Your Identity Was Stolen, AGAIN!

As you probably know by now Equifax allowed your identity to be stolen.  This just happened to at least 144 million of us.  The bad/good news is this isn't the first time your identity (e.g. social security number, telephone numbers, current and past addresses, bank account information) has been stolen.  Like in most situations, when something bad happens the real question is "What Do I Do Next?"  The answer is "Pull Your Credit" and get ready to Sue The Bastards.  The good news is we have great laws that entitle you to big money damages (statutory, actual, emotional and punitive damages) if one of these financial institutes allows anyone to use your stolen information, plus attorney fees and costs so you can get representation for free.  It doesn't matter that your information is being sold and resold on the "dark web" again because it's what happens next that counts.  

So PULL YOUR CREDIT NOW FOR FREE, as detailed below to look for inaccuracies.  Over half of people in America have inaccurate information on their credit reports that is driving their credit score down and costing them money.  You should also monitor your reports using a FREE app such as Credit Karma.  Do not pay for this service and certainly don't pay for this service from Equifax who let your information be stolen in the first place.

The Fair Credit Reporting Act (“FCRA”)                                                 The Whaaaaaaaat, When, Where, and Why

Have you ever applied for a credit card?  A personal loan?  How about insurance or a job?  If you answered yes to any of those questions, there is probably a company keeping a credit file or credit report about you.  This file contains information about where you live and work, how you pay your bills, or whether you have been sued, arrested, or have filed for bankruptcy. 

Companies that gather and sell this information are called “Consumer Reporting Agencies” or “Credit Bureaus.”  The information sold by Consumer Reporting Agencies to creditors, employers, insurers, and other businesses is called a “credit report.”  The information in your credit report is then used to evaluate your applications for credit, insurance, employment, or renting a home. 

Credit reporting errors can present very serious consequences for your future, including denial or increased costs of loans or lines of credit, denial of housing, jobs, public benefits or security clearance, and possibly out of pocket losses due to fees and payments.  Luckily, you have rights and protections under the law! 

The Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) promotes the accuracy and privacy of information in the files of the nation’s credit bureaus.  The FCRA also requires these credit bureaus to perform “reasonable reinvestigation” when it receives a consumer dispute and to correct inaccurate or incomplete information brought to its attention by a consumer. 

Because errors in your credit report can severely impact your credit score and your ability to obtain credit, it is up to YOU to check your credit report and take the appropriate steps to correct any mistakes it might have.

Knowing that you have rights is half the battle.  If credit reporting companies won’t remove the disputed information, please contact us immediately or call (813) 500-1500 for a free consultation today

Who is gathering all the information found in mycredit report? 

The “credit reporting agencies (CRAs)” or “credit bureaus” are responsible for gathering, processing, and archiving credit information on consumers into a credit report. The three (“The Big 3”) national credit bureaus are Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion. 

The information provided to the credit bureaus comes from any business that extends credit to customers, which is commonly referred to as a “furnisher.” A typical furnisher would include banks, credit card companies, debt collectors, and utility companies. 

What can I do to obtain a free copy of my credit report? 

Under Federal law, you are entitled to one free copy of your credit report from each of the three national credit bureaus (Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion) once every twelve months. 

You can obtain your free copy by one of these three methods: 

1. Downloading the Annual Credit Report Request Form HERE and mail it to the address listed on the form.

2. Calling 1-877-322-8228 (allow 2-3 weeks for delivery); or

3. Accessing your credit report online through https://www.annualcreditreport.com.

You’re also entitled to a free credit report if a company takes adverse action against you, such as denying your application for credit, insurance, or employment, based on information in your report.  You must ask for your report within 60 days of receiving notice of the action.  The notice will give you the name, address, and phone number of the credit reporting company.

Finally, you’re entitled to one free report per 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.

Otherwise, a credit bureau may charge you $12.00 for another copy of your credit report within a 12-month period.  This charge is separate from the amount they may charge you to obtain your credit score; also keep in mind that the credit score fee varies depending on the source.  To buy a copy of your report, contact the three credit bureaus directly:

• Experian: 1-888-397-3742 or www.experian.com 

• TransUnion: 1-800-916-8800 or www.transunion.com

• Equifax: 1-800-685-1111 or www.equifax.com

Lastly, a word of caution.  Be wary of websites that offer you a “free” or discounted charge for your credit report.  Not only are many of these entities owned, operated by and/or affiliated with the Big 3 credit bureaus, but they also usually require a subscription to a monitoring service or a similar plan, which automatically charges you each month thereafter unless you promptly cancel the subscription.

When should I dispute inaccuracies in my credit report? 

Immediately.  As soon as you realize that inaccurate information is being reported, you should send a dispute letter via certified mail to each of the Big Three credit bureaus.  Make sure to keep a copy of your dispute

In most cases, the furnisher and the credit bureaus are not liable for posting inaccurate information until the bureaus receive YOUR dispute letter and the furnisher is then notified of the dispute by the credit bureau. 

Where should I send my dispute letter regarding inaccuracies in my credit report? 

Under the FCRA, both the credit bureau and the furnisher (that is, the person, company, or organization that provides information about you to a credit reporting agency) are responsible for correcting inaccurate or incomplete information in your credit report. 

Regardless of the types of errors you find in your credit report, you need to contact the credit bureau directly to dispute the inaccurate information.

First, identify all possible mistakes in each one of your credit reports.  Carefully review your credit reports to identify anything that is not correct.  It is up to YOU to make sure your credit report is correct.  If you don’t dispute it, the credit bureau may not be responsible for it. 

Second, contact each credit bureau that is reporting false information.  Each credit bureau has its own information, so you need to dispute false information with each of the credit bureaus that is reporting that information.

Send a certified dispute letter (you can find a sample HERE), return receipt requested, to the credit bureaus referencing the credit report and information you believe to be inaccurate.  Make sure to provide copies of documentation evidencing the correct information, a copy of the credit report with the inaccurate information clearly identified, and a telephone number where the bureaus can reach you if they need more information.  You should make a copy of the letter and all documents sent with it to keep for your records.  Also, send the company, or “furnisher,” reporting the inaccurate information a copy of the letter and supporting documents via certified mail, return receipt requested.

Third, review the credit bureaus’ responses. You should hear back from the credit bureau as to their “investigation” of your dispute within 30 days (45 days if you are disputing information that appeared on your free annual credit report). 

Why should I contact an attorney at The Consumer Protection Firm about potential inaccuracies on my credit report? 

You may be entitled to big money against companies that report false information about you. If any of the information you disputed is not removed from your credit report, you may have a cause of action under the FCRA against the credit bureaus and/or the furnisher of that inaccurate information. 

You will want experienced and determined attorneys fighting for you against the Big Three credit bureaus and corporate furnishers. To schedule a free consultation with one of our attorneys today, please call (813) 500-1500 or complete our online form HERE