Make credit bureaus fix credit report errors

If you have one or more errors in your credit report but the credit bureau won’t take your dispute seriously, don’t give up. You can file a complaint with the federal government or perhaps even sue.

The federal Consumer Financial Protection Bureau has taken separate actions lately to send the credit reporting industry a message that it expects it to take disputes seriously.

In September, the agency issued a statement telling so-called furnishers, the companies that supply information to the credit bureaus, that they are responsible for investigating any disputes the bureaus forward to them. They also must inform the bureaus about the results and correct any errors. (The Federal Trade Commission announced in August that a Florida-based furnisher had paid $3.5 million to settle charges that, among other things,  it did not follow proper credit report dispute procedures or take reasonable steps to ensure the accuracy of the consumer information it furnished to merchants.)

The CFPB statement came less than a month after the CFPB announced that it has begun accepting credit report-related complaints from consumers. Among the issues the agency said it can work on are those involving:

  • Incorrect information on a credit report
  • A consumer reporting agency’s investigation
  • Improper use of a credit report
  • Being unable to get a copy of a credit score or file
  • Problems with credit monitoring or identify protection services.

You can get more information on checking your credit reports, including those provided by so-called specialty credit bureaus, by reading our report “Credit-report errors can cost you plenty.”

In yet another hopeful sign for victims of credit report errors, a federal jury in July awarded an Oregon woman $18.6 million after she accused the credit bureau Equifax of failing to correct numerous errors on her credit report. She said the errors resulted in her being unable to qualify for credit.

What to do

Start by checking your credit report. In a recent Federal Trade Commission study, five percent of consumers who checked their three major credit reports found errors that were serious enough to affect their credit scores. You’re entitled to one free report from each of the three major bureaus every 12 months. One trick is to order one report every four months. But if you’re planning to apply for credit and haven’t obtained copies of any your reports recently, consider getting all three well in advance so you’ll have to time review them for mistakes before you apply.

If you find errors, file a dispute with the reporting agency. Keep copies of all the communications related to your dispute. If you don’t hear back or the agency refuses to correct the errors, file a complaint with the CFPB. You might even consider contacting a consumer attorney to explore other options, including legal action.

Anthony Giorgianni

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