Your Rights and How to Fix Your Credit Report

Your Rights and How to Resolve Issues on your Credit Report
You have the right to an Accurate and Complete Report
You have the right to dispute both inaccurate and incomplete information in
your credit report. So if, for example, your report correctly states that you were
sued for nonpayment of an account, but doesn’t state that you later paid the
account in full, you have the right to dispute the incompleteness of this item in
your report.
Common Errors to Look for in Your Credit Report
Information that is not yours because of confused names, addresses, etc. Credit reporting agencies may confuse names, addresses,
Social Security numbers, or employers. If you have a common name—say, John Brown—your file may contain credit or personal
information on other John Browns, John Brownes, or Jon Browns and may lack some of your own credit information. Your file may
erroneously contain information on family members with similar names.
Problems because of identity theft. If you have been the victim of identity theft, mixed account information may appear in your
credit report.
Information from an ex-spouse. If you have been divorced, your prior spouse’s information may be mixed with yours.
Outdate information. Accounts may still be listed after the legal deadline for removing them from your reports.
Incorrect payment status. The payment status of accounts may be incorrect.
More than one delinquent date on an account. If an account has been transferred to a debt collector, your report may contain more
than one date for when the account became delinquent (which triggers how long it may remain in your report).
Wrong notations for closed accounts. Accounts you closed may look as if the creditor closed the account.
Remedied delinquencies not reported as such. Credit reporting agencies often fail to note accounts in which delinquencies have
been remedied.
You should carefully review each section of your credit report to determine if it contains incorrect or outdated information. If it does,
use, notify the credit bureau in writing. Under the law the credit bureau has 30 days to verify the information to insure that it is correct.
If the bureau cannot verify the disputed information, it must be deleted from your credit report.
Use the 100 Word Statement
If you dispute information on a credit report that you believe to be incorrect, the creditor may disagree. If this happens, the
information will remain in your credit history. But your efforts don't have to stop there. If you still think the information is wrong,
continue to pursue the issue with the creditor. In addition, you should compose a statement of 100 words or less explaining your
dispute and send it to all three credit bureaus. The statement will become part of your credit record and will appear on your credit
report for as long as the disputed item. You may also use the 100 word statement to explain why you haven't paid an undisputed bill,
as long as the reason is true. For example, a divorce, illness, or death in the family may have caused a delay or a break in your
scheduled payments.
How to add a 100-word written statement to your credit report
By Melody Warnick
Thanks to a provision of the Fair Credit Reporting Act, when something's amiss with
your credit report, you have the right to add a statement to your file about it, either to
dispute a mistake or to explain your personal financial debacle. The Big Three credit
bureaus limit you to 100 words a pop, but both Experian and TransUnion allow you to
add multiple statements to your report; Equifax draws the line at one statement on your
credit report at a time.
Do they work? Yes, if ...
Regardless of how much you're allowed to write, a larger question remains: Do the
100-word letters actually work to a consumer's advantage? Theoretically, statements
give you more of a voice in your own financial future. Used unwisely, they can do
more harm than good.
"It's a good idea to add a statement when you disagree with the results of a dispute,"
says Rod Griffin, director of public education for Experian. "A statement of dispute
allows you to tell your side of the story." Similarly, if medical issues led to late
payments, a statement can point out the reason behind the misstep and reassure lenders
that you've since regained financial control.
What you don't want to indulge in, says Griffin, are "the things we refer to as
'statements of excuse,' tongue in cheek." Adding, "I went on vacation to Bermuda and
forgot to mail the check" to your credit report just confirms that your payment actually
was late, for a pretty ridiculous reason. "That won't be helpful," Griffin insists.
Credit card tips
Written statements on your credit
report can help you explain negative
If the statement could portray you as
a bad risk, don't submit it.
Don't expect the statement to be a
magic bullet. Some lenders won't
even read it.
Some experts say a statement can
make you look proactive in lenders'
When it works
So what's the point of adding a consumer statement? For starters, you may simply feel better after having had your say. "It gives
people a feeling of power," says Sember. "You feel like, 'At least I put my side of the story down.'" For someone frustrated by the
effects of a negative financial history, that's no small comfort.
Also, although many lenders rely on computers to determine your creditworthiness, some still do things the old-fashioned way. "With
Another option: Explain in person
Not all lenders will read the statement you slaved over -- but if you're eager to explain why your credit score is so low there is one
more option: Grab the loan officer and say it yourself.
"Lenders and landlords-- at least seasoned ones -- can look into a person's eyes and listen with their mind and heart and discern
whether or not the applicant is lying or telling the truth," says longtime Ohio lender Timothy Palla. "Often, the consumer's
passion and determination have more weight than the problems on a credit report."
The danger, of course, is coming off like a psycho. Palla offers these tips for keeping the conversation polite and effective:
Practice what you'll say, and get it down to three minutes or fewer. The landlord doesn't have all day, and they are not
interested in hearing about a detailed accounting of your past five years.
Show you've made a good-faith effort to resolve problems and dispute errors.
Come armed with documentation in case the loan officer asks to see it.
Don't take "no" personally. Take it as a challenge to clean up your credit so that next time, they'll have to say "yes."
Your Debt Collection Rights from the Federal Trade commission
If you’re behind in paying your bills, or a creditor’s records mistakenly make it appear that
you are, a debt collector may be contacting you. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC), the
nation’s consumer protection agency, enforces the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act
(FDCPA), which prohibits debt collectors from using abusive, unfair, or deceptive practices
to collect from you. Under the FDCPA, a debt collector is someone who regularly collects
debts owed to others. This includes collection agencies, lawyers who collect debts on a
regular basis, and companies that buy delinquent debts and then try to collect them.
Here are some questions and answers about your rights under the Act.
What types of debts are covered?
The Act covers personal, family, and household debts, including money you owe on a personal credit card account, an auto loan, a
medical bill, and your mortgage. The FDCPA doesn’t cover debts you incurred to run a business.
Can a debt collector contact me any time or any place?
No. A debt collector may not contact you at inconvenient times or places, such as before 8 in the morning or after 9 at night, unless
you agree to it. And collectors may not contact you at work if they’re told (orally or in writing) that you’re not allowed to get calls
How can I stop a debt collector from contacting me?
If a collector contacts you about a debt, you may want to talk to them at least once to see if you can resolve the matter – even if you
don’t think you owe the debt, can’t repay it immediately, or think that the collector is contacting you by mistake. If you decide after
contacting the debt collector that you don’t want the collector to contact you again, tell the collector – in writing – to stop contacting
you. Here’s how to do that:
Make a copy of your letter. Send the original by certified mail, and pay for a “return receipt” so you’ll be able to document what the
collector received. Once the collector receives your letter, they may not contact you again, with two exceptions: a collector can contact
you to tell you there will be no further contact or to let you know that they or the creditor intend to take a specific action, like filing a
lawsuit. Sending such a letter to a debt collector you owe money to does not get rid of the debt, but it should stop the contact. The
creditor or the debt collector still can sue you to collect the debt.
Can a debt collector contact anyone else about my debt?
If an attorney is representing you about the debt, the debt collector must contact the attorney, rather than you. If you don’t have an
attorney, a collector may contact other people – but only to find out your address, your home phone number, and where you work.
Collectors usually are prohibited from contacting third parties more than once. Other than to obtain this location information about
you, a debt collector generally is not permitted to discuss your debt with anyone other than you, your spouse, or your attorney.
What does the debt collector have to tell me about the debt?
Every collector must send you a written “validation notice” telling you how much money you owe within five days after they first
contact you. This notice also must include the name of the creditor to whom you owe the money, and how to proceed if you don’t
think you owe the money.
Can a debt collector keep contacting me if I don’t think I owe any money?
If you send the debt collector a letter stating that you don’t owe any or all of the money, or asking for verification of the debt, that
collector must stop contacting you. You have to send that letter within 30 days after you receive the validation notice. But a collector
can begin contacting you again if it sends you written verification of the debt, like a copy of a bill for the amount you owe.
What practices are off limits for debt collectors?
Harassment. Debt collectors may not harass, oppress, or abuse you or any third parties they contact. For example, they may not:
use threats of violence or harm;
publish a list of names of people who refuse to pay their debts (but they can give this information to the credit reporting
use obscene or profane language; or
Repeatedly use the phone to annoy someone.
False statements. Debt collectors may not lie when they are trying to collect a debt. For example, they may not:
falsely claim that they are attorneys or government representatives;
falsely claim that you have committed a crime;
falsely represent that they operate or work for a credit reporting company;
misrepresent the amount you owe;
indicate that papers they send you are legal forms if they aren’t; or
indicate that papers they send to you aren’t legal forms if they are.
Debt collectors also are prohibited from saying that:
you will be arrested if you don’t pay your debt;
they’ll seize, garnish, attach, or sell your property or wages unless they are permitted by law to take the action and intend to
do so; or
legal action will be taken against you, if doing so would be illegal or if they don’t intend to take the action.
Debt collectors may not:
give false credit information about you to anyone, including a credit reporting company;
send you anything that looks like an official document from a court or government agency if it isn’t; or
use a false company name.
Unfair practices. Debt collectors may not engage in unfair practices when they try to collect a debt. For example, they may not:
try to collect any interest, fee, or other charge on top of the amount you owe unless the contract that created your debt – or
your state law – allows the charge;
deposit a post-dated check early;
take or threaten to take your property unless it can be done legally; or
contact you by postcard.
Can I control which debts my payments apply to?
Yes. If a debt collector is trying to collect more than one debt from you, the collector must apply any payment you make to the debt
you select. Equally important, a debt collector may not apply a payment to a debt you don’t think you owe.
Can a debt collector garnish my bank account or my wages?
If you don’t pay a debt, a creditor or its debt collector generally can sue you to collect. If they win, the court will enter a judgment
against you. The judgment states the amount of money you owe, and allows the creditor or collector to get a garnishment order against
you, directing a third party, like your bank, to turn over funds from your account to pay the debt.
Wage garnishment happens when your employer withholds part of your compensation to pay your debts. Your wages usually can be
garnished only as the result of a court order. Don’t ignore a lawsuit summons. If you do, you lose the opportunity to fight a wage
Can federal benefits be garnished?
Many federal benefits are exempt from garnishment, including:
Social Security Benefits
Supplemental Security Income (SSI) Benefits
Veterans’ Benefits
Civil Service and Federal Retirement and Disability Benefits
Service Members’ Pay
Military Annuities and Survivors’ Benefits
Student Assistance
Railroad Retirement Benefits
Merchant Seamen Wages
Longshoremen’s and Harbor Workers’ Death and Disability Benefits
Foreign Service Retirement and Disability Benefits
Compensation for Injury, Death, or Detention of Employees of U.S. Contractors Outside the U.S.
Federal Emergency Management Agency Federal Disaster Assistance
But federal benefits may be garnished under certain circumstances, including to pay delinquent taxes, alimony, child support, or
student loans.
Do I have any recourse if I think a debt collector has violated the law?
You have the right to sue a collector in a state or federal court within one year from the date the law was violated. If you win, the
judge can require the collector to pay you for any damages you can prove you suffered because of the illegal collection practices, like
lost wages and medical bills. The judge can require the debt collector to pay you up to $1,000, even if you can’t prove that you
suffered actual damages. You also can be reimbursed for your attorney’s fees and court costs. A group of people also may sue a debt
collector as part of a class action lawsuit and recover money for damages up to $500,000, or one percent of the collector’s net worth,
whichever amount is lower. Even if a debt collector violates the FDCPA in trying to collect a debt, the debt does not go away if you
owe it.
What should I do if a debt collector sues me?
If a debt collector files a lawsuit against you to collect a debt, respond to the lawsuit, either personally or through your lawyer, by the
date specified in the court papers to preserve your rights.
Where do I report a debt collector for an alleged violation?
Report any problems you have with a debt collector to your state Attorney General’s office ( and the Federal Trade
Commission ( Many states have their own debt collection laws that are different from the federal Fair Debt Collection
Practices Act. Your Attorney General’s office can help you determine your rights under your state’s law.
How to File a Complaint
There’s no quick fix for creditworthiness. You can improve your credit report
legitimately, but it takes time, a conscious effort, and sticking to a personal debt
repayment plan.
Your Rights
No one can legally remove accurate and timely negative information from a credit
report. You can ask for an investigation —at no charge to you — of information in your
file that you dispute as inaccurate or incomplete. Some people hire a company to investigate for them, but anything a credit repair
company can do legally, you can do for yourself at little or no cost. By law:
You’re entitled to a free credit report if a company takes “adverse action” against you, like denying your application for
credit, insurance, or employment. You have to ask for your report within 60 days of receiving notice of the action. The notice
includes the name, address, and phone number of the consumer reporting company. You’re also entitled to one free report a
year if you’re unemployed and plan to look for a job within 60 days; if you’re on welfare; or if your report is inaccurate
because of fraud, including identity theft.
Each of the nationwide credit reporting companies — Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion — is required to provide you with
a free copy of your credit report once every 12 months, if you ask for it. To order, visit, or call 1-877322-8228. You may order reports from each of the three credit reporting companies at the same time, or you can stagger your
requests throughout the year.
It doesn’t cost anything to dispute mistakes or outdated items on your credit report. Both the credit reporting company and
the information provider (the person, company, or organization that provides information about you to a credit reporting
company) are responsible for correcting inaccurate or incomplete information in your report. To take advantage of all your
rights, contact both the credit reporting company and the information provider.
Step 1: Tell the credit reporting company, in writing, what information you think is inaccurate. Include copies (NOT originals) of any
documents that support your position. In addition to including your complete name and address, your letter should identify each item
in your report that you dispute; state the facts and the reasons you dispute the information, and ask that it be removed or corrected.
You may want to enclose a copy of your report, and circle the items in question. Send your letter by certified mail, “return receipt
requested,” so you can document that the credit reporting company got it. Keep copies of your dispute letter and enclosures.
Sample Letter
Your Name, Your Address City, State, Zip Code
Complaint Department
Name of Company Address City, State, Zip Code
Dear Sir or Madam:
I am writing to dispute the following information in my file. The items I dispute also are circled on the attached copy of the report I
received. This item (identify item(s) disputed by name of source, such as creditors or tax court, and identify type of item, such as
credit account, judgment, etc.) is (inaccurate or incomplete) because (describe what is inaccurate or incomplete and why). I am
requesting that the item be deleted (or request another specific change) to correct the information.
Enclosed are copies of (use this sentence if applicable and describe any enclosed documentation, such as payment records, court
documents) supporting my position. Please investigate this (these) matter(s) and (delete or correct) the disputed item(s) as soon as
possible. By law, I will expect a response within 30 days.
Your name
Enclosures: (List what you are enclosing.)
Credit reporting companies must investigate the items you question within 30 days — unless they consider your dispute frivolous.
They also must forward all the relevant data you provide about the inaccuracy to the organization that provided the information. After
the information provider gets notice of a dispute from the credit reporting company, it must investigate, review the relevant
information, and report the results back to the credit reporting company. If the investigation reveals that the disputed information is
inaccurate, the information provider has to notify the nationwide credit reporting companies so they can correct it in your file.
When the investigation is complete, the credit reporting company must give you the results in writing, too, and a free copy of your
report if the dispute results in a change. If an item is changed or deleted, the credit reporting company cannot put the disputed
information back in your file unless the information provider verifies that it’s accurate and complete. The credit reporting company
also must send you written notice that includes the name, address, and phone number of the information provider. If you ask, the credit
reporting company must send notices of any correction to anyone who got your report in the past six months. You also can ask that a
corrected copy of your report be sent to anyone who got a copy during the past two years for employment purposes.
If an investigation doesn’t resolve your dispute with the credit reporting company, you can ask that a statement of the dispute be
included in your file and in future reports
Reporting Accurate Negative Information
When negative information in your report is accurate, only time can make it go away. A credit reporting company can report most
accurate negative information for seven years and bankruptcy information for 10 years. Information about an unpaid judgment against
you can be reported for seven years or until the statute of limitations runs out, whichever is longer. The seven-year reporting period
starts from the date the event took place. There is no time limit on reporting information about criminal convictions; information
reported in response to your application for a job that pays more than $75,000 a year; and information reported because you’ve applied
for more than $150,000 worth of credit or life insurance.
State Attorneys General
Many states also have laws regulating credit repair companies. If you have a problem with a credit repair company, report it to your
local consumer affairs office or to your state attorney general (AG).
Federal Trade Commission
You also can file a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission. Although the FTC can't resolve individual credit disputes, it can
take action against a company if there's a pattern of possible law violations. File your complaint online at or call 1Requesting Removal of Inaccurate Information - Sample Letter 1
The following is a sample letter to send to the credit bureaus requesting the removal of inaccurate information. Always include
any copies of proof you may have (i.e. cancelled checks showing timely payments, paid off accounts, loans, anything that will show
the information is indeed erroneous). It never hurts to include the consequences that have resulted from this wrongful information as
well. The credit agencies give the most immediate attention to seriously wronged consumers. Remember, they are bombarded with
10,000 letters a day.
Date Your Name Your Address City, State Zip
Credit Bureau Address City, State Zip
Dear Credit Bureau,
This letter is a formal complaint that you are reporting inaccurate credit information. I am very distressed that you have included the
below information in my credit profile due to its damaging effects on my good credit standing. As you are no doubt aware, credit
reporting laws ensure that bureaus report only accurate credit information. No doubt the inclusion of this inaccurate information is a
mistake on either your or the reporting creditor's part. Because of the mistakes on my credit report, I have been wrongfully denied
credit recently for a <insert credit type for which you were denied here>, which was highly embarrassing and has negatively impacted
my lifestyle. optional With the proof I'm attaching to this letter, I'm sure you'll agree it needs to be removed ASAP. The following
information therefore needs to be verified and deleted from the report as soon as possible:
CREDITOR AGENCY, acct. 123-34567-ABC Please delete the above information as quickly as possible.
Your Signature
Your Name
SSN# 123-45-6789
Attachment included
Assuming you have contacted the collection agency using our debt validation methods, and they have failed to send you adequate
proof of your legal obligation to pay a debt, this is the letter you need to write to the credit bureaus.
Your Name
Your Address
City, State Zip
Credit Bureau
Bureau Address
City, State Zip
Dear Credit Bureau,
I am continually being called on the telephone by your firm over an alleged debt. I'm sure you are aware of the provisions in the Fair
Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA), and I am requesting validation of this debt. I am requesting proof that I am indeed the party
you are asking to pay this debt, and there is some contractual obligation which is binding on me to pay this debt. I request that you
cease contacting me via telephone and all future correspondence be writing. To refresh your memory on what constitutes legal debt
validation, I am providing you a list of the required documentation:
Complete payment history, the requirement of which has been established via Spears v Brennan 745 N.E.2d 862; 2001 Ind.
App. LEXIS 509.
Agreement that bears the signature of the alleged debtor wherein he/she agreed to pay the original creditor.
Letter of sale or assignment from the original creditor to your company. (Agreement with your client that grants you the
authority to collect on this alleged debt. Coppola v. Arrow Financial Services, 302CV577, 2002 WL 32173704(D.Conn., Oct.
29, 2002) - Information relating to the purchase of a bad debt is not proprietary or burdensome. Debtor must phrase their
request clearly to obtain: The source of a debt and the amount a bad debt buyer paid for plaintiff's debt, how amount sought
was calculated, where in issue a list of reports to credit bureaus, and documents conferring authority on defendant to collect
Intimate knowledge of the creation of the debt by you, the collection agency.
As I am sure you are well aware, under FDCPA Section 809 (b), you are not allowed to pursue collection activity until the debt is
validated. You should be made aware that in TWYLA BOATLEY, Plaintiff, vs. DIEM CORPORATION, No. CIV 03-0762 UNITED
STATES DISTRICT COURT FOR THE DISTRICT OF ARIZONA, 2004, the courts ruled that reporting a collection account indeed
is considered collection activity.
While I prefer not to litigate, I will use the courts as needed to enforce my rights under the FDCPA.
I look forward to a speedy resolution of this matter.
Your Signature