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.

5 Things to Do After Your Car Has Been Repossessed

Car being towed repossessed

Your car is hooked up to the tow truck. You’d been struggling for months to make payments, and now the thing you feared most has come true: repossession.

And you think to yourself:  What do I do now?  Where is my car?  Is there some sort of car repossession look-up service that can track it down?

Continue reading 5 Things to Do After Your Car Has Been Repossessed

How does a “Charge-Off” affect the consumer?

When payments on your account go unpaid, the creditor may stop you from making additional charges and list your account as a charge-off.  But even if the creditor stops trying to collect on your account, you still could be responsible for the debt.

Continue reading How does a “Charge-Off” affect the consumer?

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.

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Who Can See Your Credit Report?

Your credit report contains quite a bit of information about your financial history. It includes personal information, all of your open credit accounts and whether or not they are in good standing, and any negative marks, such as accounts in default or vehicle repossessions. Due to the sensitive nature of this information, not just anyone can see a copy of your credit report.

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What do Auto Lenders check on your Credit Report?

When you apply for an auto loan, lenders will perform a credit check on you. Your credit affects whether or not you’ll be approved for the loan, and the interest rate for the loan. The interest rate and terms of the loan have a major impact on how much you will end up paying overall, so it’s important that you know where your credit stands BEFORE you apply for an auto loan. When you apply, lenders will look at the following components of your credit file.

Continue reading What do Auto Lenders check on your Credit Report?

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.

Want a Better Credit Score?

Credit reports don’t just exist to provide lenders with an overview of your credit history. They also provide a means for you to assess your own financial health and determine where you can make improvements. Finances can be a significant contributor to stress if you don’t know how to manage them, and knowing what’s on your credit report is the first step to staying on track.

Learn how to read your credit report

Your credit report will list all of your open accounts and show you where they stand – whether you are up to date with payments or if you’ve fallen behind. Late payments will hurt your credit while consistent, on time payments will help you.
Learn how to check and understand your credit report the information on your reports.

Review your report for accuracy

Credit reports also aren’t always accurate with a number of factors contributing to errors, such as fraud, someone else’s information on your report, or errors reported by credit furnishers.

Regardless of the cause, these errors may negatively affect your credit. You should always review your report and dispute any errors with the reporting bureau – including the listing of personal information. Checking your report regularly is a great way to make sure you aren’t a victim of identity theft or fraud.

Set Budget Goals

When you check your reports regularly, you gain insight into some of your financial habits. If you regularly max out credit cards, it’s a sign that you need to create stricter budgets to avoid overspending. If you’re forgetful when it comes to making timely bill payments, look into automatic payments or set reminders to keep you on track. Knowing exactly what’s on your credit report allows you to set responsible goals to improve your financial health.

Take action now, but be patient

Good things come to those who wait. Unfortunately, your credit score won’t skyrocket overnight once you start taking steps to improve it. The amount of time it takes to improve your score will depend on the factors that are bringing it down.

Negative listings, such as a loan default or car repossession, remain on your report for up to 7 1/2 years. Improving your report after events like these will require some patience and discipline. If an error is negatively affecting your credit, you’ll likely see an improvement to your score once it’s resolved.

The bottom line is, check your credit reports regularly. You may request one free report from each bureau every twelve months. Make sure the information on your report is accurate. And if it’s not, take steps to correct it.

Seek Legal Help

Flitter Milz, P.C. is a nationally recognized consumer protection law firm representing consumers who’ve had errors on their credit reports.  After disputing with the credit bureaus, if the errors remain, there could be a violation of your consumer rights under the Fair Credit Reporting Act.  Contact us for a free evaluation of your 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.

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.