I am Being Hurt by a Mistake on My Credit Report. What Should I Do?
If there is a mistake on your credit report that is impacting your life, you need to DISPUTE the mistake with each Credit Reporting Agency (Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion) that shows the mistake. You can contact the company that owns the account with the mistake, but you must Dispute the information with the Credit Reporting Agencies to protect your rights. If the mistake on the credit reports continues after proper disputes, you should contact an experienced attorney to find out your options regarding an FCRA dispute.
Your credit report can affect many important aspects of your life, from finances to employment to identity theft. A mistake on your credit report can stop you from getting approved for a loan or hired for a new job. A mistake can also force you to pay much higher interest rates.
Dispute Credit Report Mistakes – Common Examples
The most common credit report mistakes are:
- Identity Theft: Your credit report should not show any accounts or transactions resulting from identity theft or fraud.
- Mixed Files: Your credit report is yours and should not have anyone else’s information on it. All the accounts, addresses, and names on your credit report should be yours. Your credit report should not have information from someone with a similar name, address or social security number.
- Improper Reporting on Paid Debt: If you have already paid off debt, including credit card debt, medical debt, or overdue mortgage payments from a foreclosure, the report should not show you in default.
It is critical that the information on your credit report is accurate. Sometimes, one or all of the three Major credit reporting agencies (Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion) will make a mistake on credit reports, and cause:
- Financial Harm
- Loss of Employment
- Denial of Credit or Insurance
- Emotional Distress and Problems with Relationships
Fortunately, the FCRA (Fair Credit Reporting Act) exists to protect people from credit report mistakes. The FCRA provides for a “Dispute Process” to allow Consumers the chance to make sure the information being reported is accurate. It also provides a chance to bring lawsuits against the Credit Reporting Agencies and the companies that report false information, after a proper FCRA dispute and with proof that the mistakes caused damage to the Consumer.
What is the FCRA (Fair Credit Reporting Act)?
The FCRA (Fair Credit Reporting Act) is a federal law that protects Consumers from misuse or false reporting on credit reports. Under the FCRA, companies that may issue you credit or insurance are considered to have a “Permissible Purpose” to access your credit information. Other companies without a “permissible purpose” cannot access your credit report.
The FCRA also protects you from incomplete or inaccurate information on your credit report, including but not limited to:
- Duplicate listings for the same debt
- Accounts that you do not know about or didn’t open
- Outdated information
Additionally, most negative information can only be reported for seven (7) years. After that, it must be deleted from your credit report with some exceptions, such as:
- Bankruptcy information can be reported for 10 years;
- Information reported because of an application for a job with a salary of more than $75,000 has no time limitations;
- Information reported because of an application for more than $150,000 worth of credit or life insurance has no time limitation;
- Information concerning a lawsuit or judgment against you can be reported for seven years or until the statute of limitations runs out, whichever is longer.
Under the FCRA, consumers can dispute their credit report to the proper reporting agency, and they have 30 days to respond. The dispute must include the current, incorrect report, as well as documentation that validates the mistake. If they do not correct your report, it is a violation of federal law. (See the Sample Dispute Letter from the FTC here)
To best prepare to pursue claims against a Credit Reporting Agency or the Furnisher:
- Save any and all of the credit denial letters you receive, including the envelopes.
- Save clean, original copies of each of the credit reports you have received.
- What is the nature of your credit reporting issue? (Ex: identity theft, mixed file, identification information and/or accounts that are not mine are on my credit report, accounts that are mine are
- reported incorrectly, other – please describe)
- Identify which credit reporting agency(ies) are improperly reporting.
- Record the date you first noticed the problem.
- Dispute the problem directly with the credit reporting agency(ies).
- Keep copies and records for all disputes.
- Keep the response from the credit reporting agency(ies).
- Keep proof if you have been denied credit.
- If you received an increased interest rate due to this negative mark, keep all the records.
- Keep a journal of all emotional distress (i.e., loss of sleep, fight with spouse, stress, etc) caused by this problem.
How Can I Safely Obtain My Credit Report?
To prepare to dispute credit report mistakes, we encourage clients to obtain their free credit reports from Annual Credit Report only. This centralized website has been authorized by federal law and is safe to use.
How to order your Annual Credit Report:
- Visit www.annualcreditreport.com
- Call 877-322-8228
- Mail the Annual Credit Report Request Form to:
- Annual Credit Report Request Service, P.O. Box 105281, Atlanta, GA 30348-5281
It is recommended that you DO NOT obtain your credit reports online through a consolidated or tri-merge credit reporting service. Online services don’t always have reliable information. Online Services are also harder to link directly back to the particular source of the incorrect information.
Will COVID-19 Affect My Credit?
COVID-19 has left many people out of work and struggling financially. A common concern is whether or not COVID-19 will have long term effects on credit. It is important to know that if you are receiving mortgage forbearance or loan modifications due to the pandemic and you were current on your payments at the time the forbearance began, your lender is not allowed to report that you are in default.
Under the federal CARES Act, your lender, or any other creditors, are not allowed to make any negative reports due to financial relief you are receiving because of the pandemic. If your lender or creditors are misrepresenting your credit due to COVID-19, contact our office today.
Take Steps to Protect Your Credit
If you notice an error on your credit report, here are some important steps you can take to minimize the damage:
- Check Your Credit Report Often and Check for Errors. Get your free credit report from annualcreditreport.com at least once a year for each of the three (3) major Credit Reporting Agencies. Is someone reporting you in debt when you are not? Are any accounts showing up that you are not aware of? Be proactive and take steps to detect and address a problem as soon as it happens.
- Talk to Your Creditors Early. If you are worried about missing a payment, contact your lender or any other creditors as early as possible to discuss options and credit protection plans. Keep detailed records of any communication with your lender for future reference.
- Put a Credit Freeze in Place. If you do not think you will be using your credit in the near future, you can place a free credit freeze on your account to prevent scams or identity theft.
- File a Complaint. If you notice an error on your credit report, file a complaint with the credit reporting agency, your creditor, the CFPB and/or the FTC.
- Contact an Attorney. If you are unsure about the information on your credit report, or need help filing a complaint, contact an experienced New Jersey FCRA dispute lawyer to get legal help. At the law office of Ira J. Metrick, we will give you a free consultation to help you understand your rights and options.
Contact an Experienced NJ Credit Report Dispute Lawyer
If you had perfect credit and have suffered damage due to a mistake in your credit report, contact the law office of Ira J. Metrick today for a free consultation. We can help you review your situation and prepare a credit card FCRA dispute. To prepare for your call, here are some questions we will ask you about your situation:
- What is the nature of your credit reporting issue? (Ex: identity theft, mixed file, identification information and/or accounts that are not mine are on my credit report, accounts that are mine are reported incorrectly, other – please describe)
- Which credit reporting agency(ies) is the problem with?
- When did you notice the problem?
- Have you disputed the problem directly with the credit reporting agency(ies)?
- If you disputed, was the dispute(s) made via telephone, internet, or through the mail?
- If you disputed, do you have documentation of the dispute(s)?
- If you disputed, when was your most recent dispute?
- What was the response from the credit reporting agency(ies)?
- Have you been denied credit?
- If you have been denied credit, when and for what?
- Has your problem been resolved? If yes, when?
- Have you received an increased interest rate due to this negative mark? If so, for what?
- Have you refrained from using your credit knowing this mark was on there?
- Has this caused emotional distress (i.e., loss of sleep, fight with spouse, stress, etc)?