Have you been denied credit? Have you ever tried to get the credit bureaus to fix errors you found on your credit report? Did you know that doing it yourself is much better (and cheaper) than going to those credit-counseling places? Let me share my story with you and I hope by reading it, you find it helps you or someone else. Feel free to share anything you read here with others. Someone has to put the credit bureaus in their place.
I have written a lot here because I wanted to write it all down while it was fresh in my mind. I will work on it to make it is easier to understand, as time permits. It is time to make creditors and the credit bureaus who continue to print fraudulent information on my credit file, pay for their blatant disregard for the lives they ruin.
Consumers are being ripped off and their rights are being violated and someone should do something about it. It might as well be consumers themselves, because credit bureaus and their incompetent employees are useless. Plus money-hungry creditors will continue to destroy consumers' creditworthiness until they're forced to stop. If you have any questions about anything you read here, email firstname.lastname@example.org
I recently requested my credit report. It is one of those 3-in-1 credit reports from Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion. Imagine my surprise when I found mistakes! For starters, all of the following contained errors:
Now let me explain how and why these items I mention are in error.
- My current address
- Previous addresses
- Years lived at previous addresses
- Years worked at current employer
- Public Records
- Current address? WRONG!
(How they can have me living at my old address when they mailed my report to my current address?)
Regardless, they have me living at an address I moved away from 5 years ago. I would later discover that the reason why they have this address is because it was where I lived the last time a creditor reported something negative to the credit bureau about me.
(I'll go into detail about this particular creditor later)
- Previous addresses? I don't think so!
For one of my previous addresses, they have me living somewhere with a General Delivery address.
(Does that mean I lived in a cardboard box somewhere?)
Next they listed the address of the house next door to me from 8 years ago.
(Wonder if my old next door neighbors are listed as living at my old address from 8 years ago on their credit report!)
The credit bureaus claim that my husband worked for a company called All For One. We looked everywhere and could not find any mention of a company by that name anywhere.
(Maybe they think my husband was one of the Three Musketeers!)
- Years lived at Previous Addresses
- According to the 3 major credit bureaus, I'm be-boppin' all over the place, and I 'm even living in two places at once!
- Years Worked at Current Place of Employment
They have my husband listed as working at his current job for the past 20 years. He's been there less than 5 years in reality.
(Yes, TransUnion, Equifax, and Experian, "in reality" means in the real world where I am currently living, not to be confused with one of my previous addresses.)
Anyway, I told my husband that I think his boss should be paying him what he would be making 15 years from now. He should also be able to retire with a really big pension for being a loyal employee for 20 years.
- Date of Birth
TransUnion has my husband listed as being 8 months older than he actually is.
(Maybe his birth certificate is wrong!)
Not one to nit-pick, but the point is that there isn't much on the credit report that is CORRECT!
- Public Records This one's a doozy!
I don't mean to bloveate, but this last one takes a little explaining.
I used to live in an apartment complex owned by a Property Management Group named * Emess Management *. One day, five years ago, Emess Management slipped a note under our door that stated a request for tenants to pay an additional $25 dollars to pay for the owner's Annual License Fee. Emess Management said that they had already paid this fee to the city and needed to pass on the increase in their Annual License Fee to their tenants.
Immediately, a red flag went up and I proceeded to call places to ask if tenants were required to pay for this fee. Every place I called said a big fat, "NO!". I wrote a little note of my own back to Emess Management and explained what I had learned and added that it would have to be included in my rental agreement. Well, you wouldn't believe the trouble that followed because I refused to pay this 'fee'.
First, there were the 'reminders' from Emess Management that I had not yet paid this Annual License Fee of theirs. Then their 'reminders' included threats of late charges. I still wouldn't pay. Why should I? I don't care if it was one dollar more than what my lease stated. This property management group owns 6 apartment complexes. The one we lived in had a market value of over 5 million dollars! They couldn't afford their own fees? Please!
Anyway, wouldn't you know the first time I paid my rent later than I usually did, Emess Management went down to the Municipal Court and filed a Landlord-Tenant Complaint. Have you ever seen one of these? First, the scumbags filled out the complaint saying that we owed one month's rent we had already paid. Then they had the nerve to put down the next month's rent complete with the late charge, before the rent was even due. I looked carefully at the complaint and noticed that after adding up their totals they claimed we owed, I noticed a 25 dollar difference in the total sum. However, this mysterious 25 dollars was not explained on the complaint. Do you know why? Because they aren't supposed to demand that tenants pay for their Annual License Fee!
Anyway, to make a long story short, this complaint showed up on my credit file, even though I showed up on the day of the hearing listed on the complaint, showed my receipts, told them about the additional 25 dollars they were trying to collect, and then proceeded to think this issue was resolved. Well, it wasn't. But I only found that out last month, 5 years after this happened!
To top it all off, they also placed part of this complaint in a 'collection' account they are trying to get. Unfortunately for Emess Management, they got sloppy. They reported to the credit bureaus that this 'collection' account was first opened in March of 1996. Sorry, but I have a rental agreement (the original lease) that says we moved in on August 1, 1996. Now, WE are headed for Municipal Court!
I am in the process of exercising my consumer rights for Emess Management violating the Fair Credit Reporting Act by reporting fraudulent information to the credit bureau about a debt I DO NOT OWE! Fortunately for me, I kept every stinking piece of paper, including the lease, and the demands and threats for their Annual License Fee, that I received from Emess Management over 5 years ago. I have all the paperwork to back up what I'm saying. I guess I had a feeling that this would come back to haunt me one day!
* Emess Management *is in bold letters each time I mention them,
because everytime I think about them, I get angry! :)
Here are some tips and some advice I picked up along the way that may help you or someone you know whose credit is less than perfect.
- Save receipts, contracts, paid bills, ANYTHING else you ever get in writing!
This is especially important for dated material and anything with signatures. Even if you have to hold these things for 10 years, so what? It's only paper. Keep them in the basement or the shed in the yard. Eventually, you'll forget they're there, unless you need them one day. You'll be glad to have them if you ever do need them, as I did. It's the most important thing you can do where your credit is concerned.
I used to laugh at my husband for saving receipts and paystubs that were years old when we first got married, but not anymore. I found out the hard way that he was the smart one. Now I don't care if I have to store papers in every room in my house, I will never throw away a slip of paper that lists something I paid for, anything that has my name on it connected with a bill or notice, etc. The list is endless of what I will keep from now on.
Most important, if you ever rent, save ANYTHING and EVERYTHING you get from your landlord or rental office! Take pictures when you move in and again when you move out.
Now that you have all those papers to back you up:
- Request your Credit Report at least once a year; more often if you noticed errors on your credit report in the past.
It doesn't cost much to get a 3-in-1 from all three major credit bureaus, and it's worth it because the same things aren't reported to all of them. If you're denied credit, even for a stupid department store credit card, you're entitled to a FREE credit report.
WHEN YOU GET YOUR CREDIT REPORT, LOOK IT OVER LIKE YOU'RE GUS GRISSOM FROM CSI, OR PRETEND YOU'RE A SCIENTIST LOOKING FOR MICRO-ORGANISMS.
There will be discrepancies, you can count on it.
- Look at the addresses, current and former. Also look at the dates they list you as living at those addresses. If there are addresses on your credit report, and you never lived at any of them, dispute them! If the dates of when they say you were living at correct addresses are wrong, dispute them!
- Look at the employer information. If they have you working at a place where you were never employed, dispute it! If they have you working at the right place, but the dates you worked there aren't right, dispute them!
Now here comes the most important part!
- Look at the credit history. This would be where they would list any judgments, collections for bills unpaid or not paid in full, like utilities and credit card balances. If you see an account that doesn't look familiar to you, dispute it! If there is an account that was yours, and maybe you owed a balance, check the date. If the date is wrong on the account, dispute it!
As I explained earlier, Emess Management reported to the credit bureau that we opened an account with them in March of 1996. And there really is only one thing wrong with that:
WE DIDN'T MOVE INTO THEIR STUPID APARTMENT
UNTIL AUGUST OF THAT YEAR!
Talk about fraud and abuse! I'm glad they own properties worth millions of dollars. They won't be able to tell the judge that they can't pay what I ask for in damages. Double :)!
Anyway, getting back to scrutinizing your credit report, If there is a collection account, make sure the credit bureaus list the name, address and phone number of the collection agency. If they don't list it, get it from them. The Fair Credit Reporting Act says it's your right to get it from them. One collection agency I contacted to dispute an account told me that they no longer had the account. They said they sold it to another collection agency.
So, pay special attention to the dates the credit bureaus list your accounts as whether it's the date opened, reported, sent for collection, closed, etc. If something isn't exactly right, dispute it!
Also very important, NEVER contact a collection agency, by phone, email, or snail mail. They'll update your account and the next time they report it to the credit bureaus, they'll say the current date of the account is the date they received the phone call or letter or email from you. It is supposed to be illegal for them to do so, but this practice runs rampant among collectors.
I screamed at a woman from Sears on the phone about a bill that belonged to my husband before we were married over 15 years ago. She was talking really fast and sounded illiterate, so I told her that she was not to call me again and that it must be nice for her to know a second language! Then I hung up on her. That account from Sears never appeared on my husband's credit report again. I get a little upset at stupid people but sometimes anger works.
Disputing information on your credit bureaus is nowhere near as easy as they make it sound. I put a nice little package together with copies of documents to back up my claim and shipped it off by certified mail with a return receipt requested to Experian. Someone at Experian signed for the package and I received my receipt. A week later, Experian sent me a notice saying that they investigated and the info I disputed will remain. I called the courthouse regarding this earlier matter with the slumlord I rented from and they told me that Experian never contacted them about my disputing the matter. I then called Experian and you're never gonna believe it, but they claim they DIDN'T receive any mail from me.
I went back and forth with some incompetent on the phone and he says to me that the address given on the Experian website AND on the form they tell you to mail back to Experian, is incorrect. He told me there was no one at the PO Box to sign for something sent certified. Well, I figure there's another lawsuit in there somewhere. But I'm going after the big guns first. The mailman at the post office said that if someone signed for it, that's legal proof that someone received it. They can't say they didn't get it.
So, if you dispute items on your credit report, send it certified to the credit bureaus. A few days after you find out the date your mail was received by the credit bureau, call them and ask them how they're doing on their investigation of your disputes. If you have the paper in your hand that says they received your mail, and the credit bureaus deny it, sue them
Don't pay someone else to fix your credit, fix errors on your credit file, or get you out of debt. You can do it yourself. It will take time and a LOT of paperwork, but it will be worth the effort not to have to pay someone to do it.
One final note -- A really important thing to find out would be to ask lenders if what is on a consumer's credit report is taken at face value, no questions asked. Can what is listed be considered 'law' then? Might be a get-rich quick plan for consumers if that is, in fact, the case. I mean if a creditor mails you a bill for services done in your home, can you send them a copy of your credit report and say, "Look, I don't even live there, how can this bill belong to me?" Would that be good enough? Sounds ridiculous, but no more ridiculous then being denied credit because of what's on your credit report, especially when most of it is WRONG!
Here are a few places to read about credit, your rights, and what to do they are violated:
Fair Credit Reporting Act
Explains your credit rights
Federal Trade Commission's Website on Credit
With sample letters to send to credit bureaus and colleciton agencies
You can file a complain with the FTC here.
If enough people file a complaint about the same thing, maybe they'll finally do something. Then again, maybe they won't.
One more thing, those commercials with the guy singing about his bad credit are really cute, but freecreditreport.com is NOT free. The fine print says the credit reports are free WITH membership.
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