Common Problems

How To …

Identify Common Problems

Mistakes on your credit report can involve information that belongs to you but is reported incorrectly, or information that does not belong to you at all.  Such mistakes can lower your credit score and make the difference between getting a loan and not getting a loan!

It is up to YOU to make sure your credit report is correct! Knowing how to identify problems can help speed up the process of fixing them.

Below is a list of several common problems:

Identity Theft

Identity theft is a crime in which an impostor obtains key pieces of your personal identifying information such as Social Security number or driver’s license number and uses it for their own personal gain.  This crime includes everything from financial identity theft such as check fraud or credit card fraud, to criminal identity theft where the imposter offers your name or Social Security number when arrested for a crime.

It can start with a lost or stolen wallet, a data breach, a scam such as phishing, or may result from someone pilfering through your mail or even garbage.  It can happen to anyone, and it happens a lot.  Recent surveys show there are currently about 9 million victims each year.

Identity theft usually takes one of two forms

1.  A thief may acquire your existing credit account information and purchase products and services using either the actual credit card or simply the account number and expiration date.

This is basic credit card fraud and can be detected fairly easily by monitoring your credit card statements when they arrive each month.

2.  A truer form of identity theft results when a thief uses your Social Security number or other identifying information to open new accounts.

You probably will not learn this is going on until months later, usually when something bad happens – you are denied credit because of delinquent information appearing on your credit report that is not yours, or you start getting collection calls from a debt collector demanding payment for a past due account that you never opened.

Generally, you will not be required to pay any part of the imposter’s charges, but that is only if you can convince the creditor(s) that you are not the imposter.  That often is much easier said than done.  Creditors and debt collectors want to be paid, and just because you say that the debts are not yours rarely is enough to put a stop to the collection.  And through it all, your credit report is being littered with derogatory information that may take months and even years to correct.

We’ve put together a sample letter for Identity Theft – please click HERE to view this sample letter for your use.

Someone Else’s Info Is Shown Under Your Name

A mixed file results when your information is mixed together with that of somebody else.  This is most often seen with individuals with the same or very similar names, Juniors/Seniors or very common names, but also may happen as a result of a misspelling or typo.  Mixed files can be particularly difficult to get corrected.  There is sufficient similarity between your information and the person you are mixed with to have caused the merger in the first place, so the bureaus may not believe you when you say particular information should not be included in your credit report (especially if it is negative).  The more information you can give the bureau, the better chance you have of getting the problem corrected!

Illegal Access to Your Information

It is an invasion of your privacy to have your credit report circulated without a legal purpose, so the law requires that credit bureaus may only release your credit report for very specific purposes (like when you apply for credit, insurance or a job).  You should carefully review the Inquiries portion of your credit report to make sure that you recognize all the entities that requested hard pulls and account reviews.  If you do not, you may have a cause of action against the credit bureau and/or the entity that obtained your credit report for a violation of the FCRA.

HELPFUL HINT:   Keep paper by the telephone to jot down the date and telephone number of any strange calls you may get.  If someone is pulling your credit report, they may start contacting you as well.  This log will help prove the invasion of your privacy from their illegal access into your life!

Incorrect Information After Bankruptcy Discharge

If you filed bankruptcy, the actual filing will appear in the public records section of your credit report and may remain there for 10 years.  Your credit report should also show that each of the accounts included in your bankruptcy were discharged and the current balance is zero.  It is very common for accounts to be reported wrongly after a bankruptcy discharge and this severely impacts your credit score.

Old, Obsolete Information

In credit reporting, time really does heal all wounds.  Negative account information can only stay on your credit report for 7 years from the date the debt became delinquent.  However, debt collectors sometimes will “re-age” a debt, submitting a false date so it looks like the debt is more current than it is (to put more pressure on you to pay!).

Carefully review each negative account (both original creditor’s and debt collector’s accounts) to make sure that each is shown with the correct “original delinquency” date so it comes off your credit report when it is supposed to!

If you find ANY mistakes on your credit report, you should dispute those mistakes to the credit bureau immediately!

What To Do If You Are A Victim Of Identity Theft

The monetary and emotional toll of identity theft can be enormous.  Victims usually feel totally overwhelmed because there is no simple solution to “fixing” the problem.  The following is a list of the first steps to take.

Contact each of the main credit bureaus, Equifax, Experian and Trans Union, and tell them that you believe you are a victim of identity theft.  A temporary fraud alert will be added to you credit report, and each credit bureau will send you a copy of your credit report for free.  Follow up by writing each bureau to make sure they know you are a victim of fraud.

File a police report.  Many times the police may seem reluctant to write a police report because you do not have the details of the crime such as when or where it occurred.  Offer as much information as you can and be persistent.  You will have a much easier time cleaning up your credit report and stopping collection efforts related to the imposter’s bills if you have taken this step!

When you get your credit reports, carefully comb through each of them for anything that is not yours.  The most common things to look for are variations of your name, addresses that are unknown to you, public record items or accounts that do not belong to you, and requests for your credit report that you did not initiate.

Contact the credit bureaus and dispute each and every piece of information found on your credit report that is not yours.  Make sure you do this in writing!  Include a copy of your police report. Send the letters by certified mail and keep a copy for your records.

For the accounts and requests for your credit report that you do not recognize, contact those companies directly.   Advise them that you are a victim of identity theft and include a copy of your police report.  Again, you should do this in writing, send everything by certified mail, and keep copies for your records.

Carefully monitor your mail and credit-card bills for evidence of new fraudulent activity.

Keep copies of everything you send or receive. If you are denied credit, insurance or even employment, or if you are advised by an existing creditor that your account is being canceled or your interest rate is being raised because of information in your credit report, ask for confirmation in writing as to why that negative action was taken. Follow up directly with the entities identified as the source of the negative information.

Start a log of all your contacts with authorities, credit bureaus, financial institutions, debt collectors and anyone else you contact regarding your efforts to recapture your good name and credit.

We’ve put together a sample letter for Identity Theft – please click HERE to view this sample letter for your use.

For more information on identity theft and what you can do to protect yourself, you may wish to visit the following websites: