"CLEANING" THE CREDIT REPORT
As you have probably noticed, there exists a large industry of fee based companies attempting to help you straighten out issues with your credit report.
I do NOT provide credit repair services but do want Arizona consumers to be able to take control of their credit, correct mistakes and errors and to enforce their rights when those appropriate corrections have not been made.
You can however, correct your credit report on your own without paying for it. Read The Federal Trade Commission's article entitled "Credit Repair - Self Help May Be Best" here or follow my instructions below.
Remember that just because you are able to successfully remove an incorrect item, this does not mean that it will be gone forever. It may reappear on a credit report or get reported to another.
TWO RULES OF "CREDIT REPAIR"
1. You cannot change or remove accurate information that is less than 7 years old. Creditors have the right to tell the truth about you. Potential creditors have the right to expect that the information they receive is accurate as well.
2. Put everything in writing. Send everything by certified mail, return, receipt requested.
STEPS TO TAKE
You can attempt to resolve your credit report errors by following the steps below. If the information is not corrected, you may be entitled to file suit against the bureau and/or the provider of the information if they fail to or refuse to correct the inaccurate information.
STEP 1 - GET THE REPORT
A consumer is entitled to obtain a free copy of the his or her credit report on line once every 12 months. Go to www.annualcreditreport.com and request your complimentary Experian, Transunion and Equifax profile. Get copies from all three bureaus as the information reported on you may vary between the three agencies.
If you have already received your free credit report, or if you have not been denied credit in the last 60 days (which will allow you to get a free report), you will have to pay for it. The web addresses to obtain copies of your reports are as follows:
Do not get your reports from other vendors as the contents may not be complete and may be difficult to read. Also do not pay for your credit score or other offers made by the credit bureaus. Just get your free reports.
STEP 2 - REVIEW
There are five sections in each credit report.
- Identification Information - name address, social security number, date of birth, former addresses, your employer's name, your job description etc.
- Credit History - This section shows your accounts and how timely you paid them.
- Collection Accounts - Accounts being collected by a collection agency but also by debt buyers.
- Public Records - These records are usually obtained by a contractor for the credit bureaus. Bankruptcy, judgement, satisfaction of judgement, tax liens, releases of tax liens, foreclosures are examples.
- Inquiries - This is a listing of businesses that have either pulled your full report or received certain information from the report.
STEP 3 - WHAT CAUSED THE MISTAKE?
There are plenty of mistakes to be made including simple data entry mistakes, the merging of your credit report with someone else's, identity theft related mistakes, bankruptcy information not correctly included etc. These errors can be caused by the creditor, the bureau, the collection agency or the company that provides the public record information.
STEP 4 - DOCUMENT THE PROBLEM
Gathering proof that the item is incorrect and disputing the problem in writing with that evidence does a few important things:
- if you file a suit, it shows the court that you are serious
- triggers legal protections
- makes it more likely that your situation will be resolved.
There are some specific documents that you should use to prove that an item is inaccurate on the report.
Account you did not open
Copies of your signature from a cancelled check, mortgage paper etc. to allow the comparison of your signature by the credit reporting agency.
An identify theft fraud affidavit wherein you swear the account is not yours.
A police report that shows that you have notified the police that it is not your account.
Debt discharged in bankruptcy but still showing a balance
Copy of your petition, schedule showing the creditor and discharge order. These are meant to show that as of the date you filed bankruptcy you should no longer be shown as being late or that the debt is owed.
Send a copy of your driver's license and other similar document (car note, tax return, social security card).
Never late? Why does it show I am?
Provide copies of statements or bank account records showing when and how much you paid.
STEP 5 - DISPUTE THE PROBLEM
Send the proof along with a dispute letter to the credit bureau that is showing the incorrect information.
(go to my forms page for some example letters - please be aware that these letters are simply forms, you should visit with competent counsel about your particular situation)
You MUST send the dispute letters directly to the credit reporting agency. In order to create a legal obligation in the company that provides the false data to the bureau, you have to provide the bureau notice. The liability of the furnisher of the information to the bureau depends on its response to the credit dispute you provide to the bureau.
Send the disputes by certified mail return receipt requested. With certified mail, you can track the letter all the way to the credit reporting bureau using the postal service website tracker.
Send the credit dispute and copies of your proof to each credit reporting agency and copy the documents to the furnisher that is providing the incorrect information.
The letter needs to contain at a minimum:
The name of the company reporting the incorrect information
The account number
A statement that the account was in error
Why you believe the credit report is in error
What you want done (deleted or corrected in a certain way)
That you want a statement from the Credit Bureau of the manner in which it investigated the claim including the name and phone number of anyone contacted in connection with the reinvestigation.
Your name, social security number, address and date of birth
The attachment of relevant documents
You may demand to have them send corrected information directly to a company that pulled your report if you were denied credit based on an error in a report.
EACH SITUATION IS UNIQUE
Each situation is unique so each letter should address the facts of your particular matter. Competent counsel may help draft a letter for free that will help you on the path to correcting the mistakes.
Contact me if you want to discuss your credit report.