Credit report reforms

credit report
Credit report (infographic from

One of the main reasons you’re likely to be declined for a mortgage is your credit report.  More specifically, derogatory information contained therein.  Unfortunately, many of us are still not proactive when it comes to our credit report.  And for many, erroneous information that is foisted upon them without their knowledge affect their daily lives.

Flawed data has been a long standing issue in the credit industry.  A 2012 study conducted by the Federal Trade Commission ( found that “one in five consumers” disputed and corrected an error that was reported to a credit reporting agency (CRA).  A follow-up study conducted in 2015 found that “Most consumers [almost 70 percent] who previously reported an unresolved error on one of their three major credit reports believe that at least one piece of disputed information on their report is still inaccurate.”  The follow-up study recommended that CRA’s “review and improve” the dispute process, as well as increase consumer education efforts. From the FTC report:

The follow-up study announced today focuses on 121 consumers who had at least one unresolved dispute from the 2012 study and participated in a follow-up survey. It finds that 37 of the consumers (31 percent) stated that they now accepted the original disputed information on their reports as correct. However, 84 of these consumers (nearly 70 percent) continue to believe that at least some of the disputed information is inaccurate.  Of those 84 consumers, 38 of them (45 percent) said they plan to continue their dispute, and 42 (50 percent) plan to abandon their dispute, while four consumers are undecided.

The final study also examined whether consumers from the 2012 study who had their credit reports modified after disputing information on their credit reports had any of the negative information that had been removed subsequently reappear on their reports. The study found two instances of this, representing about 1 percent of these consumers.

On March 9, 2015, New York Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman announced an agreement that was worked out with the three credit repositories (Experian, Equifax, And Transunion).  The agencies agreed to seek improvements to the credit report dispute resolution process, as well as increasing protections for consumers from false claims and reporting paid debt (such as medical bills).

As A.G. Scheiderman’s statement was released, the Consumer Data Industry Association (the trade association for the consumer data industry) announced the creation of the National Consumer Assistance Plan.  The roll-out of The Plan is to be over three years, and includes a website ( where consumers and the CRAs are to interface about credit reporting news and information.  Stuart Pratt, President and CEO of the Consumer Data Industry Association, stated in a press release:

“…The nationwide consumer credit reporting companies are making important changes to their procedures that will improve their ability to collect accurate information, and we want to make sure consumers know about the new options available to them…”

Additionally, the press release included highlights of the National Consumer Assistance Plan:

Consumers visiting, the website that allows consumers to obtain a free credit report once a year will see expanded educational material.

Consumers who obtain their free annual credit report and dispute information resulting in modification of the disputed item will be able to obtain another free annual report without waiting a year.

Consumers who dispute items on their credit reports will receive additional information from the credit reporting agencies along with the results of their dispute, including a description of what they can do if they are not satisfied with the outcome of their dispute.

The credit reporting agencies (CRAs) are focusing on an enhanced dispute resolution process for victims of identity theft and fraud, as well as those who may have credit information belonging to another consumer on their file, commonly called a “mixed file.”

Medical debts won’t be reported until after a 180-day “waiting period” to allow insurance payments to be applied. The CRAs will also remove from credit reports previously reported medical collections that have been or are being paid by insurance.

Consistent standards will be reinforced by the credit bureaus to lenders and others that submit data for inclusion in a credit report (data furnishers).

Data furnishers will be prohibited from reporting authorized users without a date of birth and the CRAs will reject data that does not comply with this requirement.

The CRAs will eliminate the reporting of debts that did not arise from a contract or agreement by the consumer to pay, such as traffic tickets or fines.

A multi-company working group of the nationwide consumer credit reporting companies has been formed to regularly review and help ensure consistency and uniformity in the data submitted by data furnishers for inclusion in a consumer’s credit report.

An improved credit reporting industry was to take another leap forward with the introduction of H.R. 5282 – Comprehensive Consumer Credit Reporting Reform Act of 2016 (  Introduced in Congress May 19, 2016, the bill is a comprehensive restructuring of the credit reporting process.  Among the many details, the bill also: calls for a new dispute process; “meaningful” disclosures about resulting investigations; limits credit reports for employment purposes; requires removal of items that were a result of identity theft, fraud and other crimes; and transfers authority from the FTC to the CFPB on “procedures for reporting identity theft, fraud, and other related crime.”  The bill was referred to committee, where it appears to have stalled.

Your credit report has become akin to your “financial soul.”  Some of its uses include assisting entities in deciding whether to employ you, lend to you, or extend you credit.  It has even become vogue for individuals to check someone’s credit report before going out on a date!

Financial experts and government agencies recommend you become proactive and check your credit report annually, and dispute inaccurate information. is the only “authorized” website where you can receive a free credit report annually from the three repositories.  The site also contains information on protecting your identity, and links to the FTC and CFPB for topics such as how to maintain good credit, and credit repair.

By Dan Krell
Copyright © 2016

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Disclaimer. This article is not intended to provide nor should it be relied upon for legal and financial advice. Readers should not rely solely on the information contained herein, as it does not purport to be comprehensive or render specific advice. Readers should consult with an attorney regarding local real estate laws and customs as they vary by state and jurisdiction. Using this article without permission is a violation of copyright laws.

How to dispute credit report errors

by Dan Krell © 2010

Recently I told you about the growing importance of your credit report and why you need to ensure it’s accurate. The accuracy of your credit report is more important today than it ever was, not just because mortgage lenders have tightened credit qualifying guidelines, but also because of the growing reliance on credit reports from employers, insurers and other creditors to get information about you.

It is not unusual to find discrepancies or incomplete information within the report, including old credit accounts and outdated personal history. Errors in personal information and credit history sometimes occur due to transposed social security numbers and confusing people with similar names (including confusing the Jr and Sr name suffix). The Fair Credit Reporting Act ( requires accurate and complete data about to be reported by credit reporting companies and those providing information about you.

The first step in correcting errors is to review your report. As I have previously described, you have the opportunity to receive a free credit report from each of the three credit repositories (other factors may allow you to receive additional free reports). Additionally, since fraud and identity theft is a serious threat to your credit history and a growing concern among law enforcement; a regular review of your credit report is a good idea even if you have previously deemed the information accurate. You can contact each of the three credit repositories directly Equifax (, Experian (, and Trans Union (, or you can visit (a central credit service created by the three credit repositories). The Office of the Maryland Attorney General cautions people when entering website addresses; when entering website addresses, accuracy is important because of the many similar commercial websites that charge for similar services.

If you determine that errors exist in your report, you must notify the credit reporting company in writing to dispute the information. To document your letter delivery, the Federal Trade Commission suggests that your letter be sent via certified mail with return receipt requested. Besides showing your complete name and address, your dispute letter should clearly identify all disputed items with an explanation of the facts as to why the information is disputed along with a request to remove the information. Additionally, your dispute letter should contain the report with disputed items circled, as well as any copy of supporting material to defend your claim.

The credit reporting company has thirty days to investigate the disputed items. The credit reporting company will forward your dispute, along with any supporting materials, to the provider of the disputed information to initiate an investigation of their own. If the disputed information is found to be inaccurate, then the provider must report the corrected accurate data to all three credit repositories. The credit reporting company must provide you notice of the outcome of the investigation along with an updated report showing any changes.

Sometimes credit reporting companies will determine a dispute is “frivolous” (often when insufficient information is provided) and will terminate an investigation. If your dispute was determined to be “frivolous,” the credit reporting company must notify you along with the reasons for this determination.

Additional and updated credit report dispute resolution information as well as resources are offered by the Federal Trade Commission (, and the Office of the Maryland Attorney General (

This article is not intended to provide nor should it be relied upon for legal and financial advice. This article was originally published in the Montgomery County Sentinel the week of January 11, 2010. Using this this article without permission is a violation of copyright laws. Copyright © 2010 Dan Krell

Your credit report = Your permanent record

by Dan Krell &copy 2009

Did you have a “permanent record” in school? Well, believe it or not, you still have a permanent record; it is called your credit report. Because your credit report can influence more than your ability to get a mortgage, it’s important to ensure that it is accurate.

Many in the credit industry call the credit report a “snapshot” of your credit use; how much credit you take and how you pay it back. In truth, it’s a bit more; it’s a snapshot of your life. The Federal Reserve board of San Francisco ( describes a typical credit report as containing personal identifying information, credit information, public information, and inquires into your credit report. Besides indicating your name (and aliases), birthday and social security number, your credit report may also indicate your current and past addresses, current and past telephone numbers, and current and past employers. Your credit report may also indicate your present and past spouses along with their personal information!

The credit information indicated on your credit report usually includes revolving credit (such as credit cards) and installment loans (which includes mortgages, auto loans, and student loans). The information reported includes the date the account was opened, the amount loaned and/or credit limit, the type of account, any co-signer, and of course your payment history. Additionally, the report also indicates collection activity undertaken to have you repay any unpaid accounts. Collection activity can be reported for charged off credit cards, foreclosure, and for such items ranging from hospital bills to child support.

Public information refers to records kept in the county, state, and federal courts (and is available to the public). Information that may appear in the public records section includes bankruptcies, personal liens, and judgments.

Anyone claiming that they have a legitimate need to see your credit report can order it through one of the credit reporting agencies; these inquiries are listed in your credit report. Besides banks, lenders, and those who extend credit, others who may be able to view your credit report include (but not limited to) employers, landlords, child support enforcement, and government agencies.

Credit reporting agencies such as Equifax (, Experian (, and Tran Union ( act as information repositories and collect all the information described above. Besides collecting information about you from creditors and public records, it is possible that credit reporting agencies may accrue information from other sources too. The information that is accrued about you is analyzed to produce your risk score. Each credit reporting agency uses a complex algorithm to compute your score which is widely used in decisions to extend you credit.

Given the amount of information that is processed by credit reporting agencies, it is common for errors to appear. To ensure your credit report information is accurate, you have the right to receive your credit report from each of the credit reporting agencies once a year. You can order your credit report either from or from each of the credit reporting agencies (see above). You can dispute any errors by following the instructions for each credit reporting agency. For additional information on disputing credit report information you can refer to each of the crediting reporting agencies above as well as the Federal Trade Commission (

This column is not intended to provide nor should it be relied upon for legal and financial advice. This article was originally published in the Montgomery County Sentinel the week of September 14, 2009. Copyright © 2009 Dan Krell

Feds to crack down on foreclosure relief scams

The 2008 Mortgage Fraud Report “Year in Review” published by the Federal Bureau of Investigation reports that mortgage fraud continues to increase ( Maryland, DC and Virginia are in the top ten states hardest hit by mortgage fraud. Due to a declining real estate market, the FBI states that incidents of mortgage relief scams will continue to rise through this year and is expected to increase in the future. Property flipping, short sales, and foreclosure rescues continue to be the main schemes perpetuated; however, new forms of the scams are appearing as reverse mortgage fraud, credit enhancements, condo conversions, pump and pay and loan modifications.

In an effort to cut down on mortgage relief scams, the Federal Trade Commission ( is launching an initiative to educate consumers and prosecute those allegedly involved in defrauding home owners. In a press release dated July 15th the FTC announced the launch of “Real People, Real Stories,” as well as four law suits involving foreclosure relief deception (there have been a total of fourteen such cases since April!).

“Real People, Real Stories” is a video that will educate home owners on foreclosure relief scams and deceptive practices. Actual home owners who were deceived by scammers were interviewed for the video; they divulge and expose how the scammers approached them and operated. The video advises home owners to investigate anyone offering a foreclosure relief program. Home owners are also warned that many foreclosure relief programs have the words “federal,” “U.S.” or “government” in the name, but in reality may not be associated with a government entity.

The video is also a promotion for the Hope Now alliance ( Hope Now is a partnership of lenders, non-profit organizations, and other mortgage industry participants who are dedicated to offering a coordinated plan to assist home owners.

Operation Loan Lies is a nationally coordinated law enforcement effort to put an end to mortgage relief scams. Actions taken by 25 federal and state agencies are directed toward those who “deceptively marketed foreclosure rescue and mortgage modification services.” FTC Chairman Jon Leibowitz was quoted in the press release as saying; “These con artists see the high foreclosure rates as an opportunity to prey on people in distress…”

Alleged actions by targeted foreclosure relief companies across the country include (but is not limited to) false claims of services, experience and success rates, violating (state) laws prohibiting collecting fees prior to providing services (some up to $5,500), “Do-Not-Call” violations, and misrepresentation.

If you or someone you know is facing financial challenges or foreclosure, Hope Now can connect you to HUD certified counseling agencies. Hope Now resources include instructions on contacting lenders as well as a lender contact list, local counseling agencies, and government agencies. Hope Now also offers a hotline so homeowners can call toll free, 1-888-995-HOPE.

Don’t become another statistic, investigate anyone that offers you foreclosure relief by calling Hope Now as well as local consumer protection agencies (such as the Maryland Attorney General Office Consumer Protection Division, and the Montgomery County Office of Consumer Protection). If you suspect a foreclosure relief scam, the FTC would like your help by reporting such activity by calling 1-877-FTC-HELP; complaints are collected and given to federal and local law enforcement agencies.

By Dan Krell
Copyright © 2009

This column is not intended to provide nor should it be relied upon for legal and financial advice.

Identity Theft can lead to a stolen home

by Dan Krell

Identity theft and mortgage fraud continue to plague the nation; both crimes are an ongoing concern for law enforcement. Earlier this year, the Federal Bureau of Investigation ( reported that these types of crimes were increasing, as well as a new disturbing trend in real estate related crimes called “house stealing.”

You may have heard of identity theft; but maybe you did not know that once a perpetrator steals your identity, they can defraud others in many ways. The Federal Trade Commission ( states that besides unauthorized use of your credit cards, perpetrators can use your information to get jobs, healthcare services, social services, and open new accounts (including mortgages, utilities and credit cards).

In January, the FBI reported that there were over 1,200 open cases of mortgage fraud. Most of these cases were “fraud for profit,” where a scheme was used to flip homes to get cash and allow the home to go into foreclosure. Other cases involve corporate schemes and possible insider trading.

So what is house stealing? The FBI reported earlier this year that house stealing is a hybrid crime that is a combination of identity theft and mortgage fraud. There are several forms of house stealing, but essentially the perpetrator will fraudulently take title to your home or steal your identity to ultimately sell your home and disappear with the cash. This can even occur while you are occupying your home!

Perpetrators of house stealing will obtain your personal information much like other identity thieves, and use the information to sell your home. Although the end result is to take the cash from selling your home, the crime can occur by the perpetrator fraudulently taking title to your home and then selling it “for sale by owner” (usually providing little or no information to prospects), or the perpetrator can act as if they are you and list your home with a real estate agent (sometimes the agent may be in cahoots with the perpetrator).

The FBI only recently publicized this new trend as they prosecuted a woman in California who pleaded guilty to devising a scheme to defraud over 100 homeowners and $12 million from lenders (

In their report, the FBI concedes that there is not much you can do to prevent a house stealing crime other than being vigilant; this may be due to the fact that most people do not go to the county court house on a regular basis to check the deed to their home. However, the FBI recommends that you check documents and signatures filed in the court house “from time to time.” Any discrepancies should be looked into (and reported to authorities) immediately.

Fortunately, there is more you can do to protect your identity. The NAR, in conjunction with the Federal Trade Commission (, has published a brochure called, “AvoID Theft: Deter, Detect, Defend.” The FTC attempts to educate consumers about identity theft; it is recommended that that you become aware of how these crimes occur so you can defend yourself from perpetrators, monitor your information regularly to spot any irregularities, and be prepared with a plan if you are a victim of identity theft. More information about protecting yourself from identity theft can be obtained from the FTC and FBI (and their corresponding websites).

This article is not intended to provide nor should it be relied upon for legal and financial advice. This article was originally published in the Montgomery County Sentinel the week of November 3, 2008. Copyright © 2008 Dan Krell.