Many of my clients express concern over their ability to obtain credit and take out loans after they have gone through a bankruptcy. I have written in great detail about the topic, and included tips on rebuilding credit after bankruptcy, so I won’t rehash it here.
Instead, I suggest that if you have gone through a bankruptcy, and are in the process of using my tips for rebuilding credit, you get your credit reports each year and review them for errors. You can do so at http://www.annualcreditreport.com/.
When you go to the site, focus on the credit reports rather than on any ads that may pop up. After all, the point is to see what’s going on with your credit, not to purchase goods and services you probably don’t need.
As you review the reports, keep in mind that the reporting bureaus rely on your creditors, and not on you, for their information. Therefore, if a creditor has sent erroneous data the report will contain errors. These errors can be fixed.
Here are the steps to correct erroneous credit reports. The key statute — a federal law — is the Fair Credit Reporting Act (“FCRA”, 15 U.S.C. § 1681, et seq).
Ask the credit reporting bureau to investigate the error pursuant to 15 U.S.C. § 1681i. Here is some contact information you can use to get things started:
Equifax P.O. Box 740241, Atlanta, GA 30374
Experian National Consumer Assistance Center, P.O. Box 4500, Allen, TX 75013
TransUnion P.O. Box 2000, Chester, PA 19022
Write a letter to each reporting bureau that has an error in your report. In the letter describe the error and include documentation of the error. For example, if the report lists a debt that was discharged in bankruptcy as past due, include copies of: (a) the relevant bankruptcy schedules showing that the debt was included in the bankruptcy, and (b) your discharge. Ask the bureau to correct the entry. The bureau will initiate an investigation and report back to you on the results. If they agree with you and fix the problem, that’s the end of it.
If Step 1 doesn’t do the trick, consider filing a lawsuit in the Federal District Court against the creditor and the reporting bureau under 15 U.S.C. § 1681n. If you win, not only will the creditor and the reporting bureau have to correct the error, you could be awarded damages, including costs and attorney’s fees.
But be careful: Make sure you have the ammunition to win. Bare allegations and several dollars will get you coffee at Starbucks, but not much else. Documentary proof is crucial. If you don’t have the proof, you could face a lawsuit against you for having filed an unsuccessful frivolous lawsuit against the creditor and credit reporting bureau.
If you are a debtor facing overwhelming debt and need bankruptcy protection, or if you need representation in an FCRA lawsuit, contact an extremely knowledgeable and highly skilled bankruptcy attorney to guide you through the process.