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Avoid reporting traps: fixing credit a DIY project

Posted: October 17, 2013 2:00 a.m.
Updated: October 17, 2013 2:00 a.m.

Before hunting for a home or seeking a loan even people with perfect credit ratings need to check their credit reports for mistakes and, if necessary, get them fixed.

Failure to eliminate errors, honest or otherwise, could wind up costing applicants when they apply for a home loan and homeowner insurance.

Yet fixing credit reports often can be a “do-it-yourself” project that does not require payment of any advance fees.

As a rule, never pay fees in advance for service – too many pitches are scams that take the money while accomplishing nothing.

Here are a handful of suggestions on how a DIY project can amend credit reports, a mission that must completely scour credit reports before loan and house hunting begin in earnest:

• Never let mistakes linger. Check credit reports at least annually and report errors immediately. Consumer protections can be lost if certain mistakes are not reported in writing within a month, for example, an incorrect debt-collection notice.

If efforts to eliminate a mistake fail after written objections:

• Ask the credit reporting agency to put a statement in the credit report citing the disagreement;

• File a complaint with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, a year-old federal agency that will check errors and issue a finding.

• Complain to the Federal Trade Commission by calling 1-877-382-4357.

• Call or write to the California state attorney general, the officer charged with enforcing state credit reporting and debt collection laws.

Assume that if one error surfaced, there’s a good chance other reports may include mistakes.

Remember, there are three major credit reporting bureaus: Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion. Find out what each is reporting by ordering a free credit report.

• Victims of identity theft — especially regarding unauthorized credit cards and loans — need to ask the credit reporting companies to put a fraud alert on their accounts. Be sure to also file police and FTC identity theft reports.

• Follow up with businesses that made the initial mistake, not just the credit reporting companies. Contact a lender or credit card company regarding their procedures for correcting errors. Follow instructions on collection notices to formally dispute any debt, which forces the debt collector to verify the debt, according to

• Maintain a paper trail. Back up complaints with supporting documents that prove a company made a mistake.

When asked to submit proof, send copies, not original documents, which can all too easily wind up misplaced or lost.

Keep copies of complaints, receipts of certified mail, copies of online filings, notes from phone calls. Be sure to respond as requested or follow up when a decision is expected.

• No matter what, don’t give up. Every mistake must be eliminated, otherwise it could haunt every economic decision and undermine efforts to obtain a loan or buy a home for years to come.

Bob Khalsa is President of the Santa Clarita Valley Division of the Southland Regional Association of Realtors. David Walker, of Walker Associates, co-authors articles for SRAR. The column represents SRAR’s views and not necessarily those of The Signal. The column contains general information about the real estate market and is not intended to replace advice from your Realtor or other realty related professionals.



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