CHECK YOUR CREDIT REPORTS FOR MIS-REPORTING OF PAID JUDGMENTS! Credit bureau TransUnion today agreed to settle a class action in Virginia for $1.4mm, where the main allegation was that TU had failed to accurately report paid judgments as paid. If you have an paid judgment being listed as “unpaid” on your credit report, this will hurt your credit score. Check this with all bureaus. And yes, we handle these cases.
Happy December one and all, and I hope all of you have a great holiday season.
Currently credit reports from the major bureaus are available only in English. The reports are hard enough to interpret even for English speakers, so not providing them in at least some of the other major languages spoken in the U.S.–Spanish, Mandarin, Japanese, Korean, Russian–seems, shall we say, a bit unfair.
I am well aware that a lot of my friends hold the belief that English is spoken in this country, so you’d better learn English. I’m really not getting into that debate at this point. My response to this sentiment is that NO ONE CHOOSES TO HAVE A CREDIT REPORT. Whether rich or poor, English-speaking or not, black, yellow, brown or white, NO ONE CHOOSES TO HAVE THE CREDIT BUREAUS COMPILE CREDIT REPORTS ON THEM. So, given that we get no choice whatsoever in whether we even have a credit report, shouldn’t the bureaus provide credit reports in more than just English for the many consumers for whom English is not their first, nor their best, language? Seems fair to me, as a person needs to be able to understand his or her credit report to fix any errors in it.
So, if you or your friends are having troubles with the bureaus because you cannot get a credit report in your native language, yes, we are looking into these cases.
And I am more than aware of the irony of writing this blog post in English. Perhaps some good people out there will help translate.
Thanks for reading.
California Lemon Law and Your Cellphone: Why You Need to Take Pictures Whenever You Have a Mechanical Failure
Welcome to December. I hope you have had a good 2013 and I hope 2014 will be even better!
These days, cars are virtual computers on wheels. Like all computers, car computers crash. Some or all of the car’s functions cease. Usually this can be only briefly or it may affect a system which is not all that important. However, sometimes computer crashes can cause serious safety hazards–cars stalling at traffic speeds, brake or transmission failures, etc.
IT IS VERY IMPORTANT for you to IMMEDIATELY take out your cellphone and take a picture of the dash lights if this ever happens to you. We are reviewing a series of cases presently where this happened to the vehicle owners, but they have no evidence, other than their own testimony, of what happened. When they took the vehicles into the dealers for repairs, the dealers reported that they were unable to find any problems and that the computers had not stored any computer codes indicating any faults or defects.
More and more, it is SO IMPORTANT for you to take a picture of the vehicle while it is having its malfunction. If you cannot show the vehicle having the malfunction, at least take a picture of the dashlights, so there is documentation of what occurred on the dashboard.
Your California lemon law case may well depend on it. These days, almost all of the problems with cars are computer-related, and thus intermittent. It is critical for you to document the problem as best you can, to preserve your rights under the California lemon law.
I hope this short blog post helps you! Thanks for reading.
Background checks are a part of life now. Whenever you are applying for a job, for an apartment, for a promotion or for insurance, you can basically bet on the fact that someone will be pulling a background check report on you.
Recently, one of my single lady friends told me that she pulls background check reports on any of the guys that her girlfriends are dating. She says it’s a great way to make sure that the guys are not total psychos and are telling the truth.
There are, however, many problems with these background checks. They OFTEN carry false information about a person. There are many types of false information, some of it probably harmless, but one type which is anything but harmless is false information of criminal history.
The companies which compile background checks are usually in a hurry to gather and assemble the information, and do not take the time to really make sure that the information is accurate. If you have a similar name or other similar identifying information to a criminal, it can occur that his or her criminal history will end up on your background check. This can cost you a job, a promotion, a career, an apartment, insurance…a girlfriend or a boyfriend…you name it!
Here is the “Golden Rule” whenever you apply for an apartment, a job or insurance: you NEED to check the box on the application which permits you to obtain a copy of any background check which is run on you in connection with the application. If there is no box to check, provide the person running the background check with a letter, indicating that you are formally requesting a complete copy of any background check which is run on you.
If there is any false information on the background report, DO NOT OVERLOOK IT, even if it seems trivial. It could mean that, at least to some extent, your personal information is being mixed up with someone else’s.
If you find false information, write to the company that provided the background report, via certified mail, instructing them to correct the false information and also providing them with any documents or evidence showing that the information is false.
If the company does not correct the report promptly, please contact my law firm. You will often need and attorney to handle these situations. However, the good news is, under California law, you can get money damages when a company does not correct your background report after you notify them, and you can get your fees paid by the background report company. In other words, my firm can probably handle the case on a contingency basis.
Please contact us if you have any questions about this. Thanks for reading!
YOU DO NOT NEED CREDIT MONITORING SERVICES!!!!! Recently, Adobe got hacked and sent an email to its subscribers, offering (at a cost) the Experian Credit Monitoring Service to those who got hacked. Of course the victim would have to pay Experian. Good marketing, huh! Well, there is a big problem with the credit monitoring services: BINDING ARBITRATION! You lose your rights to sue in court under the Fair Credit Reporting Act (“FCRA”), and the agreement you inadvertently sign essentially takes away your rights under FCRA. CREDIT MONITORING IS UNNECESSARY.
This is a short note from Chi Chi Wu, an attorney with the National Consumer Law Center in Boston and a recognized national expert on credit reporting and the Fair Credit Reporting Act, on this subject:
“We generally advise consumers not to pay for a credit monitoring service. In addition to the arb issue, they don’t seem like a good “value” proposition. (of course, if it is free, then that’s a different story)
“If a consumer is concerned after a security breach about ID theft, we usually advise placing a security freeze instead. But I am not sure if a breach of credit card information would lead to “new account” ID theft, although would be interested to hear if it does.”
Here’s an itty-bitty story that, over time, will snowball into a HUGE data-breach story. Yes, folks, as explained in the article below, Experian sold your confidential information, including your social security numbers, to third parties who are in turn selling ID theft services. Experian also sells ID theft services. Can you say Irony? It’s worth writing to them (certified mail) to find out if your personal information was among that which was sold.
Here’s the link–paste it into your browser.
To my readers,
We are handling BMW X-5 cases with faulty transmissions, which can show up as hard jerking or hesitation in the lower gears and when taking off from a stop. If you have one of these or know of someone who does, call us at (888) 453-6665.
I will be contributing to Fox Business on a story about new start-up companies that mine social network data in determining loan applications. I mean, can you believe this? If I have too many friends with low credit scores, this could affect my own creditworthiness. Here’s the blurb from Fox Business:
YOUR FACEBOOK PROFILE COULD CHANGE YOUR CREDIT SCORE
Big data once reserved for use by companies to target their advertising, may now determine your ability to get a loan. Some tech startups that are now using social data as a way of measuring credit worthiness, which could make securing a loan significantly easier – but that also depends on how you behave on the web. The company Lenddo for example, judges your credit worthiness based your Facebook friends. If your roster is full of people with high credit scores they can pass the same onto you, but if you interact often with someone who’s delinquent on a loan, they can blow your chances of getting one. LendUp on the other hand looks at social media to fact check prospective borrowers’ applications. Another lender Kreditech says that it uses up to 8,000 data points when assessing a loan application including location, likes, friends, what kind of apps and operating systems you use, even how you click around their webpage. Take your time reading through loan information on Kreditech’s website and your chances of getting the loan improve, fill out the application in no caps or all caps, and they go down. Then there are companies like Kabbage, which says it can use data from a company’s online payment accounts like eBay and Paypal to assess creditworthiness and transfer loan money in just seven minutes. For now these tech startups are still a niche market, but analysts say their methods are on the verge of going mainstream.
GROUNDBREAKING RULING FROM FEDERAL TRADE COMMISSION: CERTEGY (DATA BROKER FOR CONSUMER INFO ON CHECK WRITING) HELD IN VIOLATION OF FAIR CREDIT REPORTING ACT!
Groundbreaking Federal Trade Commission (FTC) ruling: FTC fines Certegy for violations of the Fair Credit Reporting Act.
Folks, there are so, so many data brokers out there that traffic in and make money off of your personal information. It’s impossible to name all of them or keep track of all of them, but believe me, they gather info on you ALL THE TIME and then sell that info at a handsome profit. Certegy specifically gathers information about consumer check-writing, and sells it. Other data brokers gather your information about insurance claims, tenancy claims or complaints, employment information, salary information, public records, retail habits, etc. etc.
When the information that the credit bureaus or the data brokers have on you is FALSE (and it often is), you can be denied insurance, apartments, loans, jobs…you get friggin’ sidelined in our culture.
You are protected by the Fair Credit Reporting Act and by parallel California laws. Really, I’m not kidding–you do need to know about these protections, because trafficking in your personal information is the new growth industry in our country and it’s not going to get any smaller.
See my website, www.socalcreditdamage.com, for info about the Fair Credit Reporting Act.
Here’s the article about the FTC action against Certegy:
Excellent New York Times Op-Ed on Why Credit Bureaus Actually Do Not Have Incentive to Provide Consumers with More Accurate Credit Reports.
Here’s an excellent op-ed piece from the NY Times on why credit bureaus do not have the incentive to make their credit reports more accurate. Good reading!
To Catch a Creditor
By JEFF SOVERN and IRA RHEINGOLD
Published: July 10, 2013
IN 1999, Judy Ann Thomas of Elyria, Ohio, applied for a loan. But the bank mixed up her record with the file of a Utah woman named Judith Kendall — their Social Security numbers have seven digits in common. Because Ms. Kendall had a poor credit score, Ms. Thomas didn’t get the loan.
In the years since, as Ms. Thomas testified before Congress in May, she has repeatedly asked credit bureaus to correct her records, only to have her files re-contaminated. In 2010, when she applied for a job, the prospective employer questioned Ms. Thomas’s honesty after receiving Ms. Kendall’s records in response to a background check.
Ms. Thomas’s situation is not unique. Earlier this year the Federal Trade Commission completed a multiyear study of credit-report errors and found that nearly 20 percent of consumers had errors in at least one of their credit files, and that 13 percent saw an improvement in their scores when the errors were corrected.
Confused files, like Ms. Thomas’s, are also common. A 2012 study by The Columbus Dispatch analyzed 30,000 complaints to the F.T.C.; of those, 1,500 people reported that their files included someone else’s information. Nearly a third said the credit agencies did not correct the errors, despite being asked to do so.
Most egregious, almost 200 people said their reports showed them as deceased. At least one consumer, upon complaining to a credit bureau, was told that it had investigated and verified the report of his death.
While federal law requires credit bureaus to conduct a reasonable investigation of consumer complaints, the marketplace can penalize credit bureaus that investigate too aggressively. Credit bureaus are heavily dependent on lenders for both revenue and the information the bureaus package and sell; if a credit bureau presses a lender too hard, the lender could patronize a different bureau and withhold data about its customers.
In contrast, consumers have little power over credit-reporting agencies. Consumers cannot, for example, block credit bureaus from obtaining information about their transactions.
Consequently, credit bureaus have every reason to favor lenders’ interests when investigating complaints.
For their part, lenders may benefit when credit bureaus report consumer defaults, even incorrectly, because such reports put pressure on consumers who wish to maintain good credit ratings to pay even disputed claims.
To be sure, credit bureaus sell credit-monitoring services to consumers, but those services create odd conflicts for the bureaus. If credit reports were to become completely accurate, consumers wouldn’t need credit monitoring, and the bureaus would lose revenue.
We do not mean to suggest that a bureau or lender would deliberately report errors. But when credit bureaus decide between investing in improving the accuracy of their reports to help consumers, or in profit-making credit-monitoring services, the choice is obvious.
Meanwhile, “reasonable investigations” by the bureaus are almost meaninglessly brief, with almost no communication with the lender. Similarly, the lender may arrive at its determination by comparing the disputed item with the same records that gave rise to the dispute in the first place.
Only now, decades after Congress established the reasonable-investigation requirement, are credit bureaus experimenting with sending lenders the actual consumer complaints. In theory, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau could do more to make the investigations more aggressive — but unfortunately, the bureau, still in its infancy and embroiled in disputes over whether its director was properly appointed, hasn’t done so.
In short, it’s up to Congress to act. It could, for one thing, improve accuracy by imposing liability on lenders for failing to conduct investigations when consumers complain to them. As it stands, consumers cannot sue lenders for failing to investigate without first complaining to a credit bureau, something consumers may not know to do. If consumers had greater rights against lenders, no doubt lenders would be more cautious about the accuracy of their records.
Moreover, the C.F.P.B. and the F.T.C. should insist that the bureaus be more careful in matching files to consumers, by, for example, requiring that all nine Social Security digits match, instead of just the seven that Judy Ann Thomas and Judith Kendall shared.
Congress could also require greater accuracy from credit bureaus and lenders, and it could give consumers the power to seek injunctions against bureaus to stop them from using inaccurate files.
The market failed Ms. Thomas, and existing laws have not solved the problem. We should fix those laws so that consumers who play by the rules can have good credit, jobs and the financial stability they seek.
Jeff Sovern is a professor at St. John’s University School of Law and a coordinator of the Consumer Law and Policy Blog. Ira Rheingold is executive director of the National Association of Consumer Advocates.