This is general information; not advertising, solicitation, or legal advice. If you have a legal question, please contact a lawyer in your state to protect yourself. Do not rely on anything you read here, especially in lieu of contacting a lawyer directly. Every case is different, and every case turns on its own individual facts.
It really All Starts Here
Your most important asset? You can't physically touch or taste it, drive it or turn-it-on. It is your credit standing. Unfortunately, most people don't understand this until too late where their ability to obtain the critical credit they need for themselves and their family is severly limited. Without access to credit, millions are relegated to being classified as the working poor and forced to deal with the predatory lenders and merchants of this world instead of having access to legitimate and traditional sources of credit where the cost is controlled by market forces rather than circumstance.
All of this begins and ends with what is contained within the four corners of one's credit report. There are three major credit reporting agencies that maintain data on everyone of us. It is estimated by experts that nine out-of ten reports contain errors of some kind. It is, therefore, critical to regularly monitor your credit reports. Fortunately, Congress has made this process easier for us. You can now get your credit reports online annually for FREE from each of the "Big Three" by going online at www.annualcreditreport.com. We, therefore, urge everyone to obtain their reports on, at least, an annual basis and maybe that it not enough.The Fair Credit Reporting Act, among other things, requires credit reporting agencies to follow reasonable procedures to assure the maximum possible accracy of the information they report. It also provides for specific procedures for disputing and correcting any inaccurate or incomplete information reported by credit furnishers. If these procedures are not followed or obeyed any consumer who has been the victim of any such inaccuracy may be entitled to sue and is further eligible for civil damages as provided by law.
After obtaining your report, if you find any inaccurate or incomplete information, you must contact the Credit Reporting Agency reporting that information (NOT THE CREDIT FURNISHER) with what is termed a "dispute" as soon as possible and demand that it investigate. The law requires that the Reporting Agency receving your dispute contact the furnisher and report back to you within 30-45 days. When it does it will either make the correction you requested or verify that the information disputed is accurate. In case of the latter if you disagree, you entitled to bring an action against either the credit furnisher, the credit reporting agency or both. In fact, bringing suit after the inaccurate information is improperly verified as accurate may be your only option. When making your dispute we strongly recommend that you make it in writing and by certified mail requesting a receipt as opposed to making it online or by phone as a credit reporting agency will sometimes deny receiving it. The certified mail receipt will, obviously, avoid that problem.
Lastly, a very critical thing to remember whenever making a dispute is that the information reported and disputed must actually be inaccurate. Many consumers mistakenly apply what is referred to as a subjective standard rather than an objective one. By that we mean credit reporting agencies are not obligated to investigate and correct information which is subject to a great amount of interpretation and which require alot of extraneous proof. In other words, the inaccuracy must be subject to objective proof. For example, reporting an account delinquent for more than 7 years is easily proven. It is true that once a dispute is communicated by a credit reporting agency to a credit furnisher, regardless of the merit of any such dispute, the credit reporting agency must delete the disputed information if the furnisher does not timely respond. Because of this many consumers and credit repair operations look upon this process as somewhat of a game. This should not be the case where the process is treated as a crapshoot. At least, this office will not dispute any item that we cannot objectively prove to be inaccurate.
To assure privacy of one's personal and confidential credit information is the other function and purpose of the Fair Credit Reporting Act. This is yet another critical reason for periodically monitoring one's credit information. The consumer must make certain no one not having a permissible purpose under the Act to view your credit information does so. Impermissible access is the leading cause of identity theft. Monitoring one's credit information on a regular basis in order to spot suspicious accounts will, in many instances, help to prevent alot of future aggravation. However, not only must one look for suspicous tradelines in the body of their report, they must carefully review the account inquiry section of each of their reports for any strange or peculiar inquiries or for entities they don't recognize. Obviously, securing the kind of personal information which allows thieves to more easily access your credit information is paramount as well.
Your personal credit information is sacred and can be viewed by others only for limited purposes. When you are applying for an extension of credit a credit grantor is entitled to see how you pay your bills. So is your prospective employer, landlord or insurance company. A creditor who has previously extended you credit where the account is still open, may periodically access your credit information to conduct account reviews. That would exclude creditors such as Wells Fargo Home Mortgage who continue to access your credit information after discharging an account in bankruptcy. Godby vs. Wells Fargo.
When someone has impermissibly accessed your credit information, in addition to running the risk of becoming a potential identity theft victim, it is not much different than any other personal invasion. I like to equate it to coming home and finding that someone has broken into your home and ransacked all the personal possessions and papers in your drawers and closets. We frequently deal with cases where consumer's credit reports have been impermissibly accessed. It runs the gamut from the greedy and impatient car dealer which wants to see if you're worthy of its expenditure of time (unless you have signed a credit application for a specific automobile, we would recommend that you check your credit report each time you have visited a car dealership) to a vengeful wife or ex-brother-in-law. You should contact any company which you don't recognize and question them. If you don't get a sufficient explanation, you should consider consulting an attorney. We have have much success and fun in bringing these cases on behalf of consumers.
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