FCRA / Credit Report ViolationsCredit Report Errors

Your Credit Report: What You Don’t Know Can Hurt You.

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Credit report violations are like termites. You don’t notice them until they’ve done considerable damage, and they can cost you dearly. That’s because every time a negative item is entered into your credit report, your perceived creditworthiness inches downward.

The result? You may apply for credit and be rejected, or you may be offered credit at a higher interest rate than other consumers. For big-ticket items, like a car loan or home mortgage, this can mean paying thousands of dollars more than the next guy. Not good.

But credit reports are used for more than borrowing money. Your credit score can impact whether or not you receive a job offer or promotion, and can prevent you from being able to rent an apartment or obtain insurance. That’s why it’s crucial to keep tabs on your credit score, and to challenge inaccuracies whenever they pop up.

The Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) was signed into law in order to protect consumers from being unjustly penalized for inaccurate credit information. The law, as well as related regulations and caselaw have a number of important provisions, including:

  • Your right to receive one free credit report per year from each of the three major credit bureaus (Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion) via www.annualcreditreport.com
  • Limits regarding the length of time negative items can remain on your credit report
  • Your right to challenge inaccurate information with both the credit bureau and creditor
  • When you challenge an inaccuracy, the responsibility of creditors to place a notice of dispute in your credit report and to investigate your claim
  • A mandate that inaccurate information cannot be reported again
  • Your right to sue creditors, credit bureaus, and those who use credit reports for violations of the FCRA and recover either actual damages or statutory damages – whichever is higher
There are several ways in which your FCRA rights can be violated. The most common offenders are debt collectors. Debt collectors can, for example:

  • Send a report to the credit bureaus regarding a “new” unpaid debt that is in fact so old as to be legally uncollectible
  • Report a disputed debt to a credit bureau
  • Fail to note that you are disputing an item already in your credit report
  • Report payments as late, when in fact you paid on time
  • Report a debt as outstanding or charged off, when you either paid the debt or negotiated a debt settlement
  • Report an inaccurate account balance
  • Report a debt as current when it was discharged in bankruptcy
  • Use your credit score to determine your creditworthiness, but don’t provide you with your credit score
  • Don’t investigate an item you disputed
  • Don’t correct inaccurate information within 30 days after you’ve notified them of the error
  • Don’t tell a creditor that you’ve disputed an item in your credit report
There is actually quite a bit of confusion surrounding when a bankruptcy can no longer be reported on your credit report. Some sources say ten years, others say ten years for a Chapter 7and seven years for a Chapter 13. The law is actually very clear.

The Fair Credit Reporting Act (“FCRA”) directs credit reporting agencies to exclude bankruptcy case information from all consumer reports ten years after “the date of entry of the order for relief”, which means the filing date, not the discharge date. The FCRA does not distinguish between Chapter 7 or Chapter 13. (However, many credit counselors cite an “unofficial policy” of the three largest credit reporting bureaus – Experian, TransUnion, and Equifax – that removes a Chapter 13 filing from your credit report after seven years.)

While it’s true that one of the principle aims of the U.S. bankruptcy laws is to give an honest debtor a “fresh start”, it is crucial what your plan is AFTER bankruptcy. What happens after the bankruptcy court issues your discharge, your case closes, and your bankruptcy attorney sends you a nice letter wishing you well in the future? It is vitally important to know how to effectively work on your credit score after bankruptcy, and how you can keep that “fresh start.”

Haines and Krieger Can Help

If you suspect that your Fair Credit Reporting Act rights have been violated, Haines and Krieger can help you. We will guide you every step of the way, from helping you dispute items in your credit report to filing a lawsuit on your behalf. Because the FCRA says that those who violate the law must pay our fees, our representation is absolutely free. The FCRA allows you to recover statutory damages of between $100 and $1,000, or actual damages – whichever is higher.

You have nothing to lose and everything to gain by contacting Haines and Krieger for a free credit evaluation.

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