Statistics show that 80% of credit histories have at least one error. Most of them are minor and inconsequential but some can have an adverse effect on your credit score, often costing your thousands on mortgages and car loans. I believe credit bureaus were so lackadaisical about accuracy because it forced consumers to buy their credit reporting services. You wouldn’t know there’s an error unless you paid Equifax for a copy of your report. Fortunately, federal law now makes it possible for us to police our own records and force bureaus to correct them, all on their dime. Here’s how:
Inside, email addresses, phone numbers, and addresses for over 100 different companies to inject your customer service complaints into their corporate executive offices, and get it well on the way to success.
The three big credit reporting agencies—Experian, TransUnion, and Equifax—have been inaccurately reporting debts on millions of consumers’ credit reports even after the debts have been forgiven during bankruptcy filings. Once forgiven, the debts are supposed to be removed from credit reports, but the agencies are continuing to report them as active. They have until October 1st to comply with Judge David O. Carter’s order to “revamp their systems,” writes Jane J. Kim on the Wall Street Journal’s finance blog. Now if you’re in debt trouble, you can look forward (?) to having either unpaid debts on your credit report, or a bankruptcy filing, but hopefully no longer both at the same time.
So what exactly is the problem? After 12 online (and phone) disputes to Equifax and 14 calls (and faxes) to the Direct Loan Servicing Center, each party seems to blame the other.
You’ve probably seen those commercials featuring a friendly looking jackass and his factually inaccurate songs about what can happen to you if you don’t check your credit report. It’s true, checking your credit report is a good idea, but you can avoid subscription-hawking pay sites and, instead, go to AnnualCreditReport.com.
I have been battling with a silly preconception the federal government has concerning my status as a deceased person, that causes them to routinely shut down credit cards that I am using, and stresses my ability to build credit. (All this despite being actively enlisted in the US Navy)…
Having trouble finding the mailing address for any of the three major credit bureaus, TransUnion, Experian, Equifax? Here they are:
To add (just) insult to (just) injury, a Florida judge awarded $518,301 to Angela Williams’s attorneys (PDF link). Ms. Williams recently won almost $3 million in a lawsuit against Equifax for Equifax’s refusal to fix her credit report after her identity was stolen.
We wrote about Eric Drew a few weeks ago—his personal information was stolen by a shady lab technician while he was undergoing treatment in 2004.
If calling the regular Equifax “customer service” (cough, cough) line at 866-640-2273 doesn’t work for you, email@example.com is an email address you can use to try to resolve problems with your Equifax credit report. Equifax really doesn’t give a damn about you because you’re not its customer, banks and lenders are, but a reader says that he was able to use this email address to get an Extended Fraud Alert that he didn’t put on taken off his account. You can also try 404-885-8000, which is a direct line into their Atlanta corporate headquarters.
“Why can’t I get my credit report?” one of our 16-year-old readers (obviously precocious in the personal finance responsibility department) wanted to know. It seems if someone under 18 tries to get it online, say through annualcreditreport.com, they’re told no. It turns out you can order your report, you just need to do it by an old-fashioned letter. You’ll want to to include in your request your name, address, and Social Security number. This is good not just for go-get-em kids like our reader who want to make sure no one is buying a $40,000 boat with their credit, but also parents who want to protect their children from identity theft. The addresses for each of the bureaus follow.
Angela P. Williams tried for more than a decade to clear up her credit report after Equifax confused her records with those of a person with bad credit but a similar name. The company denied any wrongdoing, right up until the jury awarded a $219,000 verdict in damages against Equifax, and $2.7 million in punitive damages for violating the federal credit-reporting laws. The decision is a victory for frustrated consumers at the mercy of these powerful institutions whose record-keeping errors can ruin innocent lives.
A slate of companies legitimately profit from identity theft by offering services that the three credit reporting agencies refuse to make easily accessible to consumers. The Times brings us the stories of three such companies that are sucking the venture capital teat all the way to market:
How filing a fraud alert with each of the three major credit bureaus works, as told by a blogger who recently had to go through the process. [No Credit Needed]
All three credit reporting agencies recently announced plans to let consumers freeze their credit files. Credit freezes provide security at the cost of convenience: access to credit reports and scores is prevented without the consumer’s express authorization, making it difficult to open new accounts or lines of credit. Freezes are considered one of the best, albeit drastic, ways to guard against identity theft.
Beginning October 15th, credit reporting company TransUnion will let consumers freeze their credit reports, which means imposters will not be able to use your credit to do things like open new phone accounts or sign up for credit cards. While this is great news, the other two major credit reporters, Experian and Equifax, are so far not offering a similar feature, although they say they’re considering it.