amount due” is still being reported? Does it seem like an account has been reported for more than 7 years since the last date of activity? Obviously, there are a lot of potential errors to be found in a credit report. In fact, the Federal Trade Commission conducted a study in 2012 that found that 1 in 5 consumers had errors on their credit reports.
Ok, so you’ve spotted an error. Great, now it’s time to fix it! Step #1 is a dispute letter to the credit reporting agencies. The Federal Trade Commission actually drafted a sample dispute letter that can be found in it’s website: https://www.consumer.ftc.gov/articles/0384-sample-letter-disputing-errors-your-credit-report. Use this sample dispute letter as a template. Send your dispute letter via certified mail (return receipt requested). Keep a copy of your dispute letter and do NOT send original documents in support of your letter. Make sure to only send copies. Be as detailed as possible in your dispute letter.
Step #2 is a dispute letter to the company that provided the information to the credit reporting agencies. Again, the Federal Trade Commission actually drafted a sample dispute letter that can be found in it’s website: https://www.consumer.ftc.gov/articles/0485-sample-letter-disputing-errors-your-credit-report-information-providers. Again, use this letter as a template. Again, use certified mail (return receipt requested) and do not send original documents in support of your letter. Be as detailed as possible in your dispute letter.
Well, the dispute letters have been sent. Now what? If you got your credit reports from annualcreditreport.com, as we’ve recommended, the credit reporting agencies have 45 days to investigate your dispute, and 5 business days after that to notify you of the results. Also, the furnisher of credit must report that the debt is disputed, so long as your dispute is reasonable. Now that we know the responsibilities of the credit reporting agencies and the furnishers of credit information, what happens if they STILL do not correct your errors? Now it’s time to hire a consumer law firm, such as Berkowitz & Myer, to get you the justice that your deserve. The good news is that it will not cost you anything to hire us! We will go after these companies to get your credit reports cleaned up, compensate you for your loss (even emotional distress), and attorney’s fees and costs. You can certainly contact us if you have questions about obtaining your credit reports, the “dispute phase”, or any other aspect of credit reporting. Again, this process can get time consuming so do not wait until you are ready to buy your dream home, finance that car you’ve had your eye on, or apply for a job. The time to check out your credit report is NOW! With the help of the attorneys at Berkowitz & Myer, you have access to a free consultation to get you started down a path of accurate credit reporting. We look forward to assisting you.