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Credit Reporting Errors


How your credit is reported is governed by the federal Fair Credit Reporting Act, 15 U.S.C. 1681. This is a complex statute that allows for actual damages, punitive damages, costs, and attorney’s fees in the event a credit reporting agency or furnisher of credit information violates its provisions.


There are three major credit bureaus, Equifax, Experian, and Trans Union. There are numerous other smaller ones. They all keep files on consumers that determine credit ratings.


One of the most overlooked requirements of the Fair Credit Reporting Act is that the mere reporting of inaccurate information is not, by itself, illegal. It is only after you dispute the inaccurate information and the credit bureau fails to correct it that the law is broken.


Disputes are typically done by letter, although the credit reporting agencies are now allowing online disputes over the Internet.


Credit reporting errors are serious. Your credit report is the major factor in most of your life opportunities, from renting an apartment, to buying a car, to purchasing a home. Your credit report determines where you can live and where you can go to school, impacting you, your friends, and your family.


The fundamental principle of the Fair Credit Reporting Act is that credit reporting agencies may not report any information that is false or misleading. This can be any number of things. For example, if your credit card company reports an incorrect balance or missed payments when in fact your payments were on time, it might be a violation of the Fair Credit Reporting Act.


Or, if your account is combined with another person’s account – this sometimes happens when people in the same neighborhood have similar names – it could violate the Fair Credit Reporting Act.


You can get your credit report for free from the website AnnualCreditReport.com or by calling (877) 322-8228. These are government-sponsored websites. You are entitled to one free credit report per year from each credit bureau. In Massachusetts, additional credit reports can only be $8 each.


Because the Fair Credit Reporting Act is complex, it is often useful to have an attorney review any potential issues before you send a dispute to a credit reporting agency. Our office can help you with this for free.