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Protecting Your Credit Score

credit-reportThere are many public documents regarding personal finance kept on file by the Saline County Circuit Clerk's Office.

For example, if you live in Saline County and have a lien filed against you, it is recorded here. The State of Arkansas routinely files such liens for failure to pay state taxes. If your house is foreclosed on through a judicial foreclosure, the paperwork is filed here.

If you own a home or other real property in the county and there is a mortgage on it, that information is filed here.

We recently had a case where a woman named Brandy had information that negatively affected her credit score put on her credit report. The information actually involved a man with the same last name but his first name was Andy. Someone researching credit history likely wrote down "Brandy" instead of "Andy." In other cases, people have the same or similar names  -- such as Jimmy Smith and Jimmie Smith. Such things can cause confusion and get incorrect information on your credit report.

When you fill out credit applications for banks, stores or credit card companies, that information is forwarded to a credit bureau. The credit bureau matches the name, address and other identifying information (such as your Social Security number) on the credit applicant with information retained by the bureau in its files. That’s why it is very important for creditors, lenders and other agencies to provide accurate data to credit bureaus. This information is used by lenders to determine credit worthiness.

This information shows your ability and willingness to repay a debt. The willingness to repay a debt is indicated by how timely payments have been made to other lenders.

The information in the credit report is also used to calculate your credit score. Mistakes or inaccuracies on your credit report could result in a lower score and make it more difficult to receive financing and insurance at favorable rates. In order to prevent this review your credit report thoroughly and dispute erroneous information now, before you need it. Any mistakes, regardless of how minor, should be disputed whether or not they have a negative impact on your credit score.

If you discover incorrect information has been reported on you, you can obtain copies of some financial documents from the Saline County Circuit Clerk's Office. Those documents can then be sent to the credit bureau to have that information corrected.

 

There are three basic rules for dealing with incorrect information on your credit report:

1. Contact the credit bureau

Send written correspondence to the credit bureau that has listed the incorrect information, explaining what is inaccurate. Provide supporting documentation, including copies of credit statements, loan balances and other data to back up your claim. You may receive copies of financial documents on file in the circuit clerk’s office for a 25-cents per page printing cost or a certified copy of the document for $5.00. You should also send a copy of the credit report itself and circle the incorrect items in red. Mail the documents by certified mail and “return receipt requested” to confirm that the bureau receives the letter.

2. Dispute inaccurate items with the reporting organization

You should also contact the retailer, loan servicer or organization that reported the mistake. Inform them that you are disputing the item and, as above, provide proof that supports your claim.

3. Keep ALL correspondence

The credit bureau will investigate your claim within 30 days, during which time they will contact the entity that inaccurately reported the information. The merchant or creditor will conduct its own investigation and report its findings back to the credit bureau. Keep all correspondence and copies of the dispute on hand. After the investigation is concluded, the credit bureau will contact you with their findings and will provide you with a copy of your credit report.

The three major credit bureaus are:

Experian
www.experian.com
1-888-397-3742

Equifax
www.equifax.com
Fraud Unit: 1-800-525-6285
Request a Credit Report: 1-800-685-1111
Equifax Credit Information Services, Inc.
P.O. Box 740241
Atlanta, Ga 30374

TransUnion
www.transunion.com
Fraud Unit: 1-800-680-7289
Request a Credit Report: 1-877-322-8228
Annual Credit Report Request Service
P.O. Box 105281
Atlanta, Ga 30348-5281