A recent study published on Wall street showed that 80% of Americans have some issue with their credit profiles. That is an staggering number to reckon with. So if you are reading this article, most likely you have had some credit issues in the past or have unresolved matters right now. This article will help you understand how this process works and how your can leverage it to your advantage. Having good credit is essential, but nonetheless its not a smooth process the way things are set up around you.
As we mature from the Great recession millions of people have dinks, dents and pretty bruised up on the economic profile. If you were lucky enough to stand this onslaught, you were lucky and that is great. but most of us have not. So how do you get your credit right now as we head into post recessionary era? Here are some steps to follow.
STEP 1 Get your credit report for Free
You can get your free annual credit report from Annualcreditreort.com. Be careful for imposter sites asking money and subscriptions and even taking your information. Always check the web address carefully. Consumers are allowed to get one free report once a year, otherwise you will have to pay for it.
Examine your report, and look for any major errors in your file that you are not familiar with. There is always something there you have not seen. Examine your personal name and Social security number and addresses carefully, and than check all the open and closed accounts for correct reporting and balances. If there is something that is not right, make a note of it , and go through it, line item by line item, check small details and how they are being reported. Make a list of things you would like to dispute, and with the particular bureaus that is reporting it. Not all credit bureaus report everything the same, some report an item and some do not.
STEP 2 Start picking up the phone and call
If you find any outdated information that is also a negative item and should be removed immediately.
If there are any variations of your names that needs to corrected anyhow. If there are any variations of your Social Security number that must be disputed vigorously. Most bureaus will hide your Social security number citing your security as a pretext, when in fact they have included varying Social security numbers on you in the report, or mixed them up with your children or parents. This is a serious offense and must be reported to the Consumer Finance Protection Bureau if you find such attempts.
Here is what you do next. Pick up the phone and start calling between 9-5 PM till you get through. The Bureaus have no incentive to meet your call, so you would end up in a voice mail jail. You have to Google and find the most recent number as they keep changing them constantly. Go to some sites like Gethuman.com etc for help. The staffing is usually in some foreign country,so be prepared to face that hurdle as well. You can write them a letter but that takes time and the turnaround is a month away or more. Here are the numbers to call :
Equifax: 800-685-1111; P.O. Box 740241, Atlanta, GA 30374; www.equifax.com
Experian: 888-397-3742; PO Box 2002, Allen, TX 75013; www.experian.com
TransUnion: 800-888-4213; P.O. Box 2000, Chester, PA 19022; www.transunion.com
You can also start an online dispute, and that is just fine, but you will have to fax or mail the documents Its better to start the dispute on the telephone, and support that by sending a mailed letter with supporting documents. The dispute process is governed by FRCA known as Fair Credit Reporting Act and is regulated by FTC and now the Consumer Finance Protection Bureau. The law clearly states
“If the CRA [credit reporting agency] finds during the reinvestigation that a disputed item is inaccurate, incomplete, or cannot be verified, the CRA must delete or modify the item.33 No later than five business days after the completion of a reinvestigation, a CRA must provide written notice to the consumer of the results of the reinvestigation.” -FCRA, Section 611(a)(5)(A) .”
Once the disputed is generated, the Bureaus will forward it to the creditor who now has 30 days to respond or the disputed item will be deleted from the report. Most of the time that fails and favors the person disputing the information, specially when the item is few year back, and the lender/lenders who have your loan either finished or gone or changed hands. Than there is nothing to verify.
STEP 3 Diligently pursue the matter
You have to keep notes, who you talked to, and what dates ,and than call back within a reasonable time and ask if the information has been removed from the credit report. Your goal should be to remove the derogatory item from your report immediately in a minimum amount of time.
Credit bureaus have no incentive to remove your negative item. They are in the business of storing negative information on you as long as they possibly can. Why? Because you are their revenue stream and how can they lose you as Kaching member of their team? Every time you apply for credit, there is a Kaching sound in their hallways. You get denied, you were not approved, you have bad credit, or you have been reported dead they don’t care/ They care you run your credit multiple times. They get paid every time your credit report is run. Getting you to run your credit reports multiple times and they have multiple revenues on the same piper. It does not take a genius to know why they want to keep your negative items on that report forever.
Yes the credit bureaus have locked up files on living humans and declared them dead, and locked up their whole financial life. This happens more often than not. Its very difficult to get out of it, but you can. This issue can be dealt with by picking up the phone and telling them you are alive and since you are alive you will call the Consumer Protection Bureau if this file is not unlocked immediately and file a lawsuit at the same time.
Therefore once again pick up the phone and follow up. Keep following up till the cows come home. Never ever give a rest in your pursuit of freedom from this nightmare. The law is on your side, time is not, and you have to act, and you have to take action. There is no substitute for that. Calling like a shameless haggler get things done, after all its your credit report and your financial life.
STEP 4 File Complaints
If for some reasons you feel the errors are not removed and you feel strongly, by all means now pick up the phone and call Consumer Finance Protection Bureau and file a complaint. You can start an online complaint, and than follow it up with a well written factual complaint. The Bureaus are regulated by this new Financial Czar and they can get fined and penalized for violating the law. CFPB is a new organization established in the aftermath of 2008 recession. Take the matters up with them. Now you are in full fledged fight.
STEP 5 Litigate your dispute in Court
If that does not work or simultaneously Sue the credit bureaus. That is right. You can go to the small claims court and file a lawsuit asking the Judge to grant you an order to remove the derogatory information from your report. The bureaus hardly want to face you in court, and when they are served a proper summon, they have to hire a local attorney to represent themselves in court of law near your jurisdiction. They hardly let the matters go that far. You cannot ask the court to grant you favors or remove items, that are legally there. This technique works very well and courts have been helpful.There you would have damages under State laws, and other torts and relief as well. It usually wont go to trial and may get settled at some point.
For most of us consumers if done correctly, now a days, the phone dispute method works the best, but there are a number of steps you can take, and ratchet up the pressure as you go along, on a foot dragging entity, and there could be financial costs to you, but hell, whats a clean credit report worth to you?
There are many other matters that are beyond the scope of this article and if your case is highly specialized you would need a qualified consumer attorney to help your resolve these issues.