General Information about Credit Reporting
How to get your credit report
It is generally a good idea to get a copy of your credit report every year, and certainly after a dissolution or a discharge in bankruptcy.
To request a credit report, include a check for $8.00 for EACH agency request. The $8.00 is not required provided you have a letter from a credit grantor denying you credit. However, you must mail the request to reach the agency within 30 days of the date on the turn-down letter. In your letter request, include the following minimum information:
a. Full name;
b. Social security number;
c. The addresses you have lived at for the last five (5) years.
(NOTE: If you have lived at your current address for less than one year, include a copy of your driver’s license, or similar ID to verify your current address.)
Equifax Credit Information Services
P. O. Box 105891
Atlanta, GA 30348
P. O. Box 2106
Allen, TX 75013-2106
Consumer Relations Dept
1561 E. Orangethorpe Ave.
Fullerton, CA 92831-5207
The Fair Credit Reporting Act.
The U.S. Fair Credit Reporting Act of 1971 governs credit bureaus. It was amended on Sept. 30, 1997 and includes stronger protections for consumers by increasing the responsibility of the credit bureaus to investigate consumer disputes. According to the Fair Credit Reporting Act, you are entitled to a free copy of your credit report if you have been denied credit within the last 30 days. If your application for credit, insurance, or employment is denied because of information supplied by a credit bureau, the company you applied to must provide you with that credit bureau’s name and address. You can dispute mistakes or outdated items for free. Ask the credit reporting agency for a dispute form or submit your dispute in writing, along with any supporting documentation.
Debt collection practices
If you use credit cards, owe money on a personal loan, or are paying on a home mortgage, you are a ‘debtor.’ If you fall behind in repaying your creditors, or an error is made on your accounts, you may be contacted by a ‘debt collector.’
You should know that in either situation the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act requires that debt collectors treat you fairly by prohibiting certain methods of debt collection.
Of course, the law does not forgive any legitimate debt you owe.
To help up understand your rights under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, you should know the following.
What debts are covered?
Personal, family, and household debts are covered under the Act. This includes money owed for the purchase of an automobile, for medical care, or for charge accounts.
Who is a debt collector?
A debt collector is any person, other than the creditor, who regularly collects debts owed to others. Under a 1986 amendment to the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, this includes attorneys who collect debts on a regular basis.
How may a debt collector contact you?
A collector may contact you in person, by mail, telephone, telegram, or fax. However, a debt collector may not contact you at unreasonable times or places, such as before 8 a.m. or after 9 p.m., unless you agree. A debt collector also may not contact you at work if the collector knows that your employer disapproves.
Can you stop a debt collector from contacting you?
You may stop a collector from contacting you by writing a letter to the collection agency telling them to stop. Once the agency receives your letter, they may not contact you again except to say there will be no further contact. Another exception is that the agency may notify you if the debt collector or the creditor intends to take some specific action.
May a debt collector contact any person other than you concerning your debt?
If you have an attorney, the debt collector may not contact anyone other than your attorney. If you do not have an attorney, a collector may contact other people, but only to find out where you live and work. Collectors usually are prohibited from contacting such permissible third parties more than once. In most cases, the collector is not permitted to tell anyone other than you and your attorney that you owe money.
What is the debt collector required to tell you about the debt?
Within five days after you are first contacted, the collector must send you a written notice telling you the amount of money you owe; the name of the creditor to whom you owe the money; and what action to take if you believe you do not owe the money.
May a debt collector continue to contact you if you believe you do not owe money?
A collector may not contact you if, within 30 days after you are first contacted, you send the collection agency a letter stating you do not owe money. However, a collector can renew collection activities if you are sent proof of the debt, such as a copy of a bill for the amount owed.
What types of debt collection practices are prohibited?
Harassment. Debt collectors may not harass, oppress, or abuse any person. For example, debt collectors may not use threats of violence or harm against the person, property, or reputation; publish a list of consumers who refuse to pay their debts (except to a credit bureau); use obscene or profane language; repeatedly use the telephone to annoy someone; telephone people without identifying themselves; advertise your debt.
False statements. Debt collectors may not use any false statements when collecting a debt. For example, debt collectors may not falsely imply that they are attorneys or government representatives; falsely imply that you have committed a crime; falsely represent that they operate or work for a credit bureau; misrepresent the amount of your debt; misrepresent the involvement of an attorney in collecting a debt; indicate that papers being sent to you are legal forms when they are not; indicate that papers being sent to you are not legal forms when they are.
Debt collectors also may not state that you will be arrested if you do not pay your debt; they will seize, garnish, attach, or sell your property or wages, unless the collection agency or creditor intends to do so, and it is legal to do so; actions, such as a lawsuit, will be taken against you, which legally may not be taken, or which they do not intend to take. Debt collectors may not give false credit information about you to anyone; send you anything that looks like an official document from a court or government agency when it is not; use a false name.
Unfair practices. Debt collectors may not engage in unfair practices in attempting to collect a debt. For example, collectors may not collect any amount greater than your debt, unless allowed by law; deposit a post-dated check prematurely; make you accept collect calls or pay for telegrams; take or threaten to take your property unless this can be done legally; contact you by postcard.
What control do you have over payment of debts?
If you owe more than one debt, any payment you make must be applied to the debt you indicate. A debt collector may not apply a payment to any debt you believe you do not owe.
What can you do if you believe a debt collector violated the law?
You have the right to sue a collector in a state or federal court within one year from the date you believe the law was violated. If you win, you may recover money for the damages you suffered. Court costs and attorney’s fees also can be recovered. A group of people also may sue a debt collector and recover money for damages up to $500,000, or one percent of the collector’s net worth, whichever is less.
Where can you report a debt collector for an alleged violation of the law?
Report any problems you have with a debt collector to your state Attorney General’s office and the Federal Trade Commission. Many states also have their own debt collection laws and your Attorney General’s office can help you determine your rights.
If you have questions about the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, or your rights under the Act, write: Correspondence Branch, Federal Trade Commission, Washington, D.C. 20580. Although the FTC generally cannot intervene in individual disputes, the information you provide may indicate a pattern of possible law violations requiring action by the Commission.
How to repair your credit.
This section actually deals with correcting your credit record. While information must be removed if it is inaccurate (and you can prove it), negative information can only be removed by agreement with the creditor. For instance, if you settle an outstanding debt, part of the settlement agreement could include that the creditor would not include negative information about you.
That being said, if, after getting a copy of your credit report, you notice errors on it, take it easy. You are not alone! The basic strategy is simple, although somewhat time-consuming and detailed.
Get and review your credit report.
Identify each item that you believe is out-of-date, for instance lawsuits, paid tax liens, accounts sent out for collection, criminal records, late payments and any other adverse information older than seven years, bankruptcies older than ten years from the discharge or dismissal. (Credit bureaus often list Chapter 13 bankruptcies for only seven years, but they can stay for ten.), credit inquiries (requests by companies for a copy of your report) older than two years.
Identify each item you believe is inaccurate, for instance incorrect or incomplete name, address, phone number, Social Security number or employment information, bankruptcies not identified by their specific chapter number, accounts not yours or lawsuits in which you were not involved, incorrect account histories–such as late payments when you paid on time, closed accounts listed as open–it may look as if you have too much open credit, and any account you closed that doesn’t say “closed by consumer.”
Collect items pertaining to the error – for instance, receipts, canceled checks, billing statements, discharge order, etc. Call the creditor and see if they will send you the information if you don’t have it.
Make copies of the collected items.
Write a letter to the credit bureau describing the error and attach the relevant documents. Keep a copy of the letter and the attachments for your records.
Mail the whole package to the credit bureau. It’s a good idea to send it certified so you have a record that the credit bureau received your information and when they got it. The credit bureau is required to send your letter to the company whose information is in dispute. The credit bureau must respond within 30 days. If they do not, the information must be changed as you requested.
If you do not hear from the credit bureau within 30 days, or if they respond and insist that the information is correct, call the bureau to discuss the problem. Experian: 800-392-1122 Trans Union: 800-851-2674 Equifax: 800-685-1111
If you don’t get anywhere with the credit bureau, directly contact the creditor and ask that the information be removed. Write to the customer service department, vice president of marketing and president or CEO. If the information was reported by a collection agency, send the agency a copy of your letter, too. Creditors are forbidden by law to report information they know is incorrect.
You must receive written notice of the results of the investigation within five days of its completion, including a copy of your credit report if it has changed based on the dispute.
If the new investigation reveals an error, you may ask that a corrected version of the report be sent to anyone who received your report within the past six months. Job applicants can have corrected reports sent to anyone who received a report for employment purposes during the past two years.
If the reinvestigation does not resolve your dispute, have the credit bureau include your version of the dispute (up to 100 words) in your file and in future reports.
Once information is deleted, the credit bureaus can no longer reinsert it unless the entity supplying the information certifies that the item is complete and accurate and the credit bureau notifies you within five days.