Avoiding, dealing with credit reporting problems

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So you’ve done thorough research on the automobile you want to purchase. You’ve carefully reviewed the purchase contract (also had a Fort Irwin Legal Assistance Attorney review it) and now you’re ready to negotiate with the financing agent. The loan agent takes your application, steps away for a while only to return and say you’ll need a co-signor on your application. The agent says your loan application cannot be approved without a co-signor, because of your low credit score. Low credit score! How did that happen?

A credit reporting problem could have a negative impact on the perception of your ability to repay borrowed money – also called your “credit worthiness.” Having knowledge of your credit report information before your report is pulled by a loan agent, a prospective employer, or even an apartment rental agent, could prevent some embarrassment and improve your chances of an expected outcome. You should check your credit report, at least annually, to determine the accuracy of the information provided to the credit reporting companies.

The Fair Credit Reporting Act requires nationwide credit reporting companies (Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion) to provide you with a free credit report every 12 months, upon your request. A credit report includes important information about your credit history. The report shows where you live (and previously lived), how you pay your bills (the good, bad, and ugly), and if you have filed for bankruptcy, among other things. Information about your credit history is sold to creditors, employers and other businesses that may use it to evaluate your creditworthiness.

To order your free credit report, go to www.annualcreditreport.com, call (877) 322-8228, or complete the Annual Credit Report Request Form (found at consumer.ftc.gov) and mail it to: Annual Credit Report Request Service, P.O. Box 105281, Atlanta, GA  30348-5281. There is only one Web site authorized under federal law to take your order for a free annual credit report: annualcreditreport.com. Watch out for other “imposter” sites that will secretly charge you for “free” credit reports.

After you receive your credit report, examine it closely for any errors. If you have requested a report from each of the nationwide credit reporting companies, examine all three. If you find any errors, dispute them promptly by writing to the credit reporting company that provided the incorrect report. You should clearly identify what you dispute and provide detailed facts about why you dispute it; then request to have the error corrected or removed. You can find sample letters at consumer.ftc.gov or make an appointment to see a Legal Assistance Attorney at the Fort Irwin Legal Assistance Office for assistance. The credit reporting company is required to investigate the error in question and will usually complete the investigation within 30 days. The credit reporting company must provide you with the results of the investigation and a free copy of your credit report, if the dispute results in a change. If the investigation does not result in a change to your credit report, you can ask the credit reporting company to include a statement of dispute in your file.

Correcting an error on your credit report is not only a sensible thing to do, but it may also increase your credit score, thereby, potentially saving you money on a loan. Request your credit report at least annually and dispute any errors, then walk into the lenders office with confidence because you are an informed consumer!

If you have legal assistance questions or need assistance disputing errors on your credit report, call the Fort Irwin Legal Assistance Office (building 230) at 380-5321. The hours of operation are Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. – 4 p.m., and Thursdays, 1-4 p.m.