Following The Money

An estimated 25% of consumers’ credit reports have errors in them serious enough to cause a denial of credit, according to studies referenced by the National Consumer Law Center (NCLC). Forty million mistakes which are difficult to correct are made on credit reports, and 1 in 10 Americans have errors on their credit reports that might lower their credit scores, per a 60 Minutes Report interview by Steve Kraft. (Elizabeth Warren, A Fighting Chance, p. 313, n. 154;

One question that immediately comes to mind regarding these alarming statistics is: Who is causing all these errors to appear on your credit reports?  For starters, the answer would include retail merchants, financial institutions, debt collection companies and the credit bureaus themselves (especially Equifax, Experian and Trans Union). Sadly, although these entities are obligated by federal law to ensure maximum possible accuracy in reporting your credit information, they frequently have other fish to fry.

In the film All the President’s Men, a secret informant named “Deep Throat” famously directs Washington Post correspondent Bob Woodward to “follow the money” in the Watergate investigation. This is sage advice when it comes to litigation involving false credit reporting.

We recently took the deposition of the president of a debt collection company that was furnishing very derogatory information on a debt that was disputed by our client. When the president was asked why he made the decision to pursue litigation against our client, he responded, “I made a decision that there were assets, and that’s the basis on my decision, as to whether or not there are assets to pursue…And  based on my review, I thought that there were assets.” Note that his initial motivation was not to ensure the accuracy of his company’s reporting of the disputed debt, but to determine whether our client had money he could go after. He determined that she did so he gave it the “green light” for the next stage.

Until there is a much better system in place, the greed motivation will continue to predominate in the credit reporting industry. Unfortunately, so long as the foxes continue to guard the hen house you needn’t bother expecting any great zeal in policing the accuracy of the information contained in your credit reports.

Copyright © 2019 by Robert F. Brennan.  All rights reserved.

Posted in Uncategorized | Comments Off on Following The Money


Credit repair organizations are sprouting up like weeds and have been since the Great recession.  Americans are more conscious than ever before about the importance of having and maintaining good credit.  Without it, you will be treated like a poor person at any bank where you apply for a loan, and you will pay much higher interest on any loan or credit you obtain.

This article hopefully accomplishes two things: first, you need to know that you can probably handle your own credit repair just as effectively as a credit repair organization.  Second, it may be impossible to completely clean your credit report no matter what anyone tells you.  Third, if you do hire a credit repair organization, please be sure that it is not doing anything to make your credit worse with underhanded tactics and approaches that the credit bureaus hate.

Common Myths About Credit Repair

It’s good to start with some common myths to clear these up.

  1. Myth: you can get any bad credit mark off of your credit report. Fact: if you really do owe the debt and you really were late, in default or in bankruptcy, then it’s likely that the bad mark will stay on your credit report even if you hire a credit repair organization.  I hear advertisements where some credit repair organization promise to completely cleanse your credit report of all negative information.  This is simply not possible.  If a bank or a creditor verifies false information after you dispute it, it will most likely remain on your credit report.
  2. Myth: credit repair organizations have “secret techniques” to cleanse your credit that no one else knows. Fact: this is false.  Some credit repair organizations utilize underhanded tactics which may cleanse your credit for a short time, but once the negative information comes back onto your credit report, it’s there to stay.  Don’t believe any credit repair guy who claims to have some insider secret.  Everything you need to know about legitimate credit repair can be found at the Federal Trade Commission website or at various places on my website,
  3. Myth: if you cannot obtain good credit, you need to go to a credit repair organization. Fact: you probably do not need to go to a credit repair organization.  Some real estate agents will want you to go to a credit repair organization if you are in the middle of a real estate loan and you need a very quick repair on some aspect of your credit report.  When this happens, go ahead and follow the recommendation of your real estate agent.  The one bit of value that a legitimate credit repair organization can offer is cleansing your credit perhaps a little faster than you can, because a legitimate organization will have cultivated some contacts at the credit bureaus and also at some major banks.  However, if you regularly review your credit report (you should, at least once or twice a year for each of the three major bureaus) and you find negative information you want to remove or clarify, if you are not in a big hurry then do it yourself.  I will tell you how in this article.


How Bad Credit Repair Organizations Try to Repair Your Credit—and End Up Hurting You

Bad credit repair organizations have a couple of phony strategies which end up hurting you, more often than not.  One is to take a “shotgun” approach, and dispute each and every item on your credit report, whether or not it’s a valid debt.  This approach attempts to take advantage of the law which requires credit bureaus (Experian, Equifax and TransUnion) to process disputes within 30 days of receipt.  By overwhelming the dispute agents at the bureaus, the bad organizations attempt to push the disputes past the 30-day limit, and then the bad credit remarks will be removed, along with the entire tradeline.

The problem with this approach is that the bureaus have the legal ability to mark you, or the credit repair organization you hire, as a “frivolous disputant,” and thereafter will ignore all of your disputes, even if valid.  Further, if this strategy works, it is often for the short term only: once the furnisher or the credit bureau realizes that the bad mark has fallen off your credit report because of the 30-day limit, the bad mark will often be re-reported, if it was valid.  So, it may come off of your credit report for 3 months or so, then come right back on again.

Another thing bad credit repair organizations do is to mark all of your negative tradelines as “not mine.”  This is more or less the easiest dispute to make.  It can cause some problems for some furnishers of information, as it is a very broad and non-specific dispute, but again, even if it works in the short term to remove negative information, that probably won’t last.  Further, disputing a tradeline as “not mine” when in fact it is subjects you to being labeled a frivolous disputant.


How to Handle Your Own Credit Report Disputes

It’s pretty easy and you do not need the assistance of a credit repair organization.

First, remember to use old-fashioned letters.  Disputing over the phone leaves you with no record of the dispute or how you expressed it.  Similarly, disputing online gives the credit bureau all of the information but leaves you with none.  You absolutely want to keep a record of your dispute, and it’s best to use “snail-mail” and certified mail to send it to the bureaus, so you will have a record of the dispute.

The addresses for sending disputes to the bureaus are given on their websites, and can also be found at  This is the Federal Trade Commission website.  You can also google “addresses for sending credit report disputes.”  I just did this and obtained the following addresses:

Here are the mailing addresses for each credit bureau:

  • Equifax. P.O. Box 7404256. Atlanta, GA 30374-0256.
  • Experian. Dispute Department. P.O. Box 9701. Allen, TX 75013.
  • TransUnion. Consumer Solutions. P.O. Box 2000. Chester, PA 19022-2000.


You must dispute with the credit bureaus to invoke the federal Fair Credit Reporting Act, which is the law you would most likely use to sue credit bureaus or banks for false credit reporting.  So, send your disputes to the bureaus who are reporting any false, inaccurate or unverifiable information, and cc the bank, creditor or debt collector that is furnishing the bureaus with the false information.  The bureaus have 30 days to investigate the dispute, and can respond by removing the tradeline, modifying it or letting it continue to report.

What I have just described is what most or all of the credit repair organizations do for you.  You can do it at no cost (other than postage) and it doesn’t take that much time.

If indeed you have false, inaccurate or unverifiable information on your credit report and you cannot get it removed with the disputing process, then you need to see an attorney who specializes in litigation under the Fair Credit Reporting Act.  My firm is such a firm, and we would love to review your possible case free of charge.


Copyright © 2019 by Robert F. Brennan, Esq.  All right reserved.



On Super Bowl Sunday, Experian will afflict you with more commercials for its “dark web” scan.  I have received a number of emails from clients and colleagues asking whether it’s worth it.

My answer is: probably not.  Reason: if Experian finds your name or identifying information on some nefarious website in the “dark web,” Experian’s advice to you will be to change your passwords, use stronger passwords and put security alerts or a credit freeze on your credit bureau accounts.  However, you can do all of that without paying Experian for a “dark web” scan.

First things first: what is the “dark web”?  I do not hold myself out as an expert, but I have done some research on this.  The “dark web” is a subset of the “deep web”.  The “deep web” consists of websites that will not respond to searches from traditional search engines, like Google, Bing or Yahoo.  If you search, for instance, “Super Bowl” on any of the traditional search engines, you would get websites from what is traditionally thought of as “the clear web”.  You would not get any hits for websites in the “deep web”.

The “deep web” consists mostly of legitimate websites, such as legal members-only websites or proprietary company websites, such as in internal website used by a large corporation.  In general, these websites tend to be more private in nature.  By some estimates, the “deep web” consists of over 90% of the overall internet.

The “dark web” is that portion of the “deep web” in which illegal activity occurs, such as drug or illegal currency trafficking, child pornography or hiring hit men (no joke).  There are websites on the “dark web” which traffic in stolen identities.

To access a “dark web” website, you normally would need a dark web browser (TOR is probably the most well-known one) and you would only browse using a VPN—virtual private network, which essentially disguises your identity, your computer credentials and your location while you are browsing.  Really, anyone can do this—it’s not difficult to get onto the “dark web”.  However, be forewarned: law enforcement agencies around the world have lots of tricky ways of monitoring people browsing the “dark web,” even if you take steps to do it anonymously.  So fooling around on the “dark web” is not recommended—one false step and you can easily put yourself in the crosshairs of a law enforcement agency.

Now, back to the topic at hand: the Experian “dark web” scan. 

First, understand that the “dark web” is only one avenue of selling a stolen identity, and probably not a very significant one.  If someone steals your identity, chances are they already have a willing buyer somewhere and there would be no need to post it for sale on the “dark web”.

Second, while I have no doubt that Experian knows about several locations for stolen identities on the “dark web,” I strongly doubt it knows about all of them.  More than any other area of illegal activity, the internet is a place where the criminals are ALWAYS one or more steps ahead of the people trying to catch them.  So, while Experian can conduct a “dark web” scan, I strongly doubt that it would be a complete or comprehensive scan.  What percentage of the “dark web” can Experian access?  I don’t know, but it’s probably not a whole lot more than any private investigator with good computer knowledge can access.  And, I strongly doubt Experian’s “dark web” access is equal to the access which has been achieved by various law enforcement agencies.

Finally, as I mention above: if Experian finds your name or identifying information on the “dark web,” Experian will tell you to change your passwords, use stronger passwords and possibly put a credit freeze or security alerts on your credit profiles with the three major bureaus.  You can do that without paying Experian for the “dark web” scan.

But hey, if you want to hire Experian to do a “dark web” scan, I would be very interested in hearing the results.

I hope this short article has been useful to you.  Thanks for reading.

Bob Brennan

Posted in Uncategorized | Comments Off on EXPERIAN “DARK WEB” SCAN—IS IT WORTH IT?

Experian Boost Wants to Help Raise Your Credit Score, But…

EXPERIAN WANTS TO HELP YOU RAISE YOUR CREDIT SCORE…but there’s a catch: you have to permit Experian to view and monitor your personal bank accounts. Experian’s new product, Experian Boost, says it can raise credit scores for subprime consumers by taking into account regular payments on rent, phone and utility bills. But here’s the catch: Experian will contract with Finicity, which will then have electronic access to your bank accounts.

Hey, devil’s bargain, right? If your credit score is low and you need to raise it, yes, you might benefit from this program. Your personal banking information is the “holy grail” of the corporate you-really-have-no-privacy crowd. So, when you inherit, when someone repays a loan to you, when you sell your old beater car and deposit the money into one of your bank accounts…Experian now will have access to that information and, yes, will sell it to willing buyers, including debt collectors and telemarketers.

So, you choose what’s right for you. I thought you at least should have this warning.

Equifax is rolling out a similar product in 2019

Posted in Uncategorized | Comments Off on Experian Boost Wants to Help Raise Your Credit Score, But…

Robert F. Brennan Discusses His Relationship With His Uncle, US Supreme Court Justice William J. Brennan, Jr.


Originally Published By Super Lawyers (Read Full Article Here)

U.S. Supreme Court Justice William J. Brennan Jr. was dubbed “probably the most influential” justice of the last century by no less an authority than fellow justice, and political foe, Antonin Scalia.

But to Bob Brennan he was Uncle Bill.

“He was just the smartest guy in the room,” recalls Brennan, who practices consumer rights law in La Crescenta. “It was like he was the sun and the planets were revolving around him. … The man just had an incredible presence.”

Justice Brennan had seven siblings, including one who died in World War II, and all were highly accomplished, Brennan says. “But obviously, the all-star here was my uncle.”

Bob’s father, Frank Brennan, general counsel for E.&J. Gallo Winery for many years, tried to steer his son toward the law, but Bob resisted. Instead, after majoring in English, he worked in San Francisco as a paralegal and a comedy writer.

“This is circa 1982-1983, so I’m sure that a lot of my jokes had to do with Ronald Reagan.” Eventually, economic reality—and long talks with his father—redirected Brennan to law school, where he was in for a surprise.

“I found out that I really enjoyed practicing law,” he says. “I had a skill set that was well-suited.”

Litigation, in particular, interested him, but an incident inspired him to narrow his focus. While working as a summer associate, Brennan rented a room that already had an occupant. Brennan notified the landlord, canceled and moved out. Two years later, he discovered the landlord put negative information on his credit report.

“It made me upset, and piqued my interest in credit reporting cases,” he says. “I started doing lemon law. Then I started Fair Credit Reporting Act cases … consumer financial- and consumer goods-type cases. I have been doing that for over 20 years.”

Brennan has just finished trying a case for a client who had his identity stolen by a man who bought three cars using his victim’s credit. The client struggled to clear his name and managed to do so with all but one creditor—BMW Financial. Brennan landed a Fair Credit Reporting Act and identity theft verdict of $430,000. In addition to that, the judge awarded attorney’s fees of approximately $280,000.

“The one thing I think I see on a regular basis that other people don’t see is the effect that some of these consumer-abuse situations can have on individuals,” Brennan says. “It can be really, really devastating.”

His uncle, who passed away in 1997, would no doubt have approved. The year before Justice Brennan’s death, his nephew attended his 90th birthday party.

“I got to meet 20 to 30 of his clerks,” Brennan recalls. “Everyone referred to him as Yoda: this little guy who had more wisdom and power than anyone else on the planet. They all talked about how much fun it was to work with him, how decent a human being he was.”

Brennan was known for getting along with everyone—with one notable exception. “My uncle had his differences with Justice [Warren E.] Burger,” says Brennan. “Dick Nixon wanted to get rid of William J. Brennan, and so Justice Burger became the person assigned to giving Justice Brennan assignments that would interfere with his life.”

Brennan’s first wife, Marjorie, was in the hospital with cancer, for example, ”and my uncle wanted to visit her as often as possible. Chief Justice Burger got wind of that, and he would continuously give my uncle assignments that would interfere with my uncle’s free ability to [do so]. … This is probably coming from Nixon—that Burger was trying to pressure my Uncle Bill to resign—but my Uncle Bill refused. He took on whatever additional assignments he was getting.”

That was the anomaly, though. “In terms of the modern political and judicial landscape where judges are disagreeing with each other all the time,” Brennan says, “Justice Brennan literally stands alone.”

Posted in Uncategorized | Comments Off on Robert F. Brennan Discusses His Relationship With His Uncle, US Supreme Court Justice William J. Brennan, Jr.


Carfax has been around for several years now, and, given the advertising, many consumers think that it presents an accurate vehicle history when buying a used car.

Well, sometimes.

Carfax will gather information from participating states’ Department of Motor Vehicles and participating dealerships and repair facilities.  Note the word “participating”.  If a body shop or a dealership does not report some vehicle history items to Carfax, then these items will never make it onto a Carfax report.

More important, Carfax does not have access to insurance claims records, which is where the goldmine really is.  When someone wrecks their car and files an insurance claim to fix it, this claim information will go to LexisNexis (used to be Choicepoint, before LexisNexis bought Choicepoint from Equifax), which maintains the information in a proprietary database.  You cannot just call up LexisNexis and get a copy of the report unless you are an owner of the car.  So, effectively, you do not have easy access to what probably is the most valuable source of information about vehicle history.

Also, Carfax suffers from “reporting lag,” where information which should belong on a Carfax report does not wind up on the Carfax report for up to six months.  This one is baffling, because Carfax has the ability to gather and report the information it does have pretty much immediately.

Dealerships know about these flaws in Carfax, and use them to trick consumers.  Dealers, when retailing a car with known collision damage, can pull a Carfax and find out if the Carfax is “clean”.  The car may have damage and the damage may be easily observed by any competent inspection of the vehicle, but if the car has a clean Carfax report, you can bet that many dealers are going to try to retail the car.  The alternative for a collision-damaged car is a wholesale auction, and the dealers do not make any money when they have to auction a car.  On the other hand, dealers make their best money retailing used cars to consumers.  There is definite incentive to cheat.

So, if you are buying a car and you get a “clean Carfax” from the dealer, insist that the dealer also provide you with its inspection report, to see if the dealer’s technician has noted any collision damage.  Or, before you buy (particularly if you’re spending a lot of money on the car), insist on having your own mechanic inspect it.

And, if you’ve been cheated with a collision-damaged car or a prior lemon with a “clean Carfax,” then call our firm.

Thank you for reading.


Seungtae Kim v. BMW Financial Court Case

Seungtae Kim v. BMW Financial is a case which was tried in federal court in Los Angeles, in which the jury rendered a verdict in plaintiff’s favor.  Plaintiff Seungtae Kim, a Korean doctor of Eastern medicine, had his identity stolen by a former friend and colleague.  The identity thief used Seungtae’s identity to buy a BMW, which was later repossessed because the identity thief did not maintain his payments.  BMW Financial and two of the three major credit bureaus then reported the repossession on Seungtae Kim’s credit reports.  Seungtae Kim disputed in writing with the credit bureaus and also sent identity theft police reports to the bureaus and to BMW Financial, but BMW Financial insisted that Seungtae Kim had colluded with the identity thief to purchase the car.

The trial proceeded on theories of the federal Fair Credit Reporting Act and the California Identity Theft Law.  The jury returned a verdict in Seungtae Kim’s favor for $430,000.00.  The judge then added attorney’s fees and costs pursuant to the Fair Credit Reporting Act and the California Identity Theft law.  The total verdict was close to $900,000.00, one of the largest verdicts of its kind in California under these laws.

BMW Financial appealed the verdict but the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals rejected BMW’s appeal and upheld the verdict in Seungtae Kim’s favor.

Read the Full Article Here on

Posted in Uncategorized | Comments Off on Seungtae Kim v. BMW Financial Court Case

Identity Theft and Credit Damage – The Importance of Getting a Police Report

If you find yourself a victim of identity theft, there are three essential actions you need to take immediately:

  1. Notify your bank(s) and credit card companies of the identity theft. If you have already identified some fraudulent charges, report them immediately.  Close out any affected credit cards.  (Note: just because identity thieves steal one card does not mean they have access to other cards you may own.  You will have to use your best judgment as to which cards to close and which ones you should not close.  If you have any doubts about a credit or debit card, close it, and ask the bank to issue you a new account.
  2. Obtain a police report! Make several copies.  The banks and credit card companies frequently will not take action on a claim of identity theft unless you provide a police report.  The reason is simple: there are, unfortunately, people who falsify claims of identity theft to avoid paying their bills, but these deadbeats frequently do not file a police report because a false police report subjects a person to criminal prosecution.  The banks and the bureaus see the filing of a police report as a “bona fide” that the person making the claim of identity theft is being honest, and is not just making the claim to avoid paying bills.
  3. Obtain copies of your credit reports with the three major bureaus: you can get one free report from each of major credit bureau (without credit scores) once a year through You need to review your credit report and promptly dispute any entries that may be the result of an identity theft.  Dispute not only the tradelines—the sections showing your history with a given bank or lender—but also anything like a name you don’t recognize or an address you don’t recognize.  Identity thieves can add false name variations (“Joe M. Jones” vs. “Joe L. Jones”) and false addresses when they steal your identity.

You need to take these three steps at once.

Should you sign up for credit monitoring?  In my opinion, if you can get it for free or at a very, very reasonable price, and if it makes you feel better, then you can sign up for it.  I personally do not have credit monitoring because I check my online bank pages frequently and I also check my credit reports periodically.  I don’t necessarily recommend against credit monitoring; I just don’t like to see people pay good money for it when, in all but the most extreme situations, it’s probably not necessary.

I hope this short little blog entry helps you.

Copyright © 2018 by Robert F. Brennan.  All rights reserved.

Posted in Uncategorized | Comments Off on Identity Theft and Credit Damage – The Importance of Getting a Police Report

Thank You John Oliver… But That’s Only Half the Story!

I really appreciate John Oliver bringing to people’s attention the problems with debt collection and credit reporting of old debts, particularly medical debts.  However, consumers need to know quite a bit more.  I am lucky to have been invited onto KPCC Radio 89.3 on the morning of July 7, 2016 to discuss this problem which faces so many consumers in today’s world.  I hope my interview gives you a better insight into the problems, as well as some solutions which you may find useful.


Posted in Credit Fraud | Comments Off on Thank You John Oliver… But That’s Only Half the Story!

The Perils of Purchasing a Used Car

Planning on buying a used car soon? Then first open your eyes – very wide. In our office, over the years we’ve seen it all. Frauds perpetrated on used car lots against California consumers are common, and may be getting worse.

There are various types of fraud:

What kinds of fraud are there? To name a few, the dealer forging your signature on documents, tampering with the odometer, falsifying figures or terms on a lease, and lying about the previous ownership history (for example, failing to disclose that the car was a prior rental). One of the most common types of fraud encountered by our clients is being sold a used car with undisclosed, extensive collision damage.

Often the consumer, before purchasing the vehicle, asks the salesperson if the car was ever in an accident, and that salesperson indignantly replies something like this: “Absolutely not! If it had been in an accident I couldn’t sell you this vehicle even if I wanted to.” At some point later, when you discover to your chagrin that the car indeed had sustained major collision damage, the salesperson’s false claim may play back in your mind, but be assured that the same salesperson is never going to admit to having made such a representation.

Actually, a lot of dealerships have become more brazen about committing fraud and will even claim they are not obligated to disclose any structural accident damage to a consumer before the sale, even though this is complete nonsense.

The Moral of the Story:

Don’t believe anything a used car salesperson tells you, especially if they aren’t willing to put it in writing. Just don’t buy it if you hear, “The previous owner is starting a family and just needed to get a bigger car,” or, “The vehicle was kept in mind condition and belonged to the owner’s wife,” or the salesman’s uncle, brother-in-law, etc. For all you know, the car could have sustained massive frame damage, been declared a total loss by the insurance company, then sold to an auto auction without a salvage title, from whence it finally ends up before you on the used car lot. Before you buy, get the vehicle checked out by a good mechanic at a reputable auto body repair facility. Also, demand a copy of the car’s repair history.

CarFax or TrueCar Do Not Necessarily Contain All of the Information about Vehicle History

Just because a car has a “clean Carfax” does not mean that it is a clean car. Carfax only reports vehicle history which is reported to it, and insurance companies—the ones who would pay for repairs after collisions—do not generally report to Carfax. Carfax also sometimes does not have vehicle information for many months after a consumer purchases the vehicle. Thus, when the consumer bought the car, it had a “clean Carfax,” but six months later there is a report of a collision or a prior rental history on the Carfax. Carfax is a tool, yes, but far from a perfect one.

Most consumers unfortunately do not follow this advice:

A few weeks after purchase the death trap is rattling down the road, falling to pieces. The consumer takes it into a body shop for an inspection, or at a dealership for repairs, and is informed that the car had sustained severe collision damage such that its structure now consists of twisted metal and Bondo. The consumer is told, unfortunately, that the vehicle can never be repaired adequately to make is safe to drive, or bring it back to the manufacturer’s specifications, and that to even attempt to do so would cost thousands of dollars.

Starting Your Case:

This is the point at which your legal case can begin. Armed with the inspection report (which should include color photos highlighting the accident damage), you are ready to do battle with the dealership that ripped you off. Try to make suitable arrangements so that you won’t have to use the vehicle if the inspector tells you it is not safe to drive. Write up a diary detailing everything which transpired to this point, complete with dates, first and last names, telephone numbers, and all misrepresentations made to you. Write a certified letter to the dealer giving the facts and demanding your money back.

Don’t be surprised

At this point, the unethical used car dealership will try to blame it all on you. This callous attitude may be difficult for you to comprehend, but it is nevertheless commonplace. To reiterate, make sure you get a good, thorough inspection of the vehicle detailing all of the damage noted. Keep in mind that in the legal sphere, complete and accurate documentation is vital to your case.

Please protect yourself:

To help avoid getting yourself into this depressing predicament, again, do not believe any “sales puffery” about the car from the dealership and do take the vehicle in for an inspection by a qualified mechanic and body shop before you buy. By a “doubting Thomas.” By doing so, you may save yourself more money and headaches than might believe.

*The above is an abbreviated and slightly edited article of the same title by Mr. Brennan

Posted in Lemon Law | Comments Off on The Perils of Purchasing a Used Car