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.

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)

Auto Repossession and the Pandemic

During COVID, many consumers experienced wrongful repossession of their cars, trucks, motorcycles, RVs or boats — not just by big banks, such as Wells Fargo, Chase, Capital One or Bank of America, but also by credit unions and subprime lenders. While some lenders claimed to have paused repos, the rate of repossessions during the pandemic still seems to be high.  Indeed, as the Fall and Winter of 2021, a lot of COVID pandemic protections states implemented to help consumers reeling with COVID have expired.

After falling behind, many borrowers requested to have payments lowered  or deferred by their lender. Whether suffering from hardships related to unemployment, child care expenses, or missed work due to the pandemic, vehicles were still repossessed.

When do lenders decide to repossess vehicles?

Lenders don’t care why borrowers are late. They want to be paid. Most decisions to repossess are made automatically by lenders’ computer systems, and sometimes as quickly as missing only one payment.  When the system notices a missed payment, repo orders are sent electronically to the repo agent who is assigned to take the car. These same computers will simultaneously send negative late payment and repo notations to the credit bureaus.

Fallen Behind?  Three Steps to consider.

1. Contact your lender
Call the bank, credit union or financial institution and discuss whether  payments can be postponed.  Possibly, the lender may be willing to negotiate the due date or amount.  Be sure to get any changes to payment terms in writing  – whether it’s a big bank like Bank of America or Capital One, a credit union or a sub-prime lender, you must receive confirmation of any changes to the loan from the lender.
2. Consider refinancing the loan
Contact other credible lenders to see whether your loan can be refinanced at terms that you can meet.
3. Seek legal guidance from Flitter Milz, P.C.
The attorneys at Flitter Milz are experienced in representing consumers against banks, credit unions and financial institutions, as individuals and in class action lawsuits, for violation of their rights after repossession.

MOST IMPORTANT — Don’t ignore the debt.  Seek a solution.

Borrowers have rights after repossession

Are you the victim of a wrongful auto repossession?

Wrongful Repossession:  Was my vehicle repossessed in error?
Breach of the Peace:  Did the repo agent use violence or damage my property?
Police Involvement:  Did the police assist in the repossession?
Improper Notices:  Did the lender provide proper notices after the repossession?
Credit Reporting:  Are there errors on my credit report related to repossession?

Repossessions, Credit Reporting & Credit Scores

Credit Reports
Vehicle repossessions carry negative weight on credit reports.  Consumers must check their reports for accuracy and determine whether the lender has listed the payment history, loan status or balance owed in error.  To obtain a current copy of your credit report from Transunion, Experian or Equifax consumers may write to the credit bureau or visit:  annualcreditreport.com.

When errors appear on credit reports, the consumer must send a written dispute to the bureau.  The dispute must be accompanied by supporting documents that illustrate the error.  The credit bureaus have 30 days to respond to the written dispute.

Credit Scores
Auto loans that have fallen into default, and ultimately the vehicle is repossessed, a negative listing will appear on the borrower’s credit report.  The lender’s tradeline may be listed on the reports for 7 1/2 years from the date the last payment was made. This listing will factor in to a lowered credit score and make it difficult for the borrower to secure favorable terms on loans going forward.

Seek Legal Help After Repossession

Flitter Milz is a nationally recognized consumer protection law firm that pursues matters against banks, credit unions and financial institutions for the wrongful repossession of cars, trucks, motorcycles, RVs and boats.  Contact Us for a no cost legal evaluation to determine 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).

Resolution for the New Year: Create a Budget and Avoid Credit Problems

Crafting a household budget is not only necessary to help evaluate spending patterns and measure income versus expenditures, but it also helps to ensure a secure financial future.

When an individual’s debt-to-income ratio rises, meaning that the person is taking on more debt than they are receiving in income, dire financial circumstances may occur for that person, and his or her family.

And if debt starts to get out of control and goes on unpaid for a period of time, debt collectors will no doubt start reaching out, your vehicle could get repossessed and credit scores could plummet.

It All Starts With Budgeting

The discipline of a budget helps keep a focus on income and payments towards all financial obligations.  Develop a plan to meet your obligations and protect your credit rating.

1. Obtain Current Credit Reports
One of the first steps toward keeping on top of your financial picture is to obtain current copies of your credit reports from the three main reporting agencies, Transunion, Experian and Equifax. You are entitled to one free credit report every 12 months from each credit bureau.

2. Evaluate Credit Reports for Accuracy
A review of your report will point out any negative entries and possibly errors, which could remain as black marks on your credit reports for up to seven-and-a-half years. These listings may affect terms on existing credit or your ability to obtain favorable terms on new lines of credit. If you discover errors on your reports, dispute the errors in writing directly with the credit bureau.

3. Where is your hard-earned money spent?

If you know how much money is coming in versus going out each month, it becomes less likely that you’ll overspend to the point where payments are skipped or missed. Create the budget that you can stick to with a payment schedule that you can meet.  When you stay in charge of your finances, you decide when it’s time to make a new purchase, whether it be for a home, education, a new vehicle, or another personal expense.

4. Develop a Budget that’s right for you.
It’s all about organization and discipline. Gather all of your paperwork, create files for each account, calendar your payments and focus on meeting your financial goals.  These steps will help you meet your goals.

  • Identify your income sources
  • Compile a list of all expenditures: i.e. rent/mortgage, auto loan, insurance, food, credit cards, etc.
  • Categorize expenses: i.e. essential/necessities versus extraneous/unnecessary
  • Develop a plan to satisfy obligations within a specific time period
  • Obtain current credit reports from Transunion, Experian and Equifax
  • Establish both long and short-term financial goals.
  • Develop a plan to meet your goals.
  • Consider ways to earn or save more to help meet your goals

Seek Legal Help

Flitter Milz is a nationally recognized consumer protection law firm that represents victims with consumer credit problems, such as credit reporting accuracy and privacy issues, abusive debt collection tactics, wrongful vehicle repossession, which stem from over-spending. If you have errors on your credit reports, have received contact from debt collectors, or your auto lender has repossessed your vehicle,  Contact Us for a no-cost evaluation to determine whether your consumer rights may have been violated.

7 Ways Millennials can boost their Credit Scores

Millennials may be aware of the harmful effects of bad credit. The difficulty is in determining ways to change habits and establish financial discipline that will improve their financial outlook and their credit scores.  The following steps may show useful ways to carve a path to a brighter financial future.

Continue reading 7 Ways Millennials can boost their Credit Scores

How to Monitor Your Credit

Your credit history plays an important role in your ability to get approved for new lines of credit, whether it’s a new credit card, a personal loan, or another type of borrowing agreement. It also affects your ability to rent an apartment, or possibly be hired or promoted in your job.

Review Credit Reports & Dispute Errors

Do not wait until you’re ready to apply for a loan to check your credit. Monitor your credit reports regularly to see that your information is accurately reported.  If there is an error, send written disputes to the credit bureau.  You do not want to be denied for a loan because of someone else’s error. Credit applications are considered hard inquiries on your credit file, and denials could result in lowering your credit score.

Seek Legal Help

Flitter Milz is a nationally recognized consumer protection law firm that represents victims with credit reporting privacy and accuracy problems. Contact Us for a free consultation to discuss errors on your credit reports.

Credit Report Listings with Negative Impact

Your credit report plays a critical role in your overall financial health. The information that it contains will affect your ability to get new lines of credit for auto or personal loans, rent an apartment, and sometimes even get a job or promotion. It’s important to understand all of the information on your report and what types of negative listings may appear.

Every person’s credit report has the following:

  • Personal information.  Your name, current and previous addresses, social security number, date of birth, and possibly current and previous employers.
  • Credit accounts.  Current and previous credit accounts including details such as payment history, credit limit, monthly payment amount, and current balance. Auto loans, student loans, credit cards, and any other type of credit accounts in your name will be listed.
  • Inquiries. Hard inquiries are listed on your report when there is an application for new credit, and may remain on your report for up to two years. Several hard inquiries, which may be viewed by a lender as high risk, may lower your credit score and impact your ability to be approved for credit.  Soft inquiries are listed by companies offering to promote a special product or service and do not hold negative weight on your report.
  • Negative listings and public records. Late payments, debt, accounts in collection, repossessions, accounts in default, bankruptcies, foreclosures, and judgments are all listed on your credit report. Negative information can stay on your report for up to seven years and will lower your credit score. It may make it more difficult to get approved for new credit, or could result in higher interest rates on any loans or credit.

What you can do about negative listings

Negative listings on your credit report are frustrating, especially if you’re making an effort to improve your financial situation.  Take steps to pay down debt over time.

-Monitor your credit reports
-Dispute errors with the credit bureau and credit furnisher
-Pay your bills in full and on time
-Make a budget and stick to it

These positive actions will help improve your credit and show that you’re on the right track, even while the negative listings remain.

Seek Legal Help

Flitter Milz is a nationally recognized consumer protection law firm that represents victims of car repossession, credit reporting errors and unfair debt collection practices.  Contact Us for a free consultation to determine whether your consumer rights were violated.

How to Get a Job When You Have Poor Credit

Finding a new job can feel like a full time job in itself. First identifying companies and positions, then prepare your resume and cover letters.

The next most important step is to check your credit reports.

Employers usually check credit reports during the hiring process as a means to gauge the applicant’s responsibility with finances. Not all employers check credit reports during the employment screening process. But those that do, often check for positions that involve a security clearance, access to money, sensitive customer data or confidential company information.

An employment screening report only includes your account payment record, how much you owe, and your available credit. Potential employers can’t see your credit score. Follow these steps to prepare your credit before applying for a new job.

1. Obtain current credit reports

When you start looking for a new job, get a copy of your credit report. You should know appears on your report before a prospective employer obtains a copy. You can get a free report every 12 months from each of the three credit bureaus – Transunion, Experian and Equifax.

Review your reports for accuracy. If you see errors, dispute them directly with the reporting bureau. If you have negative listings like a car repossession or defaulted account, these should only stay on your report for 7 1/2 years.

2. Ask employer about credit checks

If you have negative credit listings and you’re concerned about the role they’ll play in your job search, contact your target companies anonymously and ask if they check credit as part of their candidate screening process. If you think it will be an issue, you might choose not to spend time on applications for a company that asks for your credit history.

3. Know your rights

Potential employers can ask for a copy of your credit file. However, there are guidelines that must be followed.
1) You must provide written permission for a company to request your report.
2) The company must notify you of the company that provide the employment screening report.
3) You may write to the screening report company to request a copy of the report that was used in the employment hiring process.

4. Take steps to improve your credit

Your job search will be easier in the future if you don’t have to worry about how your credit might affect your eligibility. Be proactive and evaluate your credit before applying for that new job.

-Review your credit file in advance.
-Make bill payments in full and on time.
-Use less than thirty percent of the credit that’s available to you.
-Maintain a healthy debt-to-income ratio.
-Dispute errors on your credit reports.

Seek Legal Help

Flitter Milz is a nationally recognized consumer protection law firm that represents victims with credit reporting accuracy problems.  Contact Us for a free legal review of your credit reports and an evaluation of whether your consumer rights were violated.