How to Deal with an Experian Dispute

Credit Report

It’s something that’s drilled into our heads over and over: You must maintain a good credit score.

But sometimes errors can pop up on our credit reports through no fault of our own. When that happens, it’s important to take steps to fix these errors as soon as possible.

In this blog post, we’ll explore how to do that using the example of one of the three main credit reporting services, Experian. Here’s how to deal with an Experian dispute.

Continue reading How to Deal with an Experian Dispute

Get to Know Your Credit Report

Checking your credit report regularly helps you understand where you stand when it comes to your finances. Many organizations, especially lenders, use credit reports as a way to get to know a consumer’s spending habits. They can be used to determine whether or not to approve someone for a new line of credit, a home loan, or a rental property. Although credit reports include a significant amount of information about you, there are certain things that will not be included.

What’s On Your Report

Credit reports contain the following information:

  1. Identifying information, including your name, address, social security number, employment information, and birthdate.
  2. All credit accounts you’ve opened, such as credit cards and loans. This section includes both open and closed accounts and provides details on each account, such as the type of account, date it was opened, credit limit, account balance, and all past payments made.
  3. All inquiries regarding your report from the past two years. Inquiries often come from lenders checking your credit before approving you for a loan or line of credit.
  4. Negative information, such as late payments, car repossessions, foreclosures, defaults, tax liens, collection accounts, judgments and bankruptcies.

What’s Not On Your Report

While credit reports have a majority of your financial information included, there are certain items that will not appear.

For example, credit reports list your employers but do not contain further information regarding your employment status or salary.

While information regarding lines of credit are listed, bank account balances, retirement accounts, 401k, and investment or brokerage account information is not included.

Also, your credit report will not be affected by marriage. After you’re married, your credit report and credit score remains independent of your spouse’s. Marriage will only affect your credit for accounts you and your spouse open together.

How to Obtain Your Credit Report

The three credit bureaus (Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion) are each required to provide one free credit report to consumers every 12 months. In order to obtain these reports, write a letter to the bureaus and request your report. Be sure to include two forms of identification, such as a current driver’s license and utility bill, with your letter.  You should receive your report within approximately two weeks.

Monitor Your Report Regularly

Credit reports are an effective way to determine if you’ve been a victim of fraud or if any mistakes have been made regarding your credit history. You should carefully review your credit file and report any suspicious listings. If you believe that you are a victim of identity theft, you should take steps by notifying the police, the credit bureaus and the creditors. If you have disputed errors and the credit bureau has not corrected your report, you can contact an attorney to discuss whether your consumer rights have been violated. Checking your report regularly is a good idea so that you can dispute errors as soon as possible.

Why It Matters

Credit reports are essentially a compilation of your credit activity. They allow lenders and other organizations to get to know you. When you learn how to read and interpret your credit reports, you will become confident to dispute any inaccuracies, and handle the errors in a timely fashion.  Viewing your reports regularly, helps to eliminate any surprises when you apply for loans or other lines of credit, apply for a job, or attempt to rent an apartment.

Seek Legal Advice

Flitter Milz is a nationally recognized consumer protection law firm based in suburban Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, that represents consumers in cases involving credit reporting accuracy and privacy violations.   Contact us for a free consultation to discuss problems with your credit reports.

U.S. Servicemembers: Strengthen Your Credit

Military life is one of frequent transitions. Each deployment, promotion, and change in duty status brings the need to make money-related decisions. These financial decisions can have long-term effects on family life, mission readiness, and security clearances.

Service members often run into trouble because of the irregularities in their daily life. They may tend to overspend and receive contact from debt collectors. They may fall for financial scams and become a victim of identity theft. Or, due to errors on credit reports, they may be denied loans or have a vehicle repossessed. Learning more about consumer credit and how to build a strong credit history can help servicemembers and veterans improve their financial health.

Take Advantage of Free Credit Reports

Under the Fair Credit Reporting Act, you’re allowed one free credit report from each bureau – Transunion, Experian, and Equifax – within a twelve month period. Send a letter to one of the bureaus and request your reports. Review them carefully to ensure that there are no errors and that you recognize all of the listed accounts. 

Credit Accuracy

Credit reports include personal information, credit history, credit inquiries, and public records.  Credit cards, mortgages, and loans are all listed along with the payment status. If you fall behind on payments or default on a loan, your credit report will list this negatively. Negative entries may make it more difficult for you to open a new line of credit, be approved for a new loan, or receive a promotion or security clearance. It may also mean that you will be approved for a loan, but with a higher interest rate.

Credit Privacy

Regular credit report checks help you monitor your accounts and determine whether someone has accessed your credit report without your permission or opened accounts in your name. If you notice suspicious activity, information that does not belong to you, or believe you have become a victim of identity theft, follow these steps:
  -Contact the Bank or Creditor
  -File a Police Report
  -File a Fraud Alert
  -Request your current credit reports
  -File an Identity Theft Affidavit with the Federal Trade Commission
  -Keep an organized file with all correspondence and records
  -Protect your personal information.  Keep it private.

Know How Much You Spend

A budget helps you see where you can cut back on spending and create a workable plan to pay off debt.Take the time to set a budget. Divide your regular expenses into categories for housing, food, transportation, health care, personal & family and finances. Determine how much you can afford to spend on each category every month. Use a spreadsheet or online tool to keep track of all of your accounts and expenses. 

Be Aware of Scams

Follow your gut. If it sounds too good to be true, it usually is. Unfortunately, service members are frequent targets for various scams. Companies or organizations could call and claim to belong to a veterans group or another legitimate sounding organization. Be sure to research the organization, find out where they’re located, see if there is a complaint board online, and investigate whether the company is reputable. 

Be cautious. If you receive a call from someone, do not provide any personal identifying information, such as your social security number or date of birth, or access to bank accounts or credit and debit cards.  Require them to provide you with something in writing that states who they are and where they are located.

Financial Guidance for Service Members

Remember, you’re not alone. There are many services offered through the Department of Defense and veterans organizations to help service members keep finances on track. Do your research and make a financial plan that is right for you.

Seek Legal Help

Flitter Milz is a nationally recognized consumer protection law firm that assists victims of identity theft that have suffered from credit report harm, abusive debt collectors and wrongful vehicle repossessions by aggressive lenders and repo agents.  Contact Us for a no cost consultation to discuss whether your consumer rights have been violated.

 

 

Steps to Take After a Data Breach

Anyone can be the victim of a data breach or identity theft. If you find yourself in this situation, remember that there are ways to protect your information from being compromised further. Be on the lookout for changes to listings on your credit reports, charges to your credit cards, “Welcome” letters sent by creditors, and any changes to your credit profile. Take these steps to protect yourself after a data breach to avoid the costly effects that a hack can cause.

1. Freeze Your Credit

You can “freeze”  or restrict access to your credit file which makes it harder for identity thieves to open new accounts in your name.  Notify the three main credit bureaus, Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion, that you request a credit freeze.  There is no cost to place a credit freeze on your file.

Often, identity thieves try to get approval for a new line of credit or loan.  If there is a freeze on your credit report, the bank or lender will not be able to access your credit file, keeping the thief from receiving approval for the credit request.

A credit freeze may also block you from access to your credit file. Follow specific steps required by each credit bureau to unfreeze your credit file by contacting:
Equifax:  800-349-9960        Experian:  888-397-3742       Transunion:  888-909-8872

2. Set Up Fraud Alerts

Fraud alerts provide less protection than a freeze but are still a valuable option. Rather than completely blocking companies from seeing your credit report, fraud alerts require identity verification before any further action can occur. Alerts typically expire after 90 days but are free and can be renewed. To request a fraud alert, write to the credit bureau(s) stating the reason for your request.

3. Monitor Your Statements

It’s also a good idea to monitor your account statements for any suspicious charges. Make it a habit to check your monthly statements and that you recognize each transaction and amount.  If you notice an error, send a written dispute immediately. Most credit card companies require written disputes within 60 days of an item listed on your statement.

4. Review Credit Reports & Dispute Errors

You’re entitled to one free credit report from each of the three credit bureaus every 12 months. We recommend that you write a letter to request your reports. Just as you would monitor your monthly statements, look over your credit report carefully and dispute any findings that are incorrect with the credit bureaus.

5. Beware of Scams

Identity thieves can be tricky, so learn how to recognize scams. Scammers often use tax season to target victims. If your information has been compromised, identity thieves could file taxes under your name and claim your refund.

Also, be aware of phishing attempts. Thieves can take advantage of security breaches by pretending to be members of the compromised organization. Be cautious who you give your information to following a data breach, even if the person claims to be trustworthy or knows your personal information.  Request that they provide you with written documentation showing who they are, the company they work for, and details that support their request.

6. Sign Up for Account Notifications

As a preventative measure, you can set up text and/or email notifications so that you’re aware when purchases are made on your account. Use these alerts to ensure that you’ve authorized all charges. If a suspicious charge arises, contact your bank or credit card company in writing to report the disputed charge.

7. Change Passwords

Make sure to change your login information on the breached account and any sites using the same information. Using different passwords for your accounts may help prevent other accounts from being hacked.

8. Address the Situation

Sometimes, it’s hard to tell the difference between a scam and a legitimate debt collector. When your identity is stolen, take steps to to secure your personal information and your accounts from further abuse.

9. Seek Legal Help

Flitter Milz is a nationally recognized consumer protection law firm that represents victims of identity theft suffering from credit reporting errors and contact from abusive debt collectors.  Contact us for a free legal evaluation to determine whether the credit bureaus or debt collectors have violated your consumer rights.

What To Do If Your Identity is Stolen

Identity fraud hit a record high with 15.4 million victims in the United States in 2016. Some of the most common types of identity theft include social security, financial, driver’s license, and medical. Older individuals may be particularly vulnerable to identity theft; scammers often persuade the elderly to provide personal information that they can use to steal their identities.

If you suspect someone has stolen your identity, it’s important to take action immediately. The consequences can be disastrous, but following these steps will help secure your information and prevent your credit from getting tarnished by someone else’s actions.

1) Contact the Bank or Creditor

When you see suspicious charges or withdrawals on an account, contact the bank or creditor immediately and tell them that the charges weren’t made by you. Follow up any verbal contact with a written communication that explains the issue.

2) File a Police Report

File a police report with the local police department and request a copy of the report.

3) File a Fraud Alert

When you see suspicious activity on your credit card or bank account, contact the three credit bureaus to put a fraud alert on your file. A fraud alert letter will notify the bureaus that you’re a victim of identity theft and that any new accounts should not be opened until you are contacted directly. A fraud alert is free and lasts 90 days.

4) Request Your Credit Report

Request a copy of your credit report and review the listings for accounts or entries that you don’t recognize. Send a blocking letter to the credit bureaus to note the items that don’t belong to you. You can also request that the bureaus block any new charges or entries that come to that particular account.

5) Contact the Federal Trade Commission

Contact the Federal Trade Commission to report the identity theft. Send an Identity Theft Affidavit or call the FTC Identity Theft Hotline at 877-438-4338.

6) Keep Thorough Documentation

Keep an organized file of all information and correspondence about the identity theft. This should include a copy of the police report, your credit report, credit card statements, and any correspondence about the issue.

7) Protect Your Information

Minimize the risk of identity theft in the future.

  • Keep your social security card in a safe space, not on your person.
  • Shred documents that have personal information like your social security number, bank account number or PIN, and credit card number.
  • Never provide personal information over the phone or online unless you have verified that the requesting party is legitimate.
  • Use secure, complex passwords. Don’t repeat passwords across websites. Keep your passwords in a safe place.  You may want to consider using a password storing tool to list your accounts and passwords.

Seek Legal Help

Flitter Milz is a consumer protection law firm representing victims of credit reporting errors and privacy violations and contact from abusive collection tactics which stem from identity theft.  If you have become a victim of identity theft and notice errors on your credit report, or have received calls or letters from debt collectors, Contact Us for a free consultation.

How to Protect Yourself from Identity Theft

Who knows my social security number?

Identity theft is more common than you may think. Sometimes the criminal is someone you know. It could be a family member, co-worker, or friend. But other times, it’s someone you’ve never met.

Before a criminal takes the opportunity to impersonate you and use your information, take steps to protect your identity. Extensive damage to your finances occurs when new accounts are opened without your knowledge, or when existing accounts are used without your permission.

Be cautious with your personal information. Keep your passwords for bank accounts, credit cards, loans and financial accounts in a safe place.  As well, be sure to shred statements and account records after use.

Who can I share personal information with?

Certain entities, such as financial institutions, employers, the Internal Revenue Service, government programs (i.e. workers compensation and welfare), medical providers, and insurance companies, require your Social Security Number (SSN). They often access information on credit reports to determine an applicant’s credit worthiness before approving a loan, a job or promotion, a new insurance policy, or medical coverage.

Do I have to provide personal information on request?

Legitimate businesses have privacy policies that explain why they collect personal information and the affiliates they share it with. Request a copy of this policy and review it for their list of affiliates. Consumers have the right to inquire why certain information, such as name, address, phone number, date of birth, and social security number, is requested on applications and forms.

Important Questions to Ask

You may not need to provide all information that is requested on a form. You may ask:
-How the information will be used
-Where and how long it will be stored
-Whether the location is secure
-How long the information will be kept on file
-Who will have access to the information
-When the information will be deleted

If your SSN is required, you may ask if  another form of identification would be acceptable.  You may be able to give a copy of your current driver’s license, a passport, or birth certificate instead.

Can I get a new social security number?

It’s not easy to get a new social security number. You can submit an application for a new SSN with the Social Security Administration under certain circumstances. For example:

  • Identity theft victims that continue to be disadvantaged by use his or her original number
  • A social security number assigned to more than one person.
  • Sequential numbers assigned to family members causing mis-merged credit reporting files.

When a new SSN is assigned, the new number is cross-referenced with the original number so that the person receives credit for all earnings under both numbers.

To request a new SSN, contact a Social Security office near you. You will need to complete an application, show documents that establish U.S. citizenship, age, identity, and evidence of any legal name change, if appropriate. The application must explain the reasons for needing a new number and provide credible evidence and documents that detail the reasons for needing a new number.

Get Free Legal Help

Flitter Milz is a nationally recognized consumer protection law firm that represents victims of credit report accuracy and privacy issues, and those who have experienced abusive collection tactics.  Contact us today for a free legal consultation to discuss how the consumer laws may help you.

IRS Warns of Identity Theft Scams

Identity theft remains a top priority for the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). It is among the fastest growing type of crime nationwide. Refund fraud caused by identity theft is one of the biggest challenges facing the IRS.

Taxpayers can encounter identity theft that involves their tax returns in several ways. Identity thieves try to file fraudulent refund claims by stealing and using another person’s identifying information.

Protect yourself from IRS Refund Fraud

  • Don’t carry around your Social Security Card or information with your Taxpayer Identification Number.
  • Don’t give a business your SSN or TIN just because they ask – only give this information when required.
  • Check your credit report every 12 months.
  • Secure personal information and financial documents at home.
  • Protect your personal computers by using firewalls and virus software.
  • Change your passwords and pin numbers regularly.
  • Don’t provide personal information over the phone, through the mail or on the internet unless you know exactly who you are dealing with. Beware when someone calls requesting financial, banking, or identification information. This could be scam. For example, the IRS will not call consumers to collect taxes or payments. They communicate through the mail or in person.

Are you a victim of Identity Theft?

  • More than one tax return was filed for you.
  • IRS records indicate you received more wages than you actually earned.
  • Your state or federal benefits were reduced or canceled because the agency received information about an income change.
  • You have a balance due or collection actions taken against you during a year when you did not file a tax return.

Anyone who receives a notice from the IRS and suspects their identity has been used fraudulently should respond immediately to the contact phone number provided on the notice.

If you did not receive a notice from the IRS, but still believe you’ve been the victim of identity theft, contact the IRS Identity Protection Specialized Unit at (800) 908-4490.

Seek Legal Help

Flitter Milz is a nationally recognized consumer protection law firm that represents victims with credit reporting accuracy and privacy issues or abusive collection contact resulting from identity theft.  Contact Us to discuss your rights.