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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.

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.

How to Maintain Good Credit During Divorce

Financial Separation is Key

Getting divorced is never easy. Although it is an unfortunate fact of life for more than half of all U.S. couples, parting ways with your spouse doesn’t mean that your credit has to take a hit.

Separating financially is crucial as most married couples share joint assets, such as homes, cars, credit cards and loans. But the division of these accounts can be a messy financial predicament.  It is important for you to protect your credit, and good name, as you work towards an independent life from your spouse.

Credit Impact During Divorce

Joint accounts have joint consequences, and often with the stress of divorce one spouse may have forgotten to make a payment, or assumed the other spouse did. Missed or late payments may result in contact from debt collectors, negative credit reporting and lowered credit scores.  To ensure joint accounts get paid properly and on time take these steps:

1. Calendar payments.
–   Identify accounts: your name v. joint.
–   Create a file for each account.
–   Organize account statements.
–   Calendar payment due dates.
–   Review accounts for payment status.

 

2. Obtain Current Credit Reports.  Transunion, Experian and Equifax are the three main credit reporting agencies. Consumers are entitled to receive one free credit report from each bureau every year.  Sometimes, consumers choose to enroll in a credit monitoring service which enables review of credit reports on a regular basis throughout the year.

How to get credit reports.  We suggest that you send a written request to each credit bureau to obtain a report.  Your letter should include two forms of identification, such as a current driver’s license and utility bill. It takes about two weeks to receive your reports.  While you can also obtain your reports online through www.annualcreditreport.com, this method requires you to agree to terms in a “click” agreement, which could negatively impact your consumer rights.

3. Identify your accounts
Review your reports and identify accounts in your name and those that are joint with a spouse.  Evaluate your reports for errors such as:

            • Inaccurate personal identifying information.
            • Account balance or payment history errors.
            • Duplicate account information.
            • Personal information belonging to someone else.
            • Accounts opened by someone other than yourself.

4. If Inaccurate…Dispute!  After obtaining your credit report, if there are errors, you should send a dispute letter to the credit reporting agency to request that the errors be corrected.  Be sure to enclose documents that support your claim. The credit bureaus have 30 days to respond to your dispute. You may include documents such as, account statements, cancelled checks, court docket information, or collection correspondence that  prove why your claim of an error is valid.

One Dispute Letter Per Error. If you find multiple errors on a credit report, dispute them individually with the bureau. Enclose a copy of the credit report with the error highlighted and your supporting documents. The credit bureaus then have 30 days to respond to your dispute letter.

 

 

The Fair Credit Reporting Act 
The Fair Credit Reporting Act is a federal law governing how consumer credit information can be used and distributed. Consumers have the right to see what’s on their credit reports and dispute errors and inaccurate information. Errors not corrected, may violate the consumer’s rights.

Seek Legal Help

Flitter Milz, P.C. represents people in consumer credit matters related to credit reporting accuracy and privacy, abusive debt collection contact and vehicle repossessions which stem from a pending divorce or separation.  Contact Us for a no-cost consultation.

 

Who are the Credit Reporting Agencies?

 

What is a Credit Bureau?

Credit reporting agencies are companies that compile detailed financial information on consumers from various sources.  The information collected is put together into a credit report. When the consumer seeks credit, businesses then contact credit reporting agencies to obtain credit reports to assess the consumer’s financial health. These credit reports may be requested by insurance companies, credit card companies, potential landlords, potential employers, and others that need to evaluate your credit history.

The Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA)

The federal law, commonly called the FCRA, helps to ensure the accuracy, fairness and privacy of the information in consumer credit bureau files. The law regulates the way credit reporting agencies can collect, access, use and share the data collected in consumer reports.

The Big Three:  Transunion.  Experian.  Equifax.

Transunion, Experian and Equifax are the three main credit bureaus.  If a person or business is requesting your credit report, that request may very well be to one of these three national credit reporting agencies. However, there are many other credit reporting agencies, and many of them are tied to specific industries.

Industry Specific Reporting Agencies

Some credit bureaus are businesses that collect data and assign scores for specific purposes.  Usually these types of businesses may check reports before offering you employment, lending money to you or leasing you an apartment.  Some of these bureaus are listed below by industry.

Employment Screening

    • Accurate Background
    • ADP Screening & Selection Services, Inc.
    • com
    • Checkr
    • EmpInfo
    • First Advantage Corporation
    • General Information Services, Inc. (GIS)
    • HireRight
    • Info Cubic
    • IntelliCorp
    • OPENonline
    • Pre-employ.com
    • Truework
    • The Work Number

Tenant Background Screenings

    • Contemporary Information Corp. (CIC)
    • CoreLogic Rental Property Solutions
    • Experian RentBureau
    • First Advantage Corporation Resident Solutions
    • Real Page, Inc. (LeasingDesk)
    • Screening Reports, Inc.
    • TransUnion Rental Screening Solutions, Inc. (TransUnion SmartMove)

Check or Bank Screening

    • Certegy Check Services
    • ChexSystems
    • CrossCheck, Inc.
    • Early Warning Services
    • Global Payments Check Services, Inc.
    • TeleCheck Services

Insurance Screening

    • A-PLUS Property (by Verisk)
    • LexisNexis C.L.U.E. (Auto & Property Reports)
    • Drivers History
    • MIB, Inc.
    • Milliman IntelliScript

Sub-Prime Loan Market
for Auto Loans or Retail Installment Contract

    • Clarity Services
    • CoreLogic Teletrack
    • FactorTrust

Requirements for all Credit Bureaus

The list of credit reporting agencies goes on.  But regardless of the nature or type of credit reporting agencies, each such agency is required to give you at least one free credit report every twelve months.  Requests for credit reports should be made in writing and sent by mail.  For example, you could request a free copy of your credit report from both Transunion and Experian, so long as you have not requested a credit report from these agencies in the past twelve months.  The bureaus may charge for multiple reports requested during the year.

Credit Reporting Errors

Marking Up errors on credit report

Have you noticed any inaccuracies listed on your credit report?  If so, it is highly important that you dispute the errors directly to the credit reporting agency.  Dispute letters should be accompanied by a copy of the credit report with the error highlighted.  The letter should be  sent by certified mail, and should include all relevant evidence and documentation that supports your dispute. If the credit bureau does not correct an inaccurate listing, seek legal counsel.

Seek Legal Counsel

Flitter Milz is a nationally recognized consumer protection law firm that represents victims of inaccurate credit reporting.  Contact Us for a no cost legal review of your credit reports and evaluation of whether your consumer rights have been violated.

Protecting Your Credit During a COVID-19 Holiday Season

The holiday shopping season is, under normal circumstances, a big stressor on the wallet. But this year proposes to be even more difficult than in years past, given that the global COVID-19 pandemic has led to massive job losses and financial hardships for people far and wide. Although the federal CARES Act offers some flexibility to consumers for payment of debt and subsequent credit reporting, it is important to consider the ramifications of over-spending on your credit rating, credit report and credit score.

Spending Habits Impact your Credit

The danger in over-spending comes when that monthly bill is due, and you are still unable to come up with the cash to pay it off.  Not paying credit card bills on time is one of those factors that will negatively affect your credit score and reports. By keeping spending habits under control, you can protect your credit and improve your ability to obtain new credit.

Buy now, Pay later?  You must be disciplined.

Using a credit card makes it easy to over-spend, especially during the holidays. The freedom of making purchases with a credit card today, could make it difficult to pay the bill the following month if purchases get out of hand.

But not paying obligations timely is one of those factors that will negatively affect someone’s credit score.  When you are unable to pay off your charge card in full at the end of the month, interest will continue to run on those purchases, plus all future purchases, until the entire credit line is paid off.  Your credit score and credit reports can take a hit when your payment history shows missed or late payments.

Monitor your Credit Score and Credit Report

Credit reports and credit scores help reflect an individual’s financial picture. They are tools used to determine someone’s creditworthiness to lenders, help landlords make a determination as to whether you qualify as a trustworthy tenant, and are used by potential employers who are screening job applicants.

 

Credit Reports
The Fair Credit Reporting Act is the federal law that regulates the credit reporting agencies. The bureaus must list consumer’s information accurately.  Consumers may obtain a free credit report every twelve months to check their reports for errors.  When information is listed inaccurately, the consumer must send a written dispute to the bureau and request a correction to the report.

Credit Scores
Credit scores indicate to a prospective lender how likely the consumer is to pay back the obligation on time and in full.  Scores are determined by a number of factors including:

    • The type of credit held by the consumer, such as credit card accounts, home mortgages, vehicle loans, and any other debt.
    • Credit history, as in the length of time someone has held an account.
    • The total amount of existing debt that someone has in his or her name.
    • Payment history, whether scheduled payments are made in full and on time.
    • Credit activity, or the frequency a person has applied for a credit account, as well as the number of credit inquiries.
    • The percentage of available credit used.

Seek Legal Advice

Flitter Milz is a nationally recognized consumer protection law firm that represents people with credit reporting accuracy and privacy issues, contact from abusive debt collectors and wrongful repossession. If you are someone who has suffered a hardship during the pandemic and feel as though your consumer rights have been violated by the credit bureaus, a lender or debt collector, Contact Us for a no-cost evaluation.

 

How long can a debt collector pursue an old debt?

Are you getting calls or collection letters about an old debt from years ago? Perhaps you forgot about it, or you simply did not have the money to pay for it at the time.  But now, debt collectors are calling and sending you letters, demanding that you pay up.  You may be asking yourself: What are my rights? Is it legal for the debt collector to demand payment of this old obligation?

Debt Collectors must follow the Law.

In Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and many other states, debt collectors can lawfully attempt to collect a debt no matter how old the debt is. However, federal law prohibits debt collectors from making any false, deceptive, or misleading statements in connection with the collection of any debt. This means that they cannot threaten to sue you when the debt is too old and beyond the legal time period allowable to file a lawsuit.

For example, in Pennsylvania the statute of limitations on a debt is four years from the date of default or the date of last payment. But sometimes debt collectors make misleading statements in their collection letters which suggest or imply that they have the right to sue or offer to “settle” the debt. This type of misleading statement violates the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act. When a collector violates the law, the consumer may pursue a lawsuit against the collector, and the collector will be responsible for the consumer’s legal fees.

Attempts to Collect Old Debt
Even though a debt collector can still make attempts to collect on old debts for which you cannot be sued, you should think twice before volunteering a payment. First, the amount might not be accurate, meaning that you end up paying more than what was required. Additionally, if you make a payment on an old debt, you run the risk of reviving the statute of limitations on the debt, making it possible for the creditor to sue you for the debt when it previously had no lawful basis to do so.

You’ve been sued?  Do not ignore the lawsuit.


Sometimes, the first time someone learns about a debt is through a lawsuit filed against them.  If you have been sued on a debt, it is very important that you obtain legal counsel.  Do not ignore the summons. Instead, you should seek out legal counsel.

Are debts listed incorrectly on your credit reports?

Debts are often reported to the credit bureaus, and then listed on credit reports. These debts must be accurately listed in all respects.  You can dispute any errors that appear on your credit report with respect to a debt, such as an inflated balance or an incomplete payment history.

 

How to dispute errors with the credit bureaus
When you submit a dispute to the credit bureaus, we recommend that you send the dispute by U.S. Mail, Certified Return Receipt, so that you have a good paper trail of your dispute.  For this reason, we recommend that you do not call the credit bureaus to dispute.  Also, do not submit disputes online. In an online dispute, you run the risk of losing important consumer rights buried in the fine print of the terms and conditions.

Also, when disputing, make sure to explain in detail the error pertaining to the debt.  Gather all supporting documents that illustrate the error and provide it to the credit bureau along with your written dispute.  The credit bureau then has 30 days to either fix the inaccuracy or delete the portion of the credit report that you disputed.

What does Charged-Off Debt mean?
There are limits on how long a debt may appear on your credit report.  Debts that have been “charged off” must be removed from your credit report 7 years and 180 days after the date of the charge off.  If such an old debt appears on your credit report, you can dispute this with the credit bureaus to have it removed.

Get Help from a Qualified Consumer Protection Law Firm
Flitter Milz is a nationally recognized consumer protection law firm experienced in representing consumers who have suffered from abusive debt collection practices and credit reporting errors.  Contact Us for a free consultation and find out how we can help.

 

Credit reporting and the CARES Act

Cares Act on Mask

These are challenging times that we live in.  Many people are forced to live on less income due to job loss, a death in the family, and involuntary pay cuts. Understandably, some people have fallen behind on their monthly payments, and are concerned about the negative impact on their credit reports.

Continue reading Credit reporting and the CARES Act