According to research in Elizabeth Warren’s recent book, A Fighting Chance (p. 313, n. 154), studies have found that an estimated 25 percent of credit reports contained errors that were serious enough to cause a denial of credit. Per Warren’s research, “The types of errors found across studies included mixed files (where one consumer was mistaken for another, and vice versa), identity theft, incorrect payment history, ownership dispute, and “re-aging” of debt” (where a delinquent or charged-off debt is given a new, more recent “date of first delinquency” to keep it reporting on the credit report for a longer period of time).
If you have recently reviewed your credit reports and found a serious inaccuracy that could be affecting your credit, there are certain steps you should take right away to protect your rights and hopefully get the inaccuracies removed.
The first thing you should do is prepare a good, quality dispute letter that addresses the inaccuracy head on. There is a lot of information out there about how to write a dispute letter, and sometimes that information is not only incorrect, it is actually harmful to your potential case. It is very important that your letter include all of the following: the date of your letter at the top; the name of the credit reporting agency you are sending the letter to (for example, Experian, Equifax, or Trans Union) and their address (you can typically get the address from the credit report itself); and the exact account and account number you are disputing as it appears on the credit report.
Make sure your letter clearly spells out what is inaccurate about the reporting of the account on your credit report. It could be, for example, that the credit report is stating that you are 30, 60, 90 or 120 days delinquent on the account when in fact you always paid the bills on this account on time and for the full amount, and you have documentation to prove it (such as bank account statements or cancelled checks.) If that is the case, clearly state so in your letter and then attach the documentation showing you were never late on that account. Ask them politely to correct the wrong information at once.
Always send your letter by certified mail, return receipt requested. Always send a cc of the letter to the furnisher (creditor, bank, debt collector) that furnished the false credit information.
If you need help with certified mail, your local post office can assist you. Remember to keep copies of everything you send and everything you receive, in particular the signed and stamped green return receipt card showing the credit bureau received your letter.
Never dispute via the bureaus’ online dispute website—yes, it is easier, but you do not get a copy of your dispute and you may be inadvertently waiving your right to bring a lawsuit by agreeing to an unfair binding arbitration. Likewise, never dispute with a phone call. It takes more time, but you always want to dispute via certified mail to the credit bureau or bureaus involved, cc to the furnisher of the information.
Typically, you would receive in the mail a written response to your dispute from the credit bureau within about 30 days. It may say something like, “Account Updated.” If so, check the report to see if they updated the account correctly. If they did not do so, call us. If the credit bureau responded to your letter something like, “Account Verified as Reported,” that means they don’t believe you and are not going to correct the inaccuracies on that account. In that case, definitely call us.
If you are the victim of identity theft regarding inaccurate credit reporting, by all means go to the police department and give a police report. Be complete, accurate and as thorough as possible and include any relevant documentation. Then get a copy of the report for yourself and make sure it is accurately stated, and that it is dated, signed by both you and the officer who took the report, and that it contains a case number.
Once you have your police report, write your dispute letter to the relevant credit bureaus and attach copies of the police report to assist them in their investigation. It is the credit bureau’s duty to take your identity theft claim seriously. They should contact the furnisher of the identity theft account and do whatever is necessary to properly investigate. You should also notify the furnisher with a certified letter and copy of the police report.
If the credit bureau, after its investigation, fails or refuses to remove the bogus account, then call us right away.
Hope the above helps you in resolving any inaccuracies on your credit report. If not, don’t hesitate to contact us, as sometimes litigation is the only way to get the credit bureaus and creditors to do the right thing. You can also contact us if you have any questions about any of the steps outlined above.
Copyright © 2015 by Robert F. Brennan, Esq. All rights reserved.