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.

Who is Titan Solar?

Titan Solar is a door-to-door sale company that sells and installs solar products like rooftop solar panel systems.  Titan Solar teams up with finance companies like Goodleap to finance the installation through loans and power purchase agreements.

Common Complaints about Titan Solar

In online complaints, Titan Solar has been accused of engaging in predatory marketing and of misrepresenting facts.  Sometimes, Titan Solar is accused of not informing the customer that installation is conditioned upon agreeing to a decades-long loan or power purchase agreement, and the contract might be hidden from the consumer.  Titan Solar’s finance company partner may also pull your credit report without your permission.

Impermissible Credit Pull

Doesn’t a company need your consent to pull your credit report?
Generally, yes.  If you did not consent to your credit being pulled, the company that did so must have some other legitimate business purpose for pulling your credit.  Often, during the process of applying for new credit or utilities, or interviewing with a prospective employer or landlord, there may be a request to access the consumer’s credit file. The consumer must provide written permission for his or her credit file to be accessed.

Consumer Rights for Impermissible Credit Pull
When a credit report has been accessed without the consumer’s permission, there may have been a violation to the Fair Credit Reporting Act.  The FCRA is a federal law governing how consumer credit information can be used and distributed.  Consumers may dispute inaccurate information and inquire about companies who accessed their credit file that they do not recognize.

Check your Credit and Dispute Errors
Before applying for new credit, consumers should obtain current copies of their reports from the three main bureaus – Transunion, Experian and Equifax. The reports should be viewed for accuracy and privacy.  If errors or unfamiliar information is listed, written disputes should be sent to the credit bureau through the US Mail.  The bureaus have 30 days to respond.

Disadvantage of Hard Pulls on Credit Report

If there was a “hard pull” of your credit report, it could harm your credit standing going forward. Hard pulls will stay on your credit file for two years, and as a result over that time period, you might lose out on other job, housing, or credit opportunities.

Lenders evaluate the number of hard inquiries that appear on a consumer’s credit reports during the credit application review process. Although hard inquiries represent one factor in the calculation of credit scores, too many hard inquiries in a short time could impact scores negatively and jeopardize the approval of a new credit application.

 

Better Business Bureau Complaints about Titan Solar

Hundreds of consumers have complained about Titan Solar’s business practices to the Better Business Bureau. As of the date of this writing, customers on the Better Business Bureau site have rated Titan Solar 1.87 stars out of five. Some consumers have made the following types of complaints:

  • Never saw, signed for, or received a contract or loan agreement.
  • Were signed up for a loan without giving permission.
  • Were sold more panels that needed for the home
  • Poor performance resulting in higher energy costs.

Protect Yourself from Solar Panel Sales Scams

Consumers must use caution while considering a solar power contract. If there are problems, address them quickly whether they’re with the solar sales company, the panel installer, or the finance company.  Otherwise the results can be devastating and put you in thousands of dollars in debt.  Solar panel loans or power purchase agreements can last for 20 or 25 years, resulting in burdensome monthly payments on top of an expensive electricity bill.

Contact an Experienced Consumer Protection Law Firm

Did Titan Solar reach out to you to have solar panels installed without disclosing the existence of a loan or power purchase agreement?  Has a Titan Solar salesperson offered you “free” solar panels without mentioning a loan?  Have you received an alert that your credit has been pulled, and you never gave permission to the salesperson to do so?  If the answer to any of these questions is yes, contact Flitter Milz for a no cost legal evaluation. Pictured: 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).

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.

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.