Credit Report Errors
There are three companies that keep records on all your major credit transactions, payments, and some of your personal information. These companies are called “credit bureaus” or “consumer reporting agencies.” The three main credit bureaus are TransUnion, Experian, and Equifax.
The companies that provide information to the credit bureaus are called “furnishers.” These are the banks, credit card companies, and medical offices who report you balance, last payment, and whether you are behind.
Any time you apply for credit, and sometimes even when you apply for a job, reports from the credit bureaus may be provided to employers and creditors. These reports are called your credit reports.
Most people, though, have never seen their credit reports. And because they haven’t seen their credit reports, they don’t know if the reports are accurate. So every time they apply for credit, information is provided that has never been verified by the consumer. One study by the Federal Trade Commission found that one in five people have significant errors on their credit reports.
The Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA), 15 U.S.C. 1681, evens the field. It is the federal law that regulates what can and cannot be listed on your credit report. Under the FCRA, you have the right to obtain a free credit report from each of the credit bureaus. (Additional reports are only $8 under Massachusetts law.) You have the right to dispute any inaccurate or misleading items on your credit report and have them fixed within 30 days.
Oftentimes, when people first become aware of errors on their credit reports is after they have been denied credit. Errors could be caused by identity theft, incorrect information submitted by the furnisher to the credit bureau, or even mixed credit files caused by the credit bureaus’ computers combining your file with someone who has a similar name (called a “mixed filed”).
If inaccuracies are not fixed, you then have the right to take the credit bureaus to court and to be compensated for any damages they caused. You are also entitled to up to $1,000 in statutory damages.
One of the most important things to remember about credit reporting, however, is that you cannot sue a credit bureau until you send them a dispute telling them that they are reporting inaccurate information. Culik Law has a free Credit Report Dispute Kit that you can use to do this. Our attorneys can advise you on how to correctly fill this out.
The first step to correcting credit report errors is to get copies of all your credit reports. You can order them by phone for free by calling (877) 322-8228, or by going to AnnualCreditReport.com, the official website for obtaining free credit reports.