Fair Credit Reporting

Your Right to a Fair and Accurate Credit Report

[fair credit photo]The nation's credit reporting system is in crisis. Credit bureau insiders have estimated that over 50% of all credit reports have errors. Those errors are costing consumers millions of dollars in unfair interest rate charges and lost credit opportunities. Unfortunately, the bureaus are so overburdened with information that consumers have little chance of being heard when they have a dispute.

You have a right to a fair and accurate credit report under the law. Whenever a consumer reporting agency prepares a consumer report, it must follow reasonable procedures to assure maximum possible accuracy of the information concerning the consumer.

The First Step to a Fair and Accurate Credit Report: Obtain a Copy of Your Report

As our society becomes increasingly dependent upon the information contained in credit reports, it is critical that every consumer check their credit reports on a regular basis. Free credit reports are available in the following circumstances:

  1. Once per year.
  2. Within 60 days of being denied credit.
  3. If you have been the victim of identity theft.
  4. If you are unemployed and plan to look for a job in the next 60 days
  5. If you are a recipient of public assistance

To get your free annual copy of your credit report, you can download the form found at www.annualcreditreport.com and send it to the following address:

Annual Credit Report Request Service
P.O. Box 105281
Atlanta, GA  30348-5281

Or call the Annual Credit Report Request Service at 877-322-8228.

If you have been denied credit in the last 60 days, the company that denied you credit must send you an "adverse action notice." That notice will instruct you on how to obtain a credit report from the bureaus that reported the negative information.

If you have already exercised your right to a free credit report this year, call the following numbers to buy a copy of your report. The bureaus may charge no more than $9.50 for a copy of your report.

Equifax: 1-800-525-6285
Experian: 888-EXPERIAN (888-397-3742)
TransUnion: 1-800-680-7289

Always ask for a copy of your credit report by regular mail and not over the internet. The terms and conditions that the credit bureaus force you to consent to over the internet can be unfair. For example, the Bureaus may try to force you to waive your Constitutional right to a trial by a jury should you have a dispute with them. Such a waiver would prejudice your right to a free and fair hearing.

How to Address Credit Report Errors

If your credit report contains errors, you can and must write a dispute letter to the credit bureaus. The credit bureaus have an obligation to conduct a reasonable reinvestigation to determine whether the disputed information is inaccurate. After the reinvestigation, the credit bureaus must record the current status of the disputed information or delete the item from your file before the end of the 30-day period after it received notice of the dispute. If the credit bureau does not correct or delete the information, then the Fair Credit Reporting Act gives you the right to sue for damages. The Fair Credit Reporting Act also provides that the credit bureaus must pay attorneys' fees and court costs.

To assist you in the process of disputing errors on your credit reports, McCoy, Turnage & Robertson offers the following sample dispute letter. Please note that you must provide sufficient information to identify yourself, including your name, address, social security number and date of birth. While it is not required that you send a copy of the dispute letter to the furnisher of the information (for example, the original creditor or the collection agency), it can be helpful to do so.

You should write a separate letter to each bureau that contains the inaccurate information. Click here to view a Sample Error Dispute Letter.

Identity Theft

If you have been a victim of identity theft, you should request that fraud alerts be appended to your credit reports immediately. The contact information for the three credit bureaus is as follows:

Equifax: 1-800-525-6285
P.O. Box 740241
Atlanta, GA 30374- 0241

Experian: 1-888-EXPERIAN (397-3742)
P.O. Box 9532
Allen, TX 75013

TransUnion: 1-800-680-7289
Fraud Victim Assistance Division
P.O. Box 6790
Fullerton, CA 92834-6790

Warning: Stay Away from "Credit Repair" Companies

There are hundreds of companies that will promise to "fix" your credit for a fee. These companies routinely promise more than they can deliver. Additionally, the dispute process is not something that you should have to pay for. The law states that the credit bureaus must conduct a reasonable reinvestigation of disputed information "free of charge." Call an experienced Fair Credit Reporting Act attorney before entrusting your credit reputation to a "credit repair mill."

Links

Two of the best and most useful sites on credit issues and identity theft are:

The Fair Trade Commissions's Website on Credit, which is found at:
http://www.ftc.gov/bcp/conline/edcams/credit/index.html

The Privacy Rights Clearninghouse which is found at: www.privacyrights.org

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