I recently read an informative and well written article in The Washington Post by a staff reporter for National Public Radio (NPR). In the article, the reporter, Mr. Bobby Allyn, related a personal experience wherein he encountered difficulties renting an apartment due to information contained in his credit report by credit reporting giant TransUnion.
In the article, Mr. Allyn states that he had located an apartment in Philadelphia that he wished to lease. Before he could sign the lease, he got a phone call from the prospective landlord. The landlord expressed concerns about the criminal offenses, including two felony firearms convictions, contained in Mr. Allyn’s credit report. Mr. Allyn pointed out that he had never owed or fired a weapon in his life. This was clearly a case of mistaken identity.
Mr. Allyn stated that he thought the matter would be easily rectified. But, according to his article, it took a dozen phone calls, help from a county court clerk, and six weeks to solve the problem. Think about that. Mr. Allyn had done nothing wrong; yet, because of TransUnion’s erroneous information and cavalier attitude about it, he had to spend six weeks of his life getting the matter resolved.
Credit Reporting Agencies Don’t Care About You
There are three (3) major credit reporting agencies in America. They are TransUnion, Equifax, and Experian. And the truth is that they could not care less about Mr. Allyn, you, or me. Their main purpose is to turn a profit by selling consumer information to banks, landlords, insurance companies, employers, and others. Sure, the law says that the information they sell is supposed to be accurate but far too many times it is not, e.g., Mr. Allyn’s case.
26% of Credit Reports Contain an Error
You may be thinking that we all make mistakes and that what happened to Mr. Allyn is rare. Sadly, you’re dead wrong. Mr. Allyn notes in his article that, according to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), there have been 158,000 complaints filed against the three credit reporting agencies since 2012. Eighty percent (80%) of these complaints were about incorrect information in credit reports. The article cites a large scale study conducted by the Federal Trade Commission wherein the Commission found that twenty-six percent (26%) of the consumer credit reports it studied had at least one error. Five percent (5%) of such reports had very significant errors which might lead to credit denials or needlessly expensive auto insurance rates for an affected consumer. Five percent may not sound like a lot; but, when you consider that these companies provide millions of credit reports to their customers, the actual number of affected consumers is staggering and unacceptable.
Mr. Allyn stated in his article that, when he investigated the matter, he did find that there was another person out there with the same first and last name and middle initial. This person was born in the same year as Mr. Allyn. But that’s where their similarities ended. This other person had multiple criminal convictions, was of a different race, and was incarcerated. Clearly not the same person as Mr. Allyn the apartment seeker.
What Can You Do?
So, if you or someone you know is facing this problem, what can you do? Under federal (and some state) law, you can dispute the incorrect information. Ultimately, if the situation is not resolved, you can even file a lawsuit. Quite frankly, I suggest that even before you dispute the incorrect information, you should seek the advice of a reputable consumer protection lawyer to discuss the situation. Many reputable consumer protection lawyers will provide a free initial consultation to discuss the matter with you. Although you can do it on your own, the dispute process can be tricky and cumbersome. You may inadvertently take steps that would harm your chances for a successful lawsuit if you had to seek relief in the courts. This blog post may help you get started. If you live in Alabama, Mississippi, or Tennessee, our lawyers are available to help you with these matters. If you live elsewhere, seek out a reputable consumer protection attorney and get some advice before you start your dispute.
A couple of final thoughts are in order here. If you are facing this problem, PLEASE do not pay any of your hard earned money to a credit repair organization. In my experience, these organizations are a total waste of money and they don’t do anything for you that you can’t ultimately do for yourself. Also, I strongly suggest that you do NOT procrastinate when you discover an error in your credit report. Promptly get competent advice and start taking action or else you may run into a statute of limitations problem later if it appears that you will need to seek relief in the courts.
Ed Woods is the Managing Attorney of several of the Bond & Botes Law Offices throughout Mississippi. He holds a Bachelor of Science from the University of Southern Mississippi, and a Juris Doctorate from Mississippi College School of Law. Ed puts his extensive knowledge of bankruptcy law to use defending consumers from debt collection lawsuits and more. Read his full bio here.