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Don’t take the errors on your credit report to credit repair

I am a Seattle lawyer who represents individuals who have legal claims under the Fair Credit Reporting Act, the federal law that gives consumers the right to sue the credit reporting agencies (aka “bureaus”) and creditors when those companies fail to follow proper procedures and people wind up with false information on their credit reports.

Suppose you plan to buy a house sometime soon. One of the most important things you should do months ahead of home buying season is check your credit reports at www.annualcreditreport.com, the site where you can obtain your Equifax, Experian and Trans Union credit reports for free.

It’s awful to find out right when you’re trying to buy your dream home that someone else’s collection accounts and bad debts are littered all over your credit report. This is often the result of a “mixed credit file,” where the credit reporting agency, such as Equifax, Experian, or Trans Union, mixes up your credit file with someone else’s credit file in their big databases.

Many people — even good lawyers — mistakenly believe that you should go to a “credit repair” company. That’s the last place someone should go if they have good credit but someone else is the problem.

The best, cheapest, and often fastest way to request that false information be removed is to do it yourself for the cost of sending a piece of certified mail. Setting it up isn’t rocket science.

Let’s pretend your name is Joe, and someone else named Joe with a different last name, a similar social security number, and a bunch of derogatory collection accounts appears on your credit report. All of that information about the other guy is not yours. You need to write to the credit reporting agency and explain that you are not “that guy,” and attach proof of your identity.

The credit reporting agency has 30 days to reinvestigate the matter and get back to you with results. If the companies do what they are supposed to do, they will delete the false information.

In any event, save all your paperwork — the credit reports, adverse action letters (those rejection letters that most people throw away, but shouldn’t), copies of your dispute letters and proof of mailing.

If necessary, I will take a look at this and we can talk about next steps.

Whatever you do, don’t go to credit repair where you could be paying hundreds of bucks a month instead of receiving appropriate compensation for your damages.

Contact me if you encounter this kind of credit reporting problem!

Image credit: ClipartFox / public domain