How Credit Reporting Agencies Can Help You
By R. Kurtz (Kurt) Holloway and Elizabeth Lester, project intern and contributing author
This is the eighth in a series of 10 articles for victims of identity theft. So far the series has included important steps to take to recover from identity theft including the necessary documents to follow and agencies to contact, ways you can protect your credit report through blocking and disputing fraudulent items, and the means to prevent future fraud through an alert or freeze on your credit report.
This article explains how Credit Reporting Agencies (CRAs) and your creditors are obligated to help you and the rights afforded to you under the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) if you believe you are a victim of identity theft.
1. You should contact a CRA to correct any fraudulent information by sending them the Identity Theft Report (discussed in article 4). You must file this report, a letter of explanation regarding the alleged theft, and proof of your identity to take advantage of the CRAs’ obligations towards you.
2. Contacting the CRA means that two things will occur: the disputed information will no longer be reported by the creditor to any CRA and the creditor is not permitted to sell or transfer any of the debt that has resulted from the theft.
3. Under the FCRA the CRA and the creditor are both obligated to correct any information relating to identity theft in your credit report. This ensures that you have the support needed to fix the damage done by using these organizations’ corrective measures to help recover your identity.
4. You can either block or dispute the fraudulent information in your report which is covered in article 5 of this series.
5. If you contact the creditor directly with the report instead of going through the CRA, you are not guaranteed that the creditor will not sell the bad debt for collection!
6. If you dispute any information as false on your credit report, the CRA must alert the creditor to this dispute. Then the creditor must investigate the fraud and report back to the CRA within 30 days whether the credit report should be changed or not.
7. If the creditor disputes your claim that identity theft has occurred, you can still try to minimize the damage to your credit by requesting that the CRA include a note on your report that you believe theft to have occurred with this particular account.
The important thing to remember is that CRAs are there for your use if identity theft happens to you. Under the FCRA you are guaranteed certain rights if you choose to involve the CRAs in the process to recover from identity theft. This enables them to mediate the process by acting as the responsible party for contacting creditors and stopping any reporting of fraudulent information on your report.
You will find more detailed information about resolving your identity theft situation at the FTC website, www.ftc.gov. An experienced and knowledgeable consumer law attorney can also guide you through the process, help you assert your rights and restore your financial reputation. Contact one of our consumer law attorneys for help at 610-323-7464.