Credit Report Errors and Privacy Violations

Your Good Name is on the Line.

Your credit report is a record of your credit activities, including home and auto loans, credit card accounts, and actions taken against you because of unpaid bills. Your report also contains identifying information about you, public records (like judgments or tax liens) and a credit rating based on your how much you have borrowed and how promptly you repay your debts. Specialty credit reports may contain your employment history, criminal record, insurance claims or check writing history. If you own a business, it too has a credit report which not only, contains a record of its credit activities, but may contain “predictions” of how likely the business is to fail.

What’s at Stake

Whether personal or business, your credit report is critically important in the modern era. Lenders and insurance companies use it to decide whether to give you a loan or insurance. Potential employers look at it to decide whether to hire you. Other companies may use it to decide whether to do business with you based on it. In short, the credit reporting agencies that make and sell these reports hold your financial life in their hands.

The Problem

Credit reports are often wrong. As reported by CBS News in this article and as shown in various studies over the past 15 years, nearly 80% of credit reports contain errors. The errors can come in a variety of ways. The credit reporting agencies (who receive and assemble information from creditors) may “mix” your information with someone else’s. A creditor might report false information about you to the agency. Or, you may be a victim of identity theft. Unfortunately, as reported recently by a yearlong investigation by the Columbus Dispatch newspaper http://moneyland.time.com/2012/05/08/why-are-credit-report-errors-so-hard-to-fix, the credit reporting agencies’ record of correcting errors through their dispute process is as poor as their record for accuracy.

Equally poor is their record for privacy. Even though, by law, most types of credit reports cannot be obtained by those with no legally permitted reason to view it, in practice this happens all the time. Debt collectors may pull your report on ancient debts that can no longer be collected, or on debts that have been discharged in bankruptcy.

The Solution

A federal law called the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) gives consumers the right to sue credit reporting agencies and recover money damages for making inaccurate reports. The FCRA also allows consumers to sue credit reporting agencies — and the creditors who report information to the agencies — for failing to properly re-investigate the consumer’s dispute. The FCRA also provides penalizes those who illegally obtain your credit report.

And, although businesses are not covered by the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA), a business does have the right to sue for defamation or trade libel.

Our Experience

Dave Maxfield been litigating credit reporting cases since 1998. He files cases regularly against major credit reporting agencies Experian, Equifax, and Trans Union, co-counsels with nationally prominent consumer lawyers in FCRA cases, and is a featured lawyer on MyFairCredit.com. He has also filed numerous cases against creditors who fail to correct disputed information, and has obtained one of the highest jury verdicts in America against a creditor in an FCRA case. Dave has also successfully represented businesses in trade libel cases against business reporting agencies, including Dun & Bradstreet.

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Dave Maxfield, Consumer Protection Attorney