Creepin’ Credit Errors

Here's what you can do when mistakes sneak up on you

the information is incorrect, the first thing that you should do is request–in writing–an investigation. You can start with a phone call. But you want a paper trail. It is often more effective to put pen to paper,” says Kathy McNally, vice president for National Financial Literacy for the National Foundation for Credit Counseling (NFCC), America’s oldest and largest nonprofit organization dedicated to budget and credit education and counseling, in Silver Spring, Maryland. “You have to persevere. If you have canceled checks or a letter showing you paid off the loan, send copies of it. Once the incorrect information is removed, you, as a consumer, can request that the correct information be mailed to all creditors who had requested information in the last two years.”

According to Experian, these errors can be the result of several factors: (1) the consumer payment history is reported incorrectly by an information or loan provider; (2) the consumer causes a mistake by using his or her name inconsistently (i.e., Bob or Robert) to obtain credit. “Use your full name written on your birth certificate all of the time,” advises Rod Griffin, manager of consumer communication for Experian, based in Orange, California; (3) the consumer may provide an inaccurate Social Security number; (4) the consumer omits the Sr. and Jr. with father/son names.

It’s the first issue that disturbs the Johnsons. “It really made me angry when I found out what happened,” says Edward. “I was turned down for cars and furniture in the last few years and didn’t know why. The [credit card company] admitted that it made a mistake. But playing with someone’s life is a horrible mistake. I work every day to take care of my family and pay my bills. And what my credit report says, although I am a grown man, is that I am not a responsible adult. That is unfair.”

When the erroneous accounts were removed from Edward’s credit report in October 1999, his credit rating
score went up and the loan was approved for 95%. “Consumers usually aren’t interested in credit reports until there is a problem,” says Griffin. Experian produces and distributes detailed consumer education information that discusses credit reports, important facts about co-signing for loans, credit card fraud, credit issues surrounding divorce, and everything else that is essential to protecting one’s credit rating. According to Griffin, this process of educating consumers helps them to better manage their credit history and determine their credit worthiness.

Some consumers are not as fortunate as the Johnsons, who had the credit card companies inform the credit bureau immediately of the mistake, and, in turn, had the credit bureau acknowledge the error and handle it expeditiously. Some information providers may refuse to change credit information that consumers say is incorrect.

“We will contact the lender to verify the information. They should respond within 30 days. If they do not respond, we delete the information. If they respond and say that the information is correct, we cannot change it,” says Griffin. “We have to

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