Complaints of credit report errors have increased during the pandemic. Here’s how to protect yourself.
Complaints about errors in credit reports have skyrocketed since the COVID-19 pandemic began -- and these errors can pose a host of problems for the consumer.
Roseann Palmeiri wanted to borrow money for some home improvement projects. But she was shocked to learn that her credit score had dropped by 200 points.
“I said, ‘How am I going to apply for a loan and get the good interest rates now? I might not even get the loan,’” she says.
Palmeiri says that she disputed a fraudulent charge on her credit card and that it somehow had been reported as a bad debt.
“To drop by almost 200 points? That’s ridiculous. And first of all, you really had no business reporting that until it was resolved,” she says.
The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) says that there were 195,974 complaints about bad information on credit reports last year – almost as many as all other complaints combined.
Palmeiri’s credit card company fixed the mistake. But it is not always that simple.
“There’s more of a chance of bad information being put on your credit report than there is a chance of them fixing it. It’s a mess,” says Ed Mierzwinski, with the U.S. Public Interest Research Group (PIRG).
Mierzwinski says that a mistake on a credit report can have serious consequences.
“If you’ve got a bad credit report and you can’t get it fixed, you’ll either pay more for credit or be behind credit or you could even be denied a job,” he says.
PIRG hopes that under the Biden administration, the CFPB will take a harder line on credit agencies that post bad information. But in the end, it is up to everyone else to make sure their credit report is accurate.
Experts say that people should check their credit reports regularly. They can get a free report once a year from each of the major reporting agencies at annualcreditreport.com. Anyone who sees an error should contact each agency, point out the error and provide evidence.
If the problem isn’t resolved, one may consider taking legal action against both the credit agency and the company that reported the bad information.
“Sometimes you should see an attorney before you write your letter because it may be a complicated matter that you need help trying to figure out how to articulate the information. That's fine. But legal action can't be taken until the credit reporting agency and the furnisher has an opportunity to correct the information,” says consumer attorney Craig Kimmel, with the firm Kimmel & Silverman.