A quick background: The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) is the government agency that enforces the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA). The FCRA is legislation enacted to promote the accuracy, fairness, and privacy of consumer information in the files of consumer reporting agencies.
What does that mean to you? On a personal level, it can help give you a sense of security knowing that there are people working to protect the privacy and accuracy of your credit data. It also means that if there’s one group of people who know the different ways of building a better credit report, it’s the FTC. So here we go…
CORRECT CREDIT REPORT ERRORS
It’s important to check your credit report,(from one or all three of the credit reporting agencies, once a year at the very least. One of the primary reasons for this “credit check” is to examine the report for errors.
Changes are made to millions of credit reports every single day. If yours is one of them and a data error occurs, how will you know about it? Most likely you won’t – until you check your report or something like an unexpected denial of credit occurs. By that time, the damage has been done.
Steps to correcting credit reporting errors include:
- Submit a Dispute Form to inform the credit reporting agency whose report contains the error. Credit reporting companies must investigate the items in question.
- Inform the information provider (creditor), in writing, that you’re disputing the item. The provider must let the credit reporting company know about your dispute. And if the information you are disputing is in fact found to be inaccurate or incomplete, the information provider must tell the credit reporting company to update or delete the item.
PLACE A CREDIT FREEZE OR FRAUD ALERT ON YOUR CREDIT REPORTS
If you’re a victim of identity theft or are concerned your data might be in jeopardy due to a data breach, placing a credit freeze on your account stops anyone from opening an account in your name. A credit freeze can be very restrictive in the sense that in addition to identity thieves not having access to your credit report, potential lenders won’t have access either. That’s why a fraud alert might suit your needs better…
A fraud alert allows creditors to get a copy of your credit report only after verifying your identity. Although fraud alerts may be effective at stopping someone from opening new credit accounts in your name, they may not prevent the misuse of your existing accounts. That’s why you must always continue to monitor all bank, credit card and insurance statements for fraudulent transactions.
DEALING WITH DEBT
Many of us have seen hard times (job loss, medical bills, etc.) and have subsequently experienced debt. Although it can seem overwhelming at the time, there are options. For example, debt consolidation, credit counseling from a reputable organization and even bankruptcy.
If you do find yourself in debt, don’t hesitate to contact your creditors and see if you can develop a payment plan that reduces payments. This enables you to keep your payments up to date and avoid having your creditors put you in for collection. The secret is to avoid making a bad situation worse.
Always stay away from credit repair “scams”. Remember, a company can’t remove accurate negative information from one’s credit report. However, a good counseling service can help you legitimately improve your credit but it takes time, effort and proper money management.
Check out the myFICO forum and see how others have improved their credit, credit score and also gotten themselves out of debt.