If I file a lawsuit under the Fair Credit Reporting Act, what damages can I recover?

    • Actual damages – such as lost employment opportunities because of incorrect items that have been wrongfully retained on your credit report. Inaccurate negative information on your credit report may cost you money due to loss of employment, loss of credit needed to conduct your business, higher insurance premiums or denial of coverage, fees paid to attorneys, debt settlement companies and others for assistance with credit issues prior to bringing suit, and other costs and expenses of being denied credit and attempting to correct incorrect negative credit information.
    • Statutory damages of $1,000 if we can prove that the furnisher of the information or the credit reporting agency willfully violated the FCRA.
    • Punitive Damages. Juries can return large damages for punitive damages if they feel that your rights have been trampled upon by the creditor/furnisher or the credit reporting agency.
    • Emotional damages – Heart attack, angina, chest constrictions; miscarriage; ulcers, diabetic flare-up; shock; loss of appetite; crying; nightmares; insomnia, night sweats; emotional paralysis; inability to think or function at work; headaches; shortness of breath; anxiety, nervousness; fear and worry; hypertension (elevation of blood pressure); stress to children; irritability; hysteria; embarrassment, humiliation; indignation, and pain and suffering. If you suffer from one or more of the above conditions as a result of a creditor, debt collector, credit bureau, credit information furnisher or credit information user violating your legal rights, you may be entitled to a substantial monetary recovery, equivalent to the amount you could recover in a personal injury case involving similar injuries.

Who Has The Right To View My Credit Report?
Anyone with what would be considered a “legitimate business need” can gain access to your credit history, including:

    • Those considering granting you credit.
    • Landlords.
    • Insurance companies.
    • Employers and potential employers (but only with your consent).
    • Companies with which you have a credit account for account monitoring purposes.
    • Those considering your application for a government license or benefit if the agency is required to consider your financial status.
    • A state or local child support enforcement agency.
    • Any government agency (limited usually to your name, address, former addresses, current and former employers).
    • Debt collectors.

As a general rule, only an employer or prospective employer needs your written consent to get a copy of your report. The state of Vermont is an exception; any user needs your oral or written consent. Most potential creditors ask for your permission to review your report. Your permission is not required when inquiries are made in connection with a pre-approved credit offer.

What items can be removed from my credit report? Any credit information that you feel is inaccurate, unverifiable, misleading, untimely, unclear, ambiguous, or incomplete can be challenged and removed. All you have to do is posit a dispute to the credit reporting agency that is reporting the offending item.

Can I remove items from my credit report that are accurate? Very rarely. If a negative item is reported accurately on your credit report, generally only the passage of time will remove it. A negative item stays on your credit report for seven years and a bankruptcy stays on your credit report for 10 years.

How does an investigative consumer report differ from a credit report? Some credit reporting agencies and investigation companies compile what is known as “investigative consumer reports.” Such reports are defined under the FCRA as a “consumer report or portion thereof in which information on a consumer’s character, general reputation, personal characteristics, or mode of living is obtained through personal interviews with neighbors, friends, or associates.”. An investigative consumer report is normally used in limited circumstances including employment background checks, insurance, and rental housing decisions. An investigative consumer report does not contain information about your credit record that is obtained directly from a creditor or from you. For example, an investigative consumer report should not contain information about a late payment. This type of report cannot be used to grant credit. Because the information in these reports is so detailed and may be sensitive, the FCRA imposes stricter regulations on credit reporting agencies that compile investigative reports (federal FCRA, 15 USC 1681d sections 604, 606, and 614). The only way you can know for certain if someone has wrongfully accessed your credit report is to order a copy of your credit report and check for that information along with any other discrepancies. If you suspect a company or individual that does not fall into one of the categories above has violated your rights by looking at your credit report, contact us or call 888-293-2882 and speak to one of our attorneys.

How do I posit a dispute to an item on my credit report?
You can posit a dispute online to any of the credit reporting agencies by going to their websites. However, we recommend that you do it by mail because you can then attach all documents that you have to support your dispute. Moreover, by sending it via certified mail, return receipt requested, you can prove that you posited your dispute when you did.

What Should I Do About Post-Bankruptcy Credit Reporting Errors? Once you have completed your bankruptcy, you should review your credit report by downloading a request form or going online to annualcreditreport.com. Your credit report should indicate a zero balance next to all creditors listed in your bankruptcy petition, unless you acquired new debt subsequent to your bankruptcy or re-affirmed the existing debt during the bankruptcy.

If your credit report contains any errors, you should posit a dispute letter with proof the debt was discharged in bankruptcy, to the credit reporting agency whose report contains the error. Please see our sample consumer dispute form and use it as a template in drafting your letter. We recommend that you send your disputes in writing and mail them via certified mail. If the credit reporting agency does not correct the errors in your credit report, we will file a lawsuit to compel them to make the changes and make them pay the costs and attorneys’ fees violating the Fair Credit Reporting Act. The lawsuit will cost you nothing.
If you have been financially damaged because a creditor or credit reporting agency did not accurately report your debt after a bankruptcy, you need to consult an experienced consumer protection lawyer. Contact Attorney Gary Nitzkin via email or telephone at (888) 293-2882.

What are some common reasons for denying credit and what can I do about it?
Among the most common reasons people are turned down when they apply for credit are:

    • Too little time in current job or at current residence.
    • Too much outstanding debt.
    • Unreasonable purpose for requesting credit.
    • Cosigner cannot take on additional debt liability.
    • Errors on one’s credit report.
    • Strict creditor’s standards.

In general, when applying for a loan, lenders look at your past history of how you pay your debts. The lending industry correctly believes that a strong indicator of one’s likelihood of repaying a loan is dependent on one’s credit history.

If you are denied credit, the prospective lender must provide you with an Adverse Action Notice. This is a letter that discloses the reason for the credit denial and the credit reporting agency that provided the credit report used by the lender. You also have a right to get a free copy of the credit report that was used by that prospective creditor.

How Can I Improve Poor Credit?
If you have fallen behind in your payments, begin immediately to repair your credit record. Here’s how:

    • Face up to the problem. Recognize that you are overextended, and contact your creditors to see if they will set up a new payment schedule that you can maintain. In any case, don’t ignore your bills.
    • Immediately stop purchasing with credit. Take your credit cards out of your wallet. Store them in a spot that is hard to reach, or even cut them up.
    • Consider consolidating debts. You may find it easier to make a single payment rather than several. You might also get a lower interest rate that will make it easier to keep up with payments. Remember that debt consolidation is not a cure-all. You have to learn to control your spending to avoid future debt.
    • Contact a credit counseling organization. You can obtain referrals for organizations in your area through the National Foundation for Consumer Credit, (800) 388-2227.
    • Don’t expect miracles. Don’t believe companies that promise to fix a poor credit rating quickly and painlessly for a fee. As long as it is accurate and timely, negative information cannot be removed from your credit record. The only way to improve a credit record is to let time pass and establish a record of on-time payment.

What is a credit freeze?
Many states have laws that let consumers completely restrict access to their credit reports. In fact, when a consumer freezes his credit report, the only way a new prospective creditor can gain access to the report is by the consumer’s permission. Only a few states, including Michigan, do not provide for credit freezes. When a consumer place a credit freeze, potential creditors and other third parties will not be able to get access to his credit report unless he temporarily lifts the freeze. This means that it’s unlikely that an identity thief would be able to open a new account in a consumer’s name. Placing a credit freeze does not affect one’s credit score – nor does it keep one from getting a free annual credit report. The following 47 states allow credit freezes. Click on a state to find out the freeze fees for that state. (o.k. that was credit humor): Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, District of Columbia, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Idaho, Indiana, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Mississippi, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Virginia, Vermont, Washington, West Virginia, Wisconsin, Wyoming

If you think your rights have been violated, call Attorney Gary Nitzkin, toll free at (888) 293-2882. The call is free and the advice is priceless. You can also email him at [email protected].