Message from the Director
With many Americans experiencing economic challenges resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic, there has been a rise in credit repair companies offering to remove derogatory information from credit reports for a fee. Some credit repair companies entice consumers to purchase their services by guaranteeing they will remove negative information from a credit report even if that information is accurate. Be cautious when considering a credit repair company as fees charged by the companies may be high, arrangements may be fraudulent, and may not offer consumers a way to remove accurate and timely negative information from their credit report. While it seems overwhelming, as a consumer, you are able to dispute items on your own credit report, directly with the credit reporting agencies or the entity that is reporting the information, at no cost to you.
Congress enacted the Credit Repair Organizations Act (CROA) in 1996 to ensure buyers of services offered by credit repair organizations are provided with sufficient information to make an informed decisions and to protect the public from unfair or deceptive advertising and business practices by credit repair organizations1. Under the CROA, it is illegal for credit repair companies to provide false information about the assistance their company can provide or the results you will receive at the end of the process. It is also illegal for a credit repair company to request or be paid any upfront fees until the services have been provided. In other words, the company has to perform a service before they can charge you fees. CROA also requires that you be provided with a written statement titled “Consumer Credit File Rights Under State and Federal Law” before you consummate any contract or agreement with the company.
Under the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA), you may obtain a free credit report, from each of the three largest credit reporting agencies, once every 12 months. The three largest credit reporting agencies are TransUnion, Equifax, and Experian. In response to credit issues consumers may be experiencing due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the three credit reporting agencies are providing consumers with the ability to check their credit reports weekly through AnnualCreditReport.com. According to the Annual Credit Report website, the ability to check weekly ends April 2021. In addition, while a full credit report is provided at no charge, there is still an additional fee if the consumer also wants their credit score.
Once you have reviewed your credit report, you may contest any inaccurate information contained in your credit report with the credit reporting agency directly by filing a dispute. The dispute should include your complete name and address, clearly identify each item you are disputing, what information you think is inaccurate and an explanation detailing why you are disputing the information. There is no fee to file a dispute directly with the credit reporting agency. The agency is required to investigate, contact the creditor, record the current status of the disputed information (unless the dispute is frivolous or irrelevant) as provided by the creditor, and provide a letter of explanation to you. A sample dispute letter can be found on the Federal Trade Commission’s (FTC) website, sample letter.
If the information is found to be incorrect, you may request that the accurate information be sent to any entity that has obtained your credit report in the last six months. If the investigation does not resolve the dispute, you may file a brief statement setting forth your version of the situation. This statement must be placed in your file and included in future reports
You may also dispute the information being reported directly with the creditor by sending a letter to the designated correspondence address. The letter should detail the information being reported and why you believe the information is inaccurate. The creditor will normally respond to you in writing explaining why it believes the information is correct or that the information is being removed.
If the matter is still unresolved, you may also file a complaint directly with the financial institution’s regulator. To identify a financial institution's primary regulator, you may use the Federal Financial Institutions Examination Council's website, National Information Center (NIC). You may also use the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation's (FDIC) institution directory to identify which institutions have more than $10 billion in assets.
If you are experiencing financial difficulties, the federal government recommends using credit counselors accredited by the National Foundation for Credit Counseling (NFCC), in coordination with the Financial Counseling Association of America (FCAA). Information about credit counseling is available from the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) and the NFCC.