How to Use this Resource

We hope the articles below help you understand your rights as a consumer. You can scroll through the titles, or sort by Practice Area or Topic. You can also use the search feature to locate information by keyword.

Flitter Milz represents people with a variety of problems involving consumer credit and collections. If you have a particular question or believe your consumer rights have been violated, Contact Us for a no cost consultation.

Dispute Credit Report Errors Effectively

Credit reports must be kept accurate.

Let’s face it, consumers need good credit for a variety of reasons — from housing, education and employment, to personal loans or emergency expenses, such as medical bills or funerals. Good credit and high credit scores facilitate the process of obtaining approval for new credit. Errors on credit files not only affect the consumer’s ability to borrow money and how much it will cost to borrow money, but present a wider-range of unfavorable consequences, such as lowered credit scores, increased interest rates and lower credit limits.

Steps to Effectively Dispute Credit Report Errors

The Federal Trade Commission conducted a study that showed one in five people have an error on at least one credit report.  By reviewing credit files regularly, consumers can minimize errors by disputing them timely.

STEP ONE:       Obtain current credit reports

The website, annualcreditreport.com, is the quickest way to access reports.  By writing to the three main credit bureaus – Transunion, Experian and Equifax —  to obtain a current copy of your report, you will need to provide two forms of identification.  A government-issued ID, such as a driver’s license and a copy of a current utility bill or bank statement showing your current address would be acceptable.

STEP TWO:      Write to the Credit Furnisher

After reviewing your credit report for accuracy, if there are errors listed you may need to write to the lender, creditor, collection agency or other type of data furnisher to request updated information on your account.  Obtaining verification of your account status from these companies can provide useful evidence when your dispute is investigated by the credit bureau and evaluated for accuracy.

STEP THREE:   Prepare a Written Dispute to the Credit Bureau

The most effective method of disputing errors on a credit report is to write to the credit bureaus — Transunion, Experian and Equifax.

Five simple guidelines for your dispute letter:

1. Keep your dispute to one page.  Address only one issue at a time.
2. Clearly identify the error by highlighting it on a current credit report.
3. State the action you want the bureau to take.
4. Enclose documents supporting why the tradeline must be corrected.
5. Make your dispute & supporting documents easy to understand.

Why must I dispute directly with Transunion, Experian and Equifax?

Transunion, Experian and Equifax are considered “the source” of credit reporting information. They are most likely to have been furnished with the most up-to-date information. Although there are a variety of other sources that provide credit reporting information such as, Credit Karma, Credit Sesame, MyFICO.com, or various industry-specific reports, these reporting services may not update information with the frequency of the three main bureaus.

Can’t I dispute online or over the phone?

Although the credit bureaus accept disputes online and by phone, consumers must be cautious.  These methods of disputing could present problems.

  • Online disputes have limits to character/space requirements, and could present difficulty in communicating a complex dispute.
  • Phone communications are difficult to document — whether it’s conveying precise issues or identifying steps required to resolve the problem. As well, phone disputes do not provide the opportunity to submit supporting documents which could help prove your point.  It’s best to have a good paper trail showing all steps you’ve taken to address any errors.

STEP FOUR:     Keep Records of your Dispute

Dispute letters should be sent to the credit bureaus by Certified Mail, Return Receipt. Be sure to keep a copy of the dispute letter and all supporting documents enclosed with your letter, along with all mailing receipts from the post office.

Credit bureau disputes are typically concluded within a few weeks, but the bureaus have 30 days to respond in writing to your dispute. It may take a little longer for the reports to be updated and for credit scores to reflect updated information.

The Law is on your Side

The Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA), is a federal law governing how consumer credit information can be used and distributed.  It gives consumers the right to obtain credit reports, dispute inaccurate information appearing on the reports, and have errors corrected.  Credit furnishers, such as banks, mortgage lenders, credit card companies and other finance companies, must provide accurate information to the credit bureaus. When a consumer’s application for credit is denied due to errors on the credit report, the consumer’s rights may have been violated under the FCRA.

Seek Help from a Qualified Consumer Law Firm

Flitter Milz is a consumer protection law firm that addresses accuracy and privacy violations of the Fair Credit Reporting Act.  If there are uncorrected errors on a consumer’s credit reports, the consumer’s legal rights may have been violated.  The attorneys at Flitter Milz evaluate consumer’s credit reports for errors and identify steps to correct them. If a consumer’s credit has been damaged, there could be a violation of the law. CONTACT US for a no cost legal review.  Pictured:  Cary Flitter (center), Andy Milz (left), Jody López-Jacobs (right).

Loan Applications & your Credit Reports

Consumer credit is when credit is advanced to a consumer for the purchase of personal or household goods or services. The system for extension of credit allows consumers to borrow money, or incur debt, and to defer repayment of that money over time.

Obtaining Credit

Having credit enables consumers to buy goods or assets without having to pay for them in cash at the time of purchase. For example, if a consumer wants to purchase expensive items such as a home, car, or an education, it’s unusual for that person to have cash available to make the purchase.  Obtaining credit permits the consumer to make the purchase and pay for it with scheduled monthly payments over a specific period of time.

Finance Options

Consumers may explore options to finance the purchase by contacting banks, credit unions and financial institutions. The terms for borrowing money may vary from one lender to another.  After submission of a credit application, lenders take steps to evaluate the borrower’s creditworthiness. Typically, a credit application triggers a hard inquiry on the borrower’s credit reports.

Credit Application Submission

Consumers must provide written permission for their credit report to be accessed. The reports aid in assessing payment history and the borrower’s ability to repay debt to a lender and not default.  Credit scores are a 3-digit number that reflect a consumer’s ability to repay a loan and help to determine terms, such as interest rates and length of the loan.

Most important, in advance of seeking new credit, consumers should obtain a current copy of their credit report from each of the three main bureaus – Transunion, Experian and Equifax, and review the reports for accuracy. If there is information that is incorrect or needs to be updated, a dispute should be filed with the credit bureau.  The bureaus have 30 days to respond to the dispute.  Once information is corrected, the consumer may see an increase in his or her credit score. 

Five Factors Considered in the Loan Application Process

      1. Character:
        Does the borrower have a good credit payment history? Have payments been managed well in the past?
      2. Capacity:
        What is the borrower’s ability to repay the loan?  How much debt does the borrower have in relation to his or her income?
      3. Capital:
        Does the borrower have assets or savings to put towards the loan?  Will the borrower make a down payment?
      4. Collateral:
        Does the borrower have assets that can be provided as security for the loan?
      5. Conditions:
        Lenders may consider how the borrower plans to use the loaned money. Also, they may evaluate economic conditions that dictate whether the loan may be high risk and one that they want to take.

 Credit Denial

Borrowers must be prepared for the lender to approve or deny the application. If the consumer is denied a loan, the lender must send a letter to the consumer explaining the specific reason, or let the consumer know about their right to request information that led to the decision for denial within 60 days.  Also, if the denial is related to information that appears on the credit report, the lender must provide the credit bureau name, address and phone number for the consumer to inquire about the denial.

Are credit references necessary?

A credit reference is one of the methods lenders and service providers use to determine a borrower’s creditworthiness.  Credit references can include your bank, previous landlords, employers, or companies whose bills you’ve paid regularly.  Depending on the type of application, it is best to submit the best reference for the situation.  Typically, this person or company would improve the borrower’s chances for approval for the type of loan that is sought. 

Seek advice from Experienced Consumer Lawyers

If you’ve been denied credit due to errors on your credit report, contact Flitter Milz for a no cost case evaluation.  Errors on credit reports can lower your credit score, which can hurt your ability to get new lines of credit or receive favorable terms on a new loan.  Contact Us today.

Buying a new car? Make sure your credit reports are in order.

A car purchase is one of the most exciting purchases a consumer makes. But let’s face it, cars are expensive and you have to figure out how to pay for them.

Before visiting the dealership, consumers must review their finances and evaluate payment options.  Informed buyers allow for making the best car buying decisions.  Car salespeople are known to pressure potential buyers in to selecting vehicles from their lot — often ones the consumer may not want or be able to afford.

Four steps to prepare for purchasing a vehicle

STEP 1:  Obtain current copies of your credit reports

Lenders request access to consumer’s credit files in the process of evaluating the buyer for a new loan. Credit reports provide detailed information related to Credit Report and Credit Historythe consumer’s credit accounts, including balances and payment history.  When reports reflect incorrect information, lenders may deny applications for credit.

Before submitting a credit application, consumers should obtain current credit reports from each bureau – Transunion, Experian and Equifax — and evaluate the reports for accuracy.  If there are errors, written disputes must be sent to the bureau.

To obtain credit reports, prepare a request and send it by US Mail to the bureau.  The letter should be accompanied by two forms of identification, such as a current driver’s license, a utility bill, or pay stub.  It may take about two weeks to receive reports from the three bureaus.  Alternatively, you could visit annualcreditreport.com to obtain reports online.

STEP 2:  Review credit reports for items that could hurt your Credit Score

Banks, credit unions or financial institutions review the consumer’s credit reports and scores in the process of determining whether to extend credit or not.  Various factors are considered in the evaluation process:

  • Payment history:  Were payments made in full and on time?
  • High Debt to Credit Utilization: How much credit is used compared to the total amount of credit that is available?
  • Multiple Hard Inquiries: How many credit inquiries have been made within a period of time? Would this borrower be considered high-risk?

When there are errors on credit reports, the consumer must take steps to correct them. Sometimes, tradelines are not listed accurately by lenders or creditors on credit reports.  These errors, which could result in lower credit scores, must be corrected in advance of a new credit application.

STEP 3: Evaluate options to pay for the new car

Determine the price range of the car you can afford before deciding on the car you want to drive.  Evaluate your finances and determine how you’ll be able to pay for the vehicle.

Should I pay with cash?
The advantage of purchasing a car with cash is that you own the vehicle free and clear.  You will not pay interest on monthly loan payments, or have lease payments which do not build equity in a vehicle that can be sold later.  However, car buyers must consider whether it makes the best financial sense to allocate funds to purchase a car with cash.

Should I enter in to a lease?
Leasing a car allows for driving a “better car” for less money.  This option can be advantageous to some consumers as there is no down payment, lower monthly payments, and repair costs can be covered under the manufacturer’s warranty.  At the end of the lease, the vehicle is returned to the dealership — you don’t own the vehicle. Issues such as early termination costs, mileage overages, or wear-and-tear must be addressed with the leasing company.  After leasing, some consumers may choose to purchase the vehicle they had leased and enter a finance agreement to pay for it.  Others may choose to enter a new lease for a brand new car.

Should I finance the vehicle?
The process for selecting a car can be tedious.  Decisions involving which manufacturer, model, color, and options, as well as availability can make the purchase difficult.

Equally important is the process to determine how to pay for the car.  Questions such as: Do I have funds to put towards a down payment?  Do I have a vehicle to trade?  How much will the dealership give me for the trade? Which lender provides the financing rates and terms? Do I need to purchase a warranty?

Shop for the Financing

Once the decision is made on the specific car you want to buy, and you know how much it will cost, it’s time to shop for financing. Whether its with a bank, credit union, or financial institution, explore and compare loan offers for interest rates, loan terms, and monthly payment amounts.  Most dealerships encourage buyers to work with their finance manager for these arrangements. But beware of add-ons, such as extended warranties, GAP insurance, or extra equipment which add to the total cost of the vehicle.

Do not feel pressured by the salespeople at the dealership.  Take your time to review the documents. Think about the following:

  1. Shop for the car, then, separately, shop for the financing.
  2. Review the Paperwork:  Does the Buyers Order list all items you want on your car. Do the numbers add up?
  3. Is the amount of the down payment listed correctly?
  4. Is the amount of the trade listed correctly?
  5. Read the loan agreement carefully before signing.  Do you agree to the terms?  Payment due date?  Do the numbers add up?

If the paperwork is not correct, demand that it be corrected. If you’re not satisfied, you can always go elsewhere.

STEP 4:  Cost of Ownership
Do not overlook the cost to care for the vehicle. On average consumers keep a car for about 6 years, whether it’s new or used, . Estimate expenses such as, maintenance, repairs, insurance, and fuel. No matter which car you buy, maintaining the vehicle is an important part of your investment.

Legal Evaluation of Credit Reporting Problems

Have you been denied an auto loan due to errors on your credit reports? Flitter Milz is a nationally recognized consumer protection law firm that represents consumers in matters against the credit bureaus for inaccurate credit reporting.  Contact us for a no cost legal evaluation.

Pictured: Attorneys Cary Flitter (center), Andy Milz (left), Jody López-Jacobs (right)

Medical Debt –Three Important Changes to your Credit Reports

The three main national credit bureaus — Trans Union, Equifax, and Experian — have agreed to make changes in the reporting of medical debt. As of July 1, 2022, settled medical debt that would normally remain on credit reports for up to 7 1/2 years should come off the report. As a result, consumers may see an increase in their credit score, a benefit which can open doors to borrowing at more favorable rates for housing, loans and credit cards.

Three Important Changes to Credit Reporting

Change #1: As soon as a medical debt is paid, it will be removed from the consumer’s credit reports. This means if you’ve paid your medical bill in full and the debt still appears on your credit report as a negative mark, the tradeline and any late pay history on the credit report, will be removed.

Change #2: The period to report unpaid medical debt will increase from six months to one year. This will give people a chance to pay the medical debt off, work with a health insurance carrier, or dispute it before credit problems arise.

Change #3:  In the first half of 2023, all medical collection debt with an initial reported balance of less than $500 will be removed from credit reports.  This will result in nearly 75% of medical debt to disappear from consumer credit reports.

Medical Debt is usually unforeseen

Let’s face it.  Most medical debt is incurred unexpectedly. Patients visit doctors or seek medical treatment because they are sick or have had an injury. Due to the high cost of healthcare, many Americans have difficulty paying expensive medical bills to hospitals, physicians, labs and other medical providers.

Collectors must follow the law

Unfortunately, unpaid medical debt may be forwarded to a collection agency or law firm collector.  Once in collection, negative tradelines appear on credit reports and credit scores may drop. Consumers then begin to feel the effects of a negative credit rating.

 

Common impact of a negative credit rating
-Credit term changes, i.e. credit limits lowered, or interest rates increased
-Loan applications denials
-Landlords application denials
-Job offers or promotions retracted

Federal Laws Protecting Consumer’s Rights

The following consumer protection laws provide protections for consumers from inaccurate information appearing on credit reports and abusive collection practices by debt collectors.

Fair Credit Reporting Act

The Fair Credit Reporting Act governs how consumer credit information can be used and distributed.  It gives the consumer rights to view credit reports and dispute inaccurate information.  Consumers should obtain current copies of their credit reports from Transunion, Experian and Equifax at least every year.  When information is listed incorrectly, the consumer must take steps to dispute the errors.  The credit bureaus are required to investigate disputes and fix or delete inaccurate information within 30 days of a consumer dispute. If they don’t, they may have broken the law.

Fair Debt Collection Practices Act

The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act is a federal law that provides legal protections for consumers from a collector’s abusive collection tactics.  Common violations to this law include:

  • Harassment or abusive contact
  • Threaten a lawsuit when none is intended
  • Misrepresentation, miscalculation, or inflation of the debt
  • Provide false or misleading information to the credit bureau
  • Continue to collect after filing for bankruptcy

When collecting medical debt from consumers, or other personal and household obligations, debt collectors must follow the law.  Violations to the FDCPA allow the consumer to pursue legal action against the collector, and the collector will be responsible for legal fees.

Get Qualified Legal Help from Experienced
Consumer Protection Lawyers

Attorney Andy Milz states, “Here at Flitter Milz, PC, we strongly believe medical debt should not be reported at all.  Unlike a mortgage, credit card, or car loan, medical debt does not represent a financial choice, but is often a result of an emergency or hardship.  And, even for the majority of consumers with some form of health insurance, getting the insurance      company to pay the bill in its entirety is always a challenge. Inability to pay medical debts should not weigh down a person’s creditworthiness.  Unfortunately, until now, health care providers, medical debt collectors, and the credit bureaus have been allowed to report this negative information.”

Flitter Milz is a consumer protection law firm that concentrates in the specialized area of credit reporting and addresses accuracy and privacy and violations of the FCRA, and abusive contact by debt collectors that violate the FDCPA.  Our firm has obtained millions of dollars in relief for consumers whose credit reputations have been damaged.  If inaccurate credit information is affecting your life, or you have been contacted by an abusive debt collector, contact us, for a no cost consultation.
Pictured: Cary Flitter (center), Andy Milz (left), Jody López-Jacobs (right).

Thinking of Going Solar? Do your homework.

Most households are looking for ways to reduce costs.  Today, utilizing the sun’s power has become an enticing option. Lowering monthly energy bills and  contributing to a green environment are common reasons that homeowners opt for solar power.  But, choosing to add solar panels to your home is not a casual decision.  It requires research, investigation and planning.

Is my home suitable for solar panels?

There are pros and cons to every decision a homeowner makes.  Like any other investment, going solar may not make sense for every home.  After gathering facts, you need to evaluate:

  1. Energy usage for the home.  How much power must be generated to satisfy the needs of people in the home.
  2. Condition of the roof.  Does the roof need repair or to be replaced? Can my roof handle the weight of panels?
  3. Location of the home.  Am I in the right climate for solar panels?
  4. Sunlight v. Shade.  Does my roof get enough sunlight throughout the day to produce the power needed for my home?  Do trees need to be removed from my property for panels to work efficiently?
  5. Panel configuration.  Does my roof have enough space for solar panels?

Shopping Solar Companies & Financing

Similar to purchasing other items for the home, when considering solar panels, homeowners must shop around, get quotes, and investigate solar panel companies to compare one offer from another. There are a wide variety of products on the market with varying levels of efficiency, durability, reliability, output and design. As well, there are a number of solar companies and installers — some are better than others. Check the company’s reputation to see if complaints been filed against them with the Federal Trade Commission, State Attorney General, or Better Business Bureau?  Also, searching court dockets for lawsuits that have been filed against solar panel companies or their finance companies may provide insight to issues that other consumer’s have faced involving solar transactions.

CAUTION #1:  Is “Free” really free?

Frequently, we hear about door-to-door solar salesman telling homeowners that the solar panels will be free. After listening to a sales presentation and learning

of the benefits of solar power, the consumer is presented an iPad or tablet to sign, believing their signature gives the salesman  permission to evaluate the property for panels.  However,  the signature, or initials, on an iPad may authorize the solar company, without the consumer’s knowledge, to:

 

-Access the consumer’s credit file.
-Utilize the signature on documents that are Doc-U-Signed
-Enter the consumer in to a contract for solar panels
-Submit applications to finance the panels.

It’s not until panels have been installed on the home and bills begin to arrive that the consumer realizes solar panels are anything but free. Instead, many consumers find that they signed into a decades-long financial commitment which can last for 20 -25 years for the panels.  Bills from the local energy provider plus the cost of solar panels make the total cost of energy burdensome. All of a sudden, homeowners finds themselves in thousands of dollars of debt when they thought the panels were for free.

CAUTION #2:  Is the solar company reputable?

Before making a commitment to get panels, investigate reviews from other consumers. Obtain quotes from multiple solar companies for comparison. Then decide which company is best for you. For example, do I get panels from SunPower, Momentum Solar or Tesla?  Which company offers the product I want to buy?  Which company is presenting me with the best system for my home? What types of problems have other consumers faced when getting panels from one company versus another?

CAUTION #3: Why did the solar company access my credit report?

Prospective lenders for solar panels, such as banks, credit unions and financial institutions, seek access to the homeowner’s credit reports to determine whether to extend credit. This can only be done with the consumer’s written permission. When reports are accessed without the consumer’s permission, the consumer’s rights may have been violated. The Fair Credit Reporting Act is a federal law that governs the privacy and accuracy of credit reports.  If you do not want your reports accessed, do not sign anything that would grant permission.

CAUTION #4: How do I pay for the solar power system?

If you don’t have cash on hand to pay for the system, you must evaluate whether to lease, enter a power purchase agreement (PPA) or finance the system through a solar loan.

The benefit of entering a solar lease or PPA is that costs are not paid upfront. The solar company owns the system on your roof and monthly payments are made to them for the energy generated by the panels.

Solar loans work like other home improvement loans. The loan is taken out through a finance company with monthly payments made to the lender for the purchase of the system.  Just like researching the solar company, homeowners must research the best way to finance the solar power system. There are several companies, such as Goodleap, Mosaic, or Sunlight Financial, that offer loans for solar panels. But ask yourself, which one offers the best terms for me?

For instance: Who is Goodleap?

Formerly known as Loanpal, Goodleap is a finance company that provides loans for solar products like rooftop solar panel systems. Goodleap teams up with door-to-door sales companies who sometimes entice people to sign up for “free” solar panels. Hundreds of consumers have complained about Loanpal/Goodleap’s business practices to the Better Business Bureau. The Better Business Bureau has rated Loanpal an “F.” From customer reviews, Loanpal received only one out of five stars. In fact, some consumers complain that they never saw or signed a contract. When faced with accusations that the solar panel salesperson engaged in fraud — such as signing up a consumer for a loan without their knowledge or consent — Goodleap has attempted to distance itself from the solar panel company.

The salesperson won’t even tell you that Goodleap needs to pull your credit report for a loan.  Your “consent” may have been buried in documents that were Doc-U-Signed on the iPad or tablet. And although you may have been promised copies of anything you signed, you never received them. Often, you won’t learn about the existence of any loan papers until the solar panels have been installed on your home.  Remember, it is fraudulent and unlawful for anyone to be signed up for a loan without written consent.

How to protect yourself when considering solar 

  • Get a copy of the contract and read it carefully before signing. There is no rush for you to enter into a deal.
  • Never give out personal information – bank account numbers, birth dates, Social Security Number – to a door-to-door salesman you just met.
  • Monitor your credit. It is illegal for a solar company to make a hard inquiry on your credit report without a permissible purpose. You must provide written authorization for someone to access your credit file.
  • Visit websites for the Federal Trade Commission, Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, State Attorney General, and the Better Business Bureau for insight on solar energy scams.

Seek Legal Help from a Qualified Consumer Law Firm

Flitter Milz is a nationally recognized consumer protection law firm that evaluates solar panel sales matters for potential violation of the consumer laws involving fraud, such as forged contracts, identity theft and credit reporting privacy violations.  Contact Us

Pictured:  Cary Flitter (center), Andy Milz (left), Jody López-Jacobs (right).

Is your Credit Report Mixed with Someone Else’s Information?

Finding out that your credit report has been merged with someone else’s information usually occurs at the most inopportune time.  Often it’s when you’re considering the purchase of a home or car, taking out a student loan, or possibly looking for a new job or apartment.  However, it’s not until after credit applications are denied, or credit scores lowered, that most consumers review their credit reports.  At that point, when errors are discovered, damage to one’s credit may have already taken place.

Read more below:

Flitter Milz Nets
$360k Award in
Mixed Credit File
Lawsuit 

How do credit files get mixed?

There are a variety of reasons why credit files get mixed.  With the amount of information handled by creditors and the credit bureaus, mistakes are bound to happen.  For example, information from an application may be keyed into a file incorrectly. Digits on a social security number may be transposed, or a name misspelled from an application.  Those errors can pass from the original creditor through to the credit bureau.  Or, the credit bureau mistakenly may combine credit files of two or more different consumers into one file.  Unfortunately, the errors may not be discovered until the consumer reviews his or her report…usually after applying for new credit.

Common errors on mixed credit files
-Share a common family name, such as Smith or Jones

-Name suffixes – i.e. Sr., Jr., III
-Identical names
-Common address
-Similar Social Security Number or Birthdate
-Co-signers on loans
-Unidentifiable accounts resulting from identity theft
-Public record listings – judgments, liens, foreclosures.

Correcting mis-merged or mixed credit files 

If you believe someone else’s information has been mixed with or merged onto your credit file, a written dispute must be sent to the reporting agency.  Disputes for information on credit reports should be sent directly to Transunion, Experian or Equifax.  If errors appear on an industry specific agency report, such as ones used by employers, insurance companies, banks, or landlords for screening applicants, the dispute must be sent directly to that agency.  Correction of mis-merged or mixed credit files is similar to disputing errors on credit files.  Consumers should follow these important steps:

STEP ONE
Obtain current copies of your credit reports from Transunion, Experian and Equifax, or the industry specific agency.

Write for a current copy of your complete report.  Your letter must include two forms of identification to validate your ID and address, such as a current driver’s license and utility bill.

STEP TWO
Highlight items on your report that are incorrect.

STEP THREE
Gather documents that confirm your identity.  You must be able to distinguish yourself from the other person, such as a birth certificate, social security card, passport, driver’s license, account statements with your address, or paystub from your employer.  Provide copies of documents that specifically relate to the error(s) on the report.

Also, if you know who the mixed information belongs to, such as a relative, let the credit bureau know.  This may help in their investigation and enable a faster resolution to your dispute.

STEP FOUR
Prepare a dispute letter for the reporting bureau.  The letter must state that your file has been mixed with someone else.  Clearly identify the mistakes and provide relevant documents that show the error(s).  Request that the bureau correct your file.  Ask for written confirmation that shows the correction has been made.

The credit bureau has 30 days to address disputes

The reporting bureau has 30 days to respond to your written dispute.  If errors are not corrected, you may need to send a second dispute to that bureau, and possibly provide additional documentation.  Or, you may need to write to the underlying creditor, explain the problem and request corrected information be sent to the reporting bureau.

Can I sue the Credit Bureau or Credit Furnisher?

The Fair Credit Reporting Act is a federal law written to protect consumers from inaccurate or incomplete information listed on credit files.  When credit bureaus or credit furnishers do not take steps to correct errors on credit reports, the consumer may consider filing a lawsuit against the reporting bureau or creditor furnisher.

 

Flitter Milz in Action


Flitter Milz nets $360K Award in Mixed-File Case:
Hutchins v. Mountain Run Solutions, LLC

A U.S. federal court recently awarded $360,000 to our client, a young man whose life was upended by a debt collector who refused to remove an inaccurate account from his credit report despite our client’s numerous requests.  The case is Hutchins v. Mountain Run Solutions, LLC and can be found here.

Our client is a young professional who noticed a collection account he didn’t recognize on his credit report.  The account – which dragged down his credit score – belonged to his father, who shared the same name but had a different date of birth, SSN, and address.  The son made three disputes to the credit bureau Experian and the debt collector, Mountain Run Solutions, claiming the debt was not his and asking for an investigation, only to have his requests to investigate ignored.  He was forced to sue.

Mixed files like this, as recognized by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, are a big, big problem in the credit reporting industry.

After a damages hearing in federal court, the court entered judgment against the debt collector, awarding $180,000 to the son for the mental and emotional toll the negative credit caused him.  The court also said punitive damages were warranted for the debt collector’s knowing and willful violation, adding another $180,000 to the award for a total of $360,000.  (The claim against the credit bureau was resolved out of court).

Seek Qualified Legal Counsel

If someone else’s debt or a stranger’s account is on your credit report, Flitter Milz can help.  Whether your credit file has been mixed or mis-merged with a family member, someone with a similar name, or a total stranger, your consumer rights may have been violated.  Contact Us for a no cost evaluation.

Pictured:  Cary Flitter (center), Andy Milz (left), Jody López-Jacobs (right).

Take Control of your Credit

Understand credit scores and credit reports

Credit is part of your financial power.  It plays a crucial role in enabling us to get the things we may need or want, such as homes, vehicles or educations. However, many consumers don’t take an active role in managing and monitoring their credit scores or credit files. There is a common misconception that your “credit score” is your credit report.  It is important to understand the difference.

What is a credit score?

A credit score is a number that predicts how likely you are to pay back a loan on time.  Information that appears on your credit report is used in a scoring model, which is a mathematical formula, to create the score. Depending on the specific data used to calculate a score, the actual credit score number can vary from one scoring model to another.  Most credit scores range from 300 – 850.  Higher scores make it easier to qualify for a loan and may result in better terms, such as interest rates and length of the loan.

Seeking Credit

When consumers seek credit, whether it be for a mortgage, auto loan, credit card, or another type of credit product, the lender will request access to the consumer’s credit and obtain copies of his or her credit reports and credit scores.
This information will assist the lender in determining whether to extend credit, and if so, the interest rate on the loan or credit card, and the credit limit.

Here are some guidelines that may help you to get and keep a good credit score

  • Pay your loans in full and on time.
  • Keep credit balances low in relation to the full credit limit
  • Develop good payment history over time
  • Only apply for the credit you need
  • Review your credit reports regularly

What is a Credit Report?

Transunion, Experian and Equifax are the three main credit reporting bureaus.  These bureaus provide credit reports which list specific information about a consumer’s credit activity and payment history. Lenders use these reports to help determine whether to extend credit or not.  As well, other businesses such as insurance companies and utilities, or prospective employers and landlords, may request access to a consumer’s report for use in making decisions about you.  Shall I give you a job offer?  Rent you an apartment?

Many people use apps, such as CreditKarma or Credit Sesame, to get a sense of where their credit stands.  But these apps do not show your credit report.  Instead, they give you only a superficial snapshot of the status of your accounts.  They may not show the most up-to-date information about your credit file, which may reflect inaccurately reported missed payments from years ago.  The only way you can see the most current information on your credit file is to obtain your credit report from one of the three main bureaus – Transunion, Experian and Equifax.

What type of information is on a Credit Report?

The type of information listed on credit reports can include:

Personal information:
Your name and name changes, current and former addresses, birth date, social security number and phone numbers.
Credit Accounts:
Name of creditor & account type, balance, payment history, credit limit &
date opened/closed.
Collection Accounts:
Credit accounts that have been assigned to a collection agency.
Public Records:
Liens, Foreclosures, Bankruptcies, Civil suits and Judgments
Hard Pull Inquiries:
Lenders that access a consumer’s credit file in the process of extending new credit.
Soft Pull Inquiries:
Businesses access consumer files for the purpose of extending a new
credit opportunity or service.

Check your credit reports for accuracy

Credit reports should be reviewed regularly for accuracy. When incorrect information appears on a credit report, the consumer must send a written dispute to the credit bureau. The dispute letter must clearly state the error that appears on the report and include documents that support the claim for correction.  The bureaus have 30 days to respond in writing to the dispute.  If the error is not corrected, the consumer may need to seek counsel from a qualified consumer protection lawyer.

How to Obtain a Credit Report?

Send a written request to the credit bureau

Consumers may obtain credit reports by writing to Transunion, Experian and Equifax. Your letter should include two forms of identification, such as a current driver’s license and utility bill.  It may take about two weeks to receive your report through the mail. Click here for a template letter.

Request your report online:

During the COVID-19 pandemic, Transunion, Experian and Equifax are offering free weekly online credit reports through annualcreditreport.com, a website authorized under federal law that allows you to request free reports from each credit reporting agency every 12 months.

Seek Legal Help from Qualified Consumer Lawyers

Attorneys at Fitz MilnerDo you have errors on your credit reports?  Problems getting credit?
Flitter Milz is a nationally recognized consumer protection law firm that evaluates matters involving credit reporting accuracy and privacy.

Contact us for a no cost legal evaluation of whether your consumer rights have been violated.  Pictured:  Cary Flitter (center), Andy Milz (left), Jody López-Jacobs (right)

Understanding Vehicle Repossession and the Impact on Credit

The hard facts about Repossession.

We all understand that when you borrow money, you need to pay it back. And if you take out an auto loan, whether it’s with a bank, credit union or other financial institution, if payments are late or missed, the lender has the right to repossess the vehicle.

Signing a loan agreement means that you agree to the terms to repay the money borrowed, plus any interest and fees, within a scheduled period of time. Opting to finance a vehicle is an important decision and carries significant responsibility and financial discipline.

Short Term v. Long Term Effects of Repossession

When the borrower defaults on an auto loan there are serious consequences. Immediately, daily life becomes upset without use of the car.  Getting to work or handling routine daily chores, such as food shopping, taking children to school, or attending doctor’s appointments, may present difficulties for the household.

But more important is the long-term consequence. Repossessions can remain on credit reports for seven-and-one-half years, beginning from the date that the account first became delinquent.  And, as long as the repossession stays on your report, it can seriously damage credit and impact the calculation of credit scores. Also, negative listings on credit reports may make it more difficult to secure new loans, and existing creditors could alter credit terms by lowering credit limits or increasing interest rates.

Factors that can Damage Credit

  • Late payments – every month a payment is missed a negative mark appears on the account’s payment history.
  • Defaults – Loan defaults carry negative weight.   i.e. charge-off or repossession.
  • Collections – Collection accounts appear as negative listings on credit reports.
  • Court Judgments – Unsuccessful collection attempts, lead to lawsuits against the borrower to obtain a judgment.

Factors Contributing to the Calculation of a Credit Score

  • Payment History – Timely payments made to an account
  • Credit Utilization – The ratio of available to used credit
  • Age of Credit – The length of time an account has been open
  • Types of Accounts – A consumer’s credit mix: mortgage, credit cards, loans, etc.
  • Application history – The number of credit applications submitted within a specific period

Legal Protections from a Wrongful Repossessions

Whether or not the borrower defaulted on the terms of the auto loan, State and Federal laws govern how lenders and repo agents are to handle repossessions properly– at the scene and afterwards. When the borrower’s consumer rights are violated, a case could be pursued against the lender, repo agent or both. Repo agents may not threaten the borrower or use physical force.  In the course of repossession, the borrower’s vehicle or property is not to be damaged.  If police are called to the scene, their job is to keep the peace, not assist with the repossession.  If personal items have been left in the repossessed vehicle, the repo agent must permit the borrower to retrieve those items.

AFTER the Repossession

Following the repossession the lender has responsibilities to the borrower.  They must provide notices that inform the borrower with steps to retrieve the vehicle and their personal property.  Once the vehicle is sold, the lender must inform the borrower of the selling price and present a calculation of any remaining balance owed to satisfy the loan.

Manage Auto Loan Payments and Credit Reporting

Monitor Credit Reports for Errors
Over the course of the auto loan, borrowers should monitor their Transunion, Experian and Equifax credit reports for accurate reporting. If incorrect information is listed, such as a late payment history, a dispute letter should be sent to the lender and the credit bureau to request correction on the report.  

Send Effective Disputes
Disputes letters must include documents that show the error, such as cancelled checks, account statements, correspondence with the lender, etc. Also, the dispute must clearly state the requested action,  an update, correction or removal of the information.

Keep Accurate Payment Records

As important as it is to make payments in full and on time, we can’t always rely on the lender to keep an accurate record of payments.  Sometimes mistakes are made. Incorrect payment amounts could be applied to the borrower’s account, or the payment could be applied to someone else’s account.  Borrowers that manage and keep accurate payment records have good documents to support disputes made to the lender and/or credit bureau.

Seek advice from a Qualified Repossession Lawyers

Flitter Milz is a nationally recognized consumer protection law firm that represents consumers in matters of wrongful repossessions and credit reporting accuracy and privacy disputes. When errors remain on credit reports after a dispute, Contact Us for a no cost legal review to determine whether your consumer rights have been violated.  Pictured: Cary Flitter (center), Andy Milz (left), Jody López-Jacobs (right).

Why the Pandemic May Be Hurting your Credit Score

Consumer Reports, February 3, 2021
Why the Pandemic May Be Hurting Your Credit Score By Lisa L. Gill
https://www.consumerreports.org/credit-scores-reports/why-the-pandemic-may-be-hurting-your-credit-score/

Photo-illustration showing a credit score icon and finance-related terms floating above a person's head

Illustration:  Lincoln Agnew

Attorney Andy Milz, cautions consumers that COVID-19-related payment deferrals aren’t the only problem contributing to credit reporting errors and drops in credit scores since the pandemic.  He states, in this recent Consumer Reports article, that other common credit reporting errors, such as accounts or loans that have been paid off but still appear as unpaid, individual loans reported multiple times, or debt that’s listed as in collections but has been paid off, can pose hurdles, too, if you need a loan or line of credit.

Protect your credit.

Don’t let inaccurate information on your credit report keep you from getting the loan you want.  The Fair Credit Reporting Act, is the federal law that helps ensure the accuracy of information on credit reports.  It is the duty of credit furnishers and the credit bureaus to report accurate information. If reported information is disputed by the consumer, the bureau and/or creditor must investigate the claim and correct the error. Consumers must take steps to keep accurate credit reports.

1. Review your Credit Report Regularly

Consumers are entitled to receive one free credit report every twelve months from each of the Big 3 credit bureaus – Transunion, Experian and Equifax. Consumers must provide two forms of identification, such as a current driver’s license, pay stub or utility bill, to obtain a report.

2. Send written dispute to address errors with the Credit Bureaus

If you notice errors on your credit reports, you must send a written dispute to the bureau.  The letter should clearly identify the error and state why the listing should be updated or removed. Errors that remain on a consumer’s report could violate the consumer’s right under the Fair Credit Reporting Act.

3. Seek Legal Help from a Qualified Consumer Protection Law Firm

Attorneys at Fitz MilnerFlitter Milz is a nationally recognized consumer protection law firm that represents consumers in matters where the credit bureaus or credit furnishers have continued to report errors on credit reports.  Contact Us for a no cost legal review to determine whether your consumer rights have been violated.
Pictured: Cary Flitter (center), Andy Milz (left), Jody López-Jacobs (right).

Are you keeping your Credit Information Private?

Credit reports contain a wealth of personally identifying financial information and offer a peek into a consumer’s current, and past, financial status.  The privacy of these reports, and the accuracy of their information, is critical to consumers. Prospective lenders, employers, landlords and utility companies may need to request access to reports to determine whether to extend credit, offer a job or a place to live.

The Fair Credit Reporting Act is the federal law that governs how credit information is used and distributed. Consumers have the right to see their reports, who may have accessed it, and dispute any errors that appear and get them corrected.

Who can access your credit report?

An individual or business may request access to a consumer’s credit file, but they must obtain written permission from the consumer.  Often, during the process of applying for credit, interviewing with a prospective employer or landlord,  or applying for utilities,  there may be a request to access the consumer’s credit file.  Many times the credit application will serve as written permission.  Other times, a specific document will be presented to the consumer for his or her signature.

Periodically, lenders with whom you already have credit accounts are also given permission to access your credit reports as part of their account review process. These inquiries, however, would not negatively impact your credit scores.

In some instances, the government is also permitted to access your credit reports, specifically if responding to a court order or subpoena, or when reviewing your eligibility to certain governmental benefits.

Monitor your Credit Reports for Privacy and Accuracy

Credit report print outConsumers must monitor their reports, not only for accuracy, but to see who has accessed his or her credit file. The three main credit bureaus, Transunion, Experian and Equifax, are required to keep track of instances in which credit reports are accessed, and who is accessing them.

Impermissible Credit Pulls include:

  • A sales company pulling a credit report before a consumer has given an OK.
  • A creditor that pulls a report after debt is discharged in bankruptcy.
  • A creditor pulling a report after the account has been closed.
  • A potential employer pulling a report during the interview process.
  • A potential landlord pulling a credit report without permission.

What is ‘Hard’ v. ‘Soft’ Credit Inquiry

In general, two types of credit inquiries exist:  a hard inquiry and a soft inquiry.

      • A ‘hard’ inquiry, is when a lender with whom you’re applying for credit reviews your credit reports within the scope of their process to decide whether to approve or decline the new credit application. Too many hard inquiries on one’s credit report is not a good sign to lenders, since it signals that you either have too many accounts open, that you are having financial difficulty, or that you are at risk of overspending.
      • A ‘soft’ inquiry, is when a lender or credit card company reviews your credit reports as part of a preapproval process for some type of promotional offer. The important thing to remember is that a ‘soft’ credit pull will not hurt your credit score.

How do I know if someone accessed my report?

Credit reports are divided in to sections, such as:  Personal Information, Public Records, Account Information, Satisfactory Accounts, Closed Accounts, Collections, and Inquiries. The Inquiry section lists all individuals or companies that have accessed the consumer’s report and includes the name of who inquired, the date of the inquiry, the type of business and the businesses’ contact information.  The consumer may write to the address of the inquirer to request an explanation for the inquiry.

How do you get your Credit Reports?

All consumers are entitled to one free credit report every 12 months from TransUnion, Experian and Equifax. Often, the credit bureau will request two forms of identification with your request which confirm who you are and where you live. You may choose to submit a current driver’s license, utility bill or pay stub. Consumers that wish to view their reports more often could enroll in a credit monitoring service, or pay to receive additional individual reports from each bureau.

3 Options to obtain credit reports:

      1. Write to the credit bureau.
      2. Visit the website:  annualcreditreport.com.
      3. Call toll-free –877-322-8228.

 

Have you become a victim of Identity Theft?

Periodic reviews of credit files can help ensure that no fraudulent activity has occurred with your financial information.  By checking your credit reports frequently, you can see whether credit applications or unfamiliar accounts were opened in your name, or that your file was accessed without permission. If you discover that you may be an identity theft victim, place a fraud alert on your credit report to alert the bureaus that you must be contacted when credit applications are filed.

How do you dispute Credit Reporting Errors?

Credit reports must be accurate.  When you discover errors or listings that are unfamiliar, a written dispute letter must be sent to the credit bureau. The letter must clearly identify the error and state the action required to correct the problem.  In addition, the bureaus must receive documents which support the claim for correction.

Get help from a Qualified Consumer Law Firm

Flitter Milz is a nationally recognized consumer protection law firm that represents consumers in matters involving credit reporting accuracy and privacy. Contact us for a no cost evaluation of whether your consumer rights have been violated.