Entries in Credit Report (5)


Feds Release First Report on Credit Reporting Agencies

Zoonar/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- If you’re reading this, you probably have a credit file.  Nearly every American is the subject of a unique credit report, detailing credit cards, loans, and bank accounts.

But for the first time, the federal government is taking a look at how the three big credit reporting companies – Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion – handle consumer data.

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) says there are several things Americans can learn from its report: namely that how you manage your credit cards accounts for more than 50 percent of your credit score.

Big banks also play a disproportionately large role in credit reporting, meaning even a single account could dramatically affect your chances of securing a mortgage or car loan.

Richard Cordray, president of the CFPB, says it’s a lesson too many credit card users learn the hard way.

“Especially around this holiday season, consumers may take out a retail credit card in order to save 20 percent off their purchases on a given day,” Cordray said in a statement.  “If they are not responsible with that one card, it could end up costing them a lot more down the line when they go to take out a mortgage and that credit card is a black mark on their credit report.”

He added that the data showed only one in five Americans checks their credit report in a given year – a shame, he says, since a correctable error could have devastating consequences.

“If consumers are not checking their reports, these errors can persist and pop up when a consumer can least afford them,” he said.

The CFPB said that since it only began tracking credit reporting agencies recently, this report serves more as a baseline for knowledge than an indictment of a particular practice.

The report estimates that Experian, Equifax and TransUnion each maintain files on about 200 million Americans, and make 36 billion adjustments to their files each year.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Customer Claims Credit Bureau Gave ID Thief His Most Sensitive Data

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(NORTHBROOK, Ill.) -- A Northbrook, Ill., man claims he hired credit bureau and identity-protection outfit Equifax to protect him against a thief who had racked up fraudulent charges on his Capital One credit card. Equifax, he claims, then turned around and inadvertently sent all his most private credit and financial data to that same thief.

Brian Bruce says in his complaint that in early April he discovered he had been the victim of identity theft: A criminal in New York, he says, had used his identity to make some $23,000 worth of unauthorized charges on his Capital One credit card.

That same day, says Bruce, he contacted Equifax to inform them he had become a victim of identity theft and to ask them to put a fraud alert on his account. The next day, he asked Equifax to put a security freeze on his account. When Equifax responded, says Bruce, he was dismayed to see that the document confirming the freeze had transposed Bruce's Illinois address with the New York address of the thief.

While Bruce was attempting to straighten out that problem, Equifax suggested he might want to sign up for the additional protection afforded by its Equifax Complete Premier Plan for $19.95 a month. By so doing, he would gain what Equifax described as "comprehensive credit monitoring and identity protection." Bruce signed up.

On April 9, still trying to resolve the mix-up of his own address with the thief's, he contacted Equifax and was told that in order to do this he would need to submit copies of his W-2 tax forms, utility bills, and other documents bearing his Illinois address. This Bruce did.

Shortly afterwards, says the complaint, Equifax "mailed a copy of plaintiff's complete credit report containing his full social security number, full birth date and information about all of his credit accounts to the identity thief's address."

The suit further alleges that when Bruce complained to Equifax about its conduct, "Equifax attempted to blame the mistake on [the] plaintiff."

Bruce is suing for, among other things, "fear and emotional distress," since he now fears the thief will attempt further fraudulent activity, armed with the additional information provided by the protection company.

Equifax told ABC News it doesn't comment on pending litigation.

Equifax is one of three U.S. credit bureaus, all of which offer identify theft protection services for a monthly fee. Consumers, however, are entitled by law to a free copy of their credit reports once a year from each of the three bureaus.  You can also request a freeze on your credit report from each of the agencies for free, which means that no new credit can be opened in your name without your prior permission.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


One in 10 Children Are Victims of Identity Theft, Report Finds

Comstock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Children are increasingly becoming the preferred target of identity thieves, authorities say.

“We’ve seen children have this crime begin as early as five months old and then it goes on for years,” said Bo Holland, founder and CEO of All Clear ID, a company that offers basic identity theft protection to consumers.

“A parent will typically find out when their child is moving into adulthood,” Holland added.  “When they are about to go to college, they apply for that first loan and, boom, they get denied.”

In the last three years, there have been 57,000 cases of child identity theft reported to the Federal Trade Commission.  A new report from All Clear ID estimates that one in 10 U.S. children are victims.

Criminals can hack home computers in search of tax forms with a child’s Social Security number.  They also can target hospitals, child-welfare agencies and even schools.

“They’ll use your child’s Social Security number with a different name and a different birth date,” Holland said.  “So if you pull a credit report, the credit report is looking for a specific name and the birthday that goes with it.  And so you won’t find it.  You’ll get 'file not found,' and you’ll feel safe.”

“The problem is large and growing,” said David Vladeck, the FTC’s director of the Bureau of Consumer Protection.  “Part of the problem is it’s undetected and undetectable.”

Authorities advise parents to:

-- Make sure you have antivirus software installed on your home computer.
-- Tell your children never to give out their Social Security number without your permission.
-- Check your children’s credit periodically, even when they are under age.

“Parents need to understand that there are measures they can take to safeguard their children’s identity,” said Vladeck.  ”Parents should think about protecting their children’s identity, and the Social Security number is absolutely the foundation there.”

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Bank of America Declared Customer Dead for Three Years?

Courtesy Arthur Livingston(PROSPERITY, S.C.) -- Arthur Livingston, of Prosperity, S.C., may be alive, but his credit report says, "File not scored because subject is deceased."

That's because Livingston's bank, Bank of America, has been reporting him as deceased to the three major credit agencies since May 2009, he claims.

Bank of America has still not resolved the issue, even after media attention, causing headaches for Livingston, 39, and his family in South Carolina.

A regional manager of a chemical company, Livingston discovered the dilemma when he tried to obtain a loan from a mortgage company in October. The problem may have begun when Livingston, who said he has been a Bank of America customer for 14 years, sold his home in May 2009.

Five months since he discovered the problem, Bank of America still does not have a solution, and his mortgage company has not been able to obtain his credit score to give him a loan for his new home. He also fears the inactivity on his credit will negatively affect his credit score.

A spokeswoman for Bank of America told ABC News on Thursday the company is working with Livingston directly to "resolve this issue as quickly as possible."

Livingston said he regularly pays off his credit card bill in full, including $2,000 to $4,000 in travel expenses for work. But none of that, he fears, is being recorded on his credit record.

"[Bank of America] is well aware that the account is very active on a daily basis," he said.

That has been "frustrating" for Livingston and his family's plan for their new home, which was supposed to begin construction in mid-December. He was hoping the home would be half finished by now.

"It's been a complete waste of time," he said of the "inexcusable" mistake.

He along with his wife, son and daughter, 8 and 5, respectively, have been living in a rental home while they wait. Construction of the home is estimated to take four to six months, weather permitting. The Livingstons had hoped to move into their new home by April.

"Obviously, that's not going to be remotely possible," he said.´╗┐

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Ten Ways to Improve Your Credit Score Instantly

George Doyle/ThinkstockBy Elisabeth Leamy

(NEW YORK) -- I'm like the doctor who's always getting approached at cocktail parties by people who want free medical advice. Only my friends, family and co-workers are after consumer advice.

Actually, I don't mind a bit, because living vicariously through these queries helps keep me up to date on real issues that real consumers are facing.

Recently, a co-worker, who shall remain nameless, started pinging me about once a week with credit questions. Turns out he wants to buy a house and he's doing everything right, by taking a hard look at his credit well in advance of the purchase. That puts him in a position to raise his credit score so he can get the best possible interest rate when the time comes to take out a mortgage.

My co-worker was going round and round with a debt collector who was trying to collect an unpaid bill for one of those music subscription clubs, where you get a CD in the mail every month. Turns out, way back in college, one of his roommates had signed up in his name, then did not pay. No surprise, he couldn't get the collector to believe his story.

Fortunately, he doesn't really have to persuade the collector. What my co-worker was trying to accomplish was to get the unpaid debt removed from his credit reports. For that, you don't have to deal with the original merchant or their hired gun collector. All you have to do is dispute the item with the three major credit bureaus that keep credit reports on all of us: Equifax, Experian and TransUnion.

I advised my co-worker to approach the three bureaus and simply state that the music account was not his. No need to go into the whole story about the roommate, which might give them wiggle room to blame him for having bad roommates. The way I saw it, this was a fraudulent account, pure and simple. Identity theft. So what if he knew the guy?

It worked. Within hours of filing his dispute, one of the credit bureaus had removed the account from his report and we expect the others to follow suit.

Here's why that's such a victory; because your all-important credit score is calculated using the data in your three credit reports. Erroneous, unflattering information can drag down your score. Indeed, in my co-worker's case, when that one small black mark was removed, his score jumped up from 648 to 689.

So here's what you do. Go to the government-mandated website to get your three free credit reports from the major bureaus. If there are inaccurate, unflattering entries on your report, simply fill out the form provided to dispute them.

Pay particular attention to the following kinds of errors, which can drag your score down most of all:

Old Bankruptcies
Bankruptcies remain on your report for 10 tough years. If a bankruptcy entry is still there after that, complain.

Debts Disposed of in Bankruptcy
If you declared bankruptcy in the past, debts covered by that bankruptcy settlement should not appear on your report as past due or still payable because bankruptcy wipes the slate clean.

Outdated Lawsuits and Judgments
If you paid a legal judgment, it should not be in your records anymore. If you didn't pay, it's still supposed to disappear after seven years.

Inaccurate Tax Liens
Tax liens you have paid remain on your report for seven years. Unpaid ones last 15 years, longer than anything else. (Guess who makes the laws.) If there's a lien on there longer than those two parameters, dispute it.

Outdated Demerits
Late payments and charge-offs, where creditors write your bill off because they have given up on you, are not allowed to remain on your report after seven years.

Duplicate Debts
The same debt should not be listed more than once, particularly by more than one debt collector.

Your Spouse's Bad Debts
If your spouse failed to pay bills before your marriage or after your official divorce, as long as your divorce filing was handled properly, these should not be on your credit report.

Other People's Accounts
Other people's account information -- good or bad -- should never appear on your credit statement. A cynic might say to keep the stranger's entries if they are positive, but who's to know when that person will face a financial crisis that will ruin their credit, and yours.

Old Credit Applications
"Hard" inquiries where you apply for credit count against you. They shouldn't remain on your report for more than two years.

Credit For Which You Didn't Apply

If you spot hard inquiries that you didn't authorize, dispute them. "Soft" inquiries, where banks check your credit report in order to offer you a preapproved card, are harmless. Checking your own report is harmless.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio´╗┐

ABC News Radio