The financial strain imposed on families around the country in the wake of COVID-19 means that the ability to obtain credit is, for many, more important than ever. Individuals often learn of harmful inaccuracies on their credit reports at the worst possible time – when they apply for, and are denied, credit that they desperately need.
In order to minimize the damaging effects that credit reporting inaccuracies can have, it is important to review your credit reports from the three major consumer reporting agencies (Trans Union, Experian, and Equifax) at least once per year. Federal law mandates that these consumer reporting agencies provide individuals, upon request, with one free copy of their credit reports every year. A website implemented by these three consumer reporting agencies, https://www.annualcreditreport.com, allows individuals to download electronic copies of their credit reports for free.
Some of the common issues that one might find when reviewing their credit reports include:
- Inaccurate late payments
- Accounts that do not belong to you
- The reporting of the same account multiple times
- Negative remarks that appear more recent than they actually are
- Unauthorized credit inquiries
If your credit report shows inaccuracies that negatively reflect your credit history, you can submit a written dispute to the consumer reporting agency that provided the credit report. This will trigger an investigation by the consumer reporting agency. The company that furnished the information to that consumer reporting agency (i.e., the “furnisher”) is required to conduct a reasonable investigation to assist the consumer reporting agency, and this must be completed within thirty days of a dispute.
After receiving a dispute, consumer reporting agencies can either verify the information it has reported, modify the information it has reported, or delete the information from your credit report. If either a consumer reporting agency or a furnisher fails to conduct a reasonable investigation into your dispute, you may be able to file a complaint against either or both of them for violation of the Fair Credit Reporting Act to recover any resulting damages, as well as attorneys’ fees and costs.
In addition to monitoring and correcting the information on your credit report, consumers should be wary of abusive debt collection practices and be sure to protect themselves from scams, particularly during COVID-19, perpetrated by unscrupulous businesses. If you are the victim of unfair or deceptive business practices or fraud, you may be able to bring a civil claim to recoup your losses, plus attorney fees and in some cases additional damages.
Jesse R. Butler is a partner at the Sarasota law firm Dickinson & Gibbons, P.A.. He is a consumer and business law attorney, and a board-certified appellate specialist. His practice is focused on helping consumers and small businesses in cases involving consumer protection, insurance coverage disputes, breach of contract, warranty claims, product liability, business litigation, and general civil litigation.
Charles Denny is a partner at Dickinson & Gibbons, P.A. specializing in commercial litigation and consumer law. Mr. Denny has assisted consumers who have been victimized by financial institutions, debt collectors, insurance companies, construction contractors, household good moving companies, motor vehicle repair shops, construction contractors, government entities, realtors and other corporate entities and individuals. He has obtained substantial settlements on behalf of consumers and has tried multiple consumer cases to Florida juries when necessary.
Andrew Wilson is an associate at the Sarasota law firm Dickinson & Gibbons, P.A. His practice focuses on consumer protection matters and commercial litigation. He has handled litigation in state and federal courts involving the Fair Credit Reporting Act, Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, Truth in Lending Act, Equal Credit Opportunity Act, Electronic Funds Transfer Act, Florida Consumer Collection Practices Act, and Florida Deceptive and Unfair Trade Practices Act.
“Disputing Errors on Credit Reports”, https://www.consumer.ftc.gov/articles/0151-disputing-errors-credit-reports (last accessed 4/13/2020)
“Errors on your Credit Report” https://www.myfico.com/credit-education/credit-reports/fixing-errors (last accessed 4/13/2020)