As credit report errors climb, advocates urge consumers to conduct

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As complaints of errors on credit reports surge, two consumer advocacy groups have teamed up to encourage Americans to conduct regular “credit checkups” by accessing their free credit reports as often as once a week. 

Complaints to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) related to credit report errors have more than doubled since 2021, according to a new Consumer Reports analysis. Last year, consumers submitted nearly 645,000 such complaints, compared to roughly 308,000 in 2021. 

Such mistakes can hurt an individual’s ability to lead a financially healthy life, given that one’s credit report can affect one’s access to housing and job opportunities.

Consumer Reports and WorkMoney, a nonprofit that helps raise incomes and lower costs for everyday Americans, are announcing a “Credit Checkup” project to encourage consumers to stay on top of their credit reports, mine them for errors and report any mistakes they identify to the CFPB. 

“We are trying to cut down on the number of errors people are experiencing, because a credit report is so key to a person’s financial future,” Ryan Reynolds, a policy analyst for the Consumer Reports financial fairness team told CBS MoneyWatch. “It determines whether or not you’ll get a loan, what the loan’s interest rate is and whether or not you’ll get a job or apartment.”

The uptick in errors could simply be the result of people checking their credit reports more frequently, or the automated systems that credit reporting agencies rely upon to resolve disputes. 

The three major agencies — Equifax, Experience and TransUnion — since the COVID-19 pandemic, have allowed consumers to check their reports once weekly without being dinged by visiting AnnualCreditReport.com.

The two groups are encouraging consumers to check their reports for errors and submit feedback on how accurate their reports were, and how easy or hard it was to resolve disputes at cr.org/creditcheckup.

Common credit report errors include inaccurate personal information like one’s name or address, or incorrect reporting of debts on a loan you’ve taken out. 

WorkMoney’s chief advocacy officer Anjali Sakaria underscored the importance of maintaining an accurate credit report.  

“Credit reports and scores have a real and direct impact on everyday life, and we want them to accurately reflect the financial health of everyday Americans,” she told CBS MoneyWatch. “Whether you get access to credit, or what interest rate you pay on loans — that’s directly related to your credit report. And a higher interest rate translates into extra dollars every month that could otherwise be spent on food or gas or put into savings.”

Here’s what to do if your report contains errors

  • File a dispute with each major credit reporting bureau
  • Include documentation like statements or payment records when filing a dispute about a debt you’ve paid that appears on a report
  • Writer a letter to explain the problem
  • Make copies of the materials so you have a record, and send them by certified mail
  • If your dispute is not resolved, file a complaint with the CFPB
  • Consider seeking an attorney’s services to sue over credit report errors 

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