Bad credit can be the result of life circumstances or illegal activity such as identity theft or unfair debt collection. Unfortunately, if you become saddled with bad credit, it can have devastating consequences on your life. Identity thieves can quickly destroy your credit and leave you in major debt. While you are ultimately not responsible, repairing credit damage can be incredibly difficult.
Identity theft has become one of the most widespread crimes in California, as well as the United States, with millions of victims affected every year. According to the California Department of Justice, more than 1.6 million Californians were victimized by identity theft in 2013 alone. While there are many things a victim can do to end the continuing damage, reversing the effects of identity theft is often much more complicated.
Our Los Angeles credit reporting attorney, Howard Silver, understands the impact bad credit can have for you and your family and he can help you with any legal issues associated with your credit report. For help with understanding your credit report and any inaccuracies within it, please contact Mr. Silver today by calling 855-341-2611 for a free case evaluation.
- Understanding Your Credit Report
- Inaccuracies on Your Credit Report
- Filing a Credit Reporting Claim
- How to Repair Your Credit Score
- Credit Freeze vs. Fraud Alert
Understanding Your Credit Report
The Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) requires that the three main credit reporting agencies Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion provide consumers with a free credit report once every 12 months. The law is enforced by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to ensure accuracy and privacy. In addition, when you are denied credit, you have a right to receive a free copy of the credit report used by the lender that is deciding to deny your credit request. Typically, you can find this information in the letter you receive explaining why you have been denied credit.
Ordering credit reports on a regular basis will also help you discover any instances of identity theft or other wrongful activity being done in your name. If you find a blemish on your credit that should not be there, you may want to receive a report from at least one of the other credit reporting companies to make sure it is not due to a company error.
A credit report contains important information about your credit history. This information is used by creditors, insurers, and employers in making decisions about your creditworthiness, employment, and other issues. The information includes your:
- Place of residence
- Bill payment history
- Bankruptcy claims
Our Los Angeles credit reporting attorney recommends requesting copies of your credit reports by mail so that you have a record of the date you made this request and the date the credit bureau responded. You can also request your free credit reports online by clicking the links below.
- Equifax Information Services LLC: P.O. Box 740256 Atlanta, GA 30374
- Experian: P.O. Box 4500 Allen, TX 75013
- TransUnion: Annual Credit Report Request Service, P.O. Box 105281 Atlanta, GA 30348
Inaccuracies on Your Credit Report
Once you receive a copy of your credit report, review it carefully to see if there are any inaccuracies. Since each credit bureau has a different report for you, you'll need to review each one.
Ask the following questions when reviewing these credit reports:
- Are there any accounts that were discharged more than 7 years ago?
- Are there any accounts that aren't mine?
- Are there any bankruptcy filings that aren't mine?
- Are they showing a correct bankruptcy filing that is more than 10 years old?
When you receive a copy of your credit report, you can better understand the impact of your financial decisions and find out if your payment history or debts have been reported inaccurately. If you find mistakes on your credit report, you may be overwhelmed, stressed, and unsure of what to do next. That’s where our skilled Los Angeles credit reporting attorney Howard Silver can help. He can assist you by disputing fraudulent changes on your credit report and help to rectify the problem.
Filing a Credit Reporting Claim
Bad credit can have devastating consequences on the way you live your life. What’s worse is when that bad credit is not actually a result of your actions but is due to inaccuracies caused by mistakes or misreporting by the institutions providing and logging your information. Generally, when this happens, violations of the FCRA are occurring.
These violations may include:
- Flagrant errors: These occur frequently in credit reports
- False reporting: Lenders and creditors who provide negative information for malicious purposes during a dispute, despite having come to a resolution
- Privacy violations: When your credit information is unlawfully shared with unauthorized parties
If your credit report is inaccurate and you follow proper dispute procedures but the credit bureaus fail to correct your file, you may have a valid legal claim for reparations, including:
- Damages for instances of credit denial
- Damages for being required to pay higher credit card or mortgage interest rates
- Compensation for harassment from bill collectors and the ensuing emotional distress
- Compensation for credit reporting attorney fees if your lawsuit is successful
- Additionally, the credit bureaus should also agree to correct your credit report
How to Repair Your Credit Score
If you have a poor credit score, it can have a serious impact on your life. Poor credit can make it difficult to secure home, business and car loans, impact whether you're approved for rental applications, and in some cases, it can even impact your employment. Therefore, it's crucial that you take the necessary steps to repair a poor credit score.
Unfortunately, there is no quick fix method to repair your credit score. Instead, it must be done by correcting errors to your credit history and making sound, responsible financial decisions over time.
To dispute inaccurate information, you must contact the credit reporting company and tell them what is incorrect and provide copies of documents that will support your claim. The credit reporting company will investigate the matter and should rectify the problem. However, if the problem is not corrected, you may receive pressure from debt collection companies to pay the debt.
You will need to write a letter disputing the inaccuracies you find to the credit bureau that issued the report. If you find inaccuracies in multiple credit reports, you'll need separate letters for each one that addresses the specific errors found in their report. Send the letter "Certified Mail, Return Receipt Requested." This allows you to have a paper record of when you sent your letter and when it was received.
It’s important that your letter clearly explain the problem at hand. In your letter you should:
- Explain that you are disputing items on your credit report
- Clearly outline each inaccuracy in a detailed list
- Attach copies of the pages in your credit report containing these errors, and circle the item so that it is clear what is being disputed
- Explain why each item is inaccurate
- Include documentation to support your claim
- Request that your credit report be corrected at once
Sometimes a poor credit score is caused by making poor financial decisions. In these situations, you must take the necessary steps to get your finances in order. These include:
- Make payments on time: This can help improve your credit score. There are two easy ways to ensure that you make your monthly payments on time:
- You can set up email or text reminders through the banks to which you owe money.
- You can also set up automatic payments that withdraw a portion of your balance on a predetermined date every month.
- Reduce your debt: It is also important to take steps to reduce your debt. This will improve your debt-to-income ratio. If lenders see a very high debt-to-income ratio, they may question your ability to repay the credit they extend to you. This can lead to higher interest rates, and in some instances, you may even be denied credit.
- Stay consistent with your payments: The longer you continue to pay your bills on time, the more your credit score will improve. Over time, the older credit issues on your report will count less and eventually fade away as your new good habits become consistent.
Credit Freeze vs. Fraud Alert
If you suspect or know that you have been a victim of identity theft, there are a number of steps that you can take to help prevent further fraudulent activity while you sort out the mess. One of these steps is placing a credit freeze on your credit report.
When a credit freeze is in place, potential creditors cannot gain access to your credit report, making it highly improbable that an identity thief would be able to open any new accounts under your name.
The credit freeze has no bearing on your credit score and does not prevent you from obtaining your credit report. Companies that you already do business with, however, such as a mortgage or credit card company, will still be able to access your credit report. The same is true for collections agencies that work for these companies.
In order to take the right precautionary steps to protect your credit, it is important to understand the difference between a credit freeze and a fraud alert. According to the FTC, when a fraud alert is placed on a credit report, potential creditors and third parties can still access the document. Although the fraud alert requires that potential creditors use "reasonable policies and procedures" to confirm your identity, there is still a possibility that an identity thief may get around these procedures and open a new line of credit. Click here to learn more about creating fraud alerts.
If the fraudulent activity involves existing accounts, however, neither a fraud alert nor a credit freeze can stop a thief from using them. If that happens, the compromised accounts must be closed.
Contact Our Experienced Credit Report Attorney Today
If you're suffering because your credit score has gone down or has been fraudulently affected, our Los Angeles attorney can help you recover. We will help you determine what has caused your credit score issues and how to take steps to recover.
This might mean seeking damages from the identity thieves who stole your information, and it might mean seeking compensation if the error was from a business or corporation. We will help you place holds or freezes on your accounts so your credit score doesn't get further damaged.
Bring your case to Howard Silver and allow him to review your case for free. He proudly serves clients in Los Angeles, San Bernardino, Ventura, Riverside, and all of California. Contact him today by filling out the form on this page or calling 855-341-2611 today.