Protecting Your Credit: The Importance of Monitoring & Disputing Errors on Your Credit Report
The information contained in your credit report can have a significant impact on your future. Credit reports contain personal information including where you live, your employment history, a list of your current and past debts, account balances, payment history. They also show if you have judgments or have filed for bankruptcy in the past. This information is often used by employers, insurance companies, landlords and other potential lenders to determine whether they should offer you employment, insurance, housing or extend credit and furthermore as a tool to determine the interest rate you should be charged. In order to ensure that you are receiving the best possible rates and opportunities it is imperative that you check your credit frequently and dispute any errors right away. In this article, we are going to break down how you can protect your credit.
Monitor your Credit Frequently
There are two primary ways to monitor your credit: order your free annual credit reports and utilize a credit monitoring service. Neither of these monitoring methods will negatively impact your credit score. They will, however, allow you to stay on top of your credit and monitor for any changes to your credit score. Monitoring your credit on a regular basis will provide you with a picture of how your spending habits, outstanding debts, and payment history are effecting your credit score. Personally, I utilize both methods for credit monitoring for free and you can too.
Under the Fair Credit Reporting Act, you are entitled to receive one free credit report annually from each of the major reporting agencies – Equifax, TransUnion and Experion. You can order all of the reports at the same time or space them out over the course of 12 months. To request your free credit report go to www.AnnualCreditReport.com or call 877-322-8228.
In addition to ordering a copy of your credit report from each of the major agencies, you should also consider monitoring your credit or a daily or weekly basis. Credit Sesame and Credit Karma are two companies who offer free credit monitoring through an application which can be downloaded to your phone. If you are a member of AAA or USAA – you can obtain free credit monitoring through these organizations as well. Credit Karma will allow you to see your actual credit score as reported by TransUnion and Equifax in real-time. It will also provide you with a list of open accounts and allow you to see a simulated credit score based upon theoretical debt reduction or elimination.
Disputing Errors on Your Credit Report
If you notice an error on your credit report it is important to take action in getting it corrected right away. Disputing errors is a process and can take some time, so it imperative that you take action in correcting errors right away. First, you should determine if the error is related to an account you signed up for (i.e. debt discharged in your bankruptcy, account that you recently paid off, a judgment that was previously vacated, etc.) or fraudulent (i.e. identity theft, debt of a family member with the same name, etc.).
If the debt is fraudulent, you should contact the affected creditor or bank immediately to notify them that the debt is fraudulent. Next, you should file a police report. Additionally, you should contact your bank, utility companies and credit card companies. Finally, you should contact each of the major credit reporting agencies and install a fraud alert on your file. This will trigger greater protections of your credit and you will automatically be opted out of pre-approved credit card and insurance offers.
If the error, on the other hand, is inaccurate but not fraudulent, there is a process to follow to dispute such errors. First, you must inform the credit reporting company, in writing what information you believe to be inaccurate and include copies of any documents to support your argument. The Federal Trade Commission suggests to send your letter Certified and request a return receipt. Credit reporting companies are required to investigate any disputed items in a timely fashion and inform the company listed of the dispute, allowing them time to respond. Once the investigation is complete, you will receive the results of the investigation in writing. If your dispute was found to be valid, the company who reported the incorrect information will be required to notify all three credit reporting agencies so that they can correct the information and have the erroneous information removed. On the contrary, if your dispute is found to be invalid the data will remain on your credit report. You can, however, ask that record of your dispute be included in future reports.
If you are looking for a lawyer with experience in the bankruptcy field, I hope your journey leads you to Attorney Cook’s office. For more information on filing bankruptcy in Pennsylvania, you can visit Foster Law Offices, LLC online at www.MrDebtBuster.com or call 877.673.3282 to schedule a FREE CONSULTATION with Attorney Ronald Cook at the Warren Office, located at 400 Market Street in downtown Warren, PA.
Disclaimer: Foster Law Offices, LLC is a debt relief agency, helping people file for relief under the United States Bankruptcy Code. The information contained in this article is provided for informational purposes only, and should not be construed as legal advice on any subject matter.