Fast Answers to Your Most Pressing Debt Collection and Credit Reporting Questions
Can a collection company call multiple times per day? Can a creditor really increase your interest rate if you cannot pay your bills? If you have a question about debt collection, credit reporting, or any other issues related to consumer law, our FAQ section might provide the answer you need right now. If it doesn't, contact us using the contact form or the toll-free number and we'll answer it for you within 24 hours!
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If my FCRA rights have been violated, who can I sue and what can I get?
Great question! In other words, is it worth your time and effort to go after the CRA, information furnisher, or information user who violated your rights? I say yes, and I’ll tell you why.
First, Who Can You Sue?
Ok, so I just rattled off a few potentially liable parties. Let me explain who they are and how they may violate your rights under the Fair Credit Reporting Act:
- CRA. This stands for Credit Reporting Agency and it refers to the three agencies that collect financial information about you—Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion. If a CRA grants access to your report to an unauthorized party, fails to remove old data, or violates any other provision of the FCRA, they can be sued.
- Information furnishers. These are the banks, creditors, lenders, and collection agencies that give the CRAs information about you. If they provide inaccurate or private information, they may be liable for damages.
- Information users. Landlords, creditors, and employers use information from your credit report to make important decisions about you. If they violate your rights in any way, they may have to pay you damages.
Once I figure out where the violation occurred, I will know who to go after.
What Can You Collect?
Under the Fair Credit Reporting Act, you may be eligible to collect the following:
- Actual damages. This is a dollar amount you can prove you have lost as a direct result of the violation. There is no limit to these damages.
- Statutory damages. These can total anywhere from $100 to $1000, depending on the violation. You do not have to prove that you suffered losses to sue for these damages, you just have to show that the violation occurred.
- Punitive damages. If a violator acted willfully and in an egregious manner, a judge may order him to pay punitive damages of any amount.
- Attorney’s fees. Yes, you read that right! If I prove there was a violation, the liable party has to pay my fees, too. YOU PAY ME NOTHING OUT OF YOUR OWN POCKET!
So, What Should You Do First?
That’s an easy question. The first thing you should do is call me to help you determine if there has been a violation and what to do next. These laws exist for a reason and it is worth pursuing the violators of the law—not only because you can get back the money you lost—and then some—but because it holds these parties responsible for abusing the law. Call me to get started!
I am the victim of identity theft. How do I fix my credit report?
One unfortunate reality of our digital society is that no one is safe from identity theft. Your vital stats are out there, just waiting to be mined by an identity predator. The faster you catch it, though, the better off you will be. One key way to find out if you are a victim is to check your credit report on a regular basis. Do I sound like a broken record yet? If credit card accounts have been opened or loans have been taken out in your name, they will appear on your reports, and the sooner you see it, the better.
You Caught the Fraud, Now What?
The first thing you need to do is prevent the thief from opening any more accounts in your name and stop the credit reporting agencies (CRA) from releasing your credit report to anyone until you get it fixed. To do this, take the following steps:
- Place an initial fraud alert on your credit report. Simply call any one of the three CRAs—Equifax, Experian, or TransUnion—and ask for an initial fraud alert. The company you call must inform the other two CRAs of the alert. The alert will remain for 90 days and can be renewed after that. With a fraud alert on your reports, a creditor or lender will be required to confirm your identity before issuing credit.
- Freeze your credit reports. Ordinarily, CRAs will send credit reports to almost anyone who asks, but when you place a security freeze on your account, they will have to check with you first. There may be a fee for this, depending on the situation.
You can knock these two things off your to-do list in less than half an hour after you discover the fraud on your report. However, your identity is still stolen and you’ll need to take further action to actually stop the thief.
- Contact the creditors and lenders directly. Call the companies that are fraudulently on your credit report due to the theft. Ask them for a dispute form for victims of identity theft and make a request—in writing—that they remove the accounts from your credit reports. Make every request and every follow-up in writing and keep copies of everything.
- File a police report. Identity theft is a crime and should be reported to the police. Although local police are rarely successful at tracking down identity thieves—if they are even willing to try—having a police report on file can help you remove the fraudulent information from your credit report.
- Contact the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). The FTC has a new reporting system for identity theft. Here, you can make an official report, which can help you get negative information removed from your credit reports, and receive a recovery plan.
When You Need a Lawyer
If you are having trouble getting mistaken or fraudulent information removed from your credit reports—no matter how it got there—you may be able to take legal action. Fill out the form on this page to get in touch with me today. If I can help—I will!
Who can request a copy of my credit report?
Anyone can ask for a copy of your credit report, but not everyone can get it! Thanks to the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA), only entities with a legitimate need for the information contained on your report will be granted access. So who needs the information?
Legitimate Credit Report Requesters
Most requests for your credit report are actually initiated by you. When you apply for a loan or a new credit card, the lender will request a copy of your report to check out your credit history and determine if you are a high risk or not. According to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), the following are permissible uses of a credit report:
- Offering credit
- Reviewing a credit account
- Collecting on a credit account
- Offering insurance coverage
- Setting insurance premium charges
- Determining eligibility for government benefits or licenses
- Reviewing a mortgage or rental application
This means that credit card companies, banks, mortgage lenders, landlords, insurance agents, and government agencies can all request and receive a copy of your credit report. Employers may also get a copy of your credit report for the purposes of prospective employment, promotion, reassignment, or retention in your current job, but you must provide written consent before they will be able to get it.
Other Reasons People Want To View Your Credit Report
A credit reporting agency may also send out your credit report in response to a court order, subpoena, or for a child support issue. Also, with your written permission, your credit report can be sent to anyone you want to send it to.
One thing that surprises people is that your credit report information will also be released to creditors or insurers who are looking to market their services to trustworthy borrowers. If you have a decent credit history, you have probably gotten these “prescreened” or “preapproved” offers for credit cards or insurance policies in the mail. If this makes you uncomfortable—and it probably should—you can opt out of this service by visiting the Opt-Out website.
Is There Anything You Can Do To Stop Organizatons From Reviewing Your Credit Report?
There is nothing you can do to stop legitimate organizations from accessing your credit report, especially if you are seeking credit. However, you can keep track of who is requesting the information and make sure the information they are getting is accurate by annually reviewing your credit reports. If you are having trouble with debt collectors or unapproved businesses reviewing your credit report contact me online or call me directly at 415.802.0137.
How long will bad credit mistakes stay on my credit report?
Maybe you racked up credit card debt in college. Maybe you declared bankruptcy during a rough patch in your 20s. Whatever your credit mistake was, you are in a much better place now. You pay your credit card balances, have money in the bank, and have a stable job. Why, then, is your credit score still lower than you think it should be? I have bad news for you—it may be because some of your past mistakes are still on your credit report. In fact, most negative information stays on your report for seven years.
Negative Information On Your Credit Report
Anything that indicates your irresponsibility as a borrower is considered negative information. Some of the bad habits that will stick around include the following:
- Unpaid credit accounts. Any account you had that you failed to pay will remain on your report for seven years from the date the account first became past due.
- Late-payment history. If you had a credit account that you regularly paid late, a record of this will remain on your report for seven years. For revolving debt or installment debt, late payments may stay for 10 years.
- Collection accounts. If a past-due account is taken over by a collection agency and you do not pay them, a record of that will remain on your report for seven years from the date the collection account first became past due.
- Court judgments. If you were ordered by the court to pay a debt, that judgement will stay on your credit report for seven years, even if you paid it.
- Paid tax liens. If the government issued a lien on your property for unpaid taxes and you paid it, a record of this will remain for seven years.
- Unpaid tax liens. If you did not pay the tax lien, that will remain on your report indefinitely.
- Chapter 7 or non-discharged Chapter 11 bankruptcy. As a serious financial mistake, bankruptcy proceedings will remain on your record for 10 years.
- Discharged Chapter 11 bankruptcy. Once you have successfully discharged a Chapter 11 proceeding, it will remain on your record for seven years.
- Inquiries. Most inquiries from lenders or credit promotors do not affect your credit score, but will remain on your report for up to 12 months. Your own inquiries will remain for two years, but again, do not have a negative effect.
Paid credit accounts do not have a negative effect on your credit rating, but remain on your credit report for up to 10 years from the date of last activity.
Keep An Eye On Negative Credit Report Information
As I explain elsewhere on this site, the Fair Credit Reporting Act protects consumers from having false information on their credit reports. It also protects consumers from having negative information on their reports longer than it should be. If you are having problems getting bad information removed from one or more of your credit reports, contact me online for help. I have do-it-yourself tools and provide legal back-up if those fail! You can also call me directly at 415.802.0137 and I will do my best to make things right. I am waiting for your call!
Can a debt collection agency garnish my wages?
Unfortunately, the answer is yes—but not without jumping through some hoops first, which gives you an opportunity to stop them. When you call me as soon as a debt collector contacts you, we may be able to prevent wage garnishment.
What Does a Debt Collector Have to Do to Garnish My Wages?
When you owe money for medical bills or are way overdue on credit cards, your debt may be passed on to a debt collection agency. The goal of a debt collector is to get you to pay up—sometimes by any means necessary, even if it means breaking the law. Debt collectors are not allowed to threaten or harass you, but many of them do. If a debt collector is harassing you, you can not only make them stop, you can make them pay. Sometimes the damages awarded for debt collection harassment can wipe out the debt you were being harassed over in the first place! However, not every debt collector breaks the law in this way, and if he decides to take legal action against you, it could result in wage garnishment.
In order to garnish your wages, a debt collector will have to sue you for the debt and win. Then, if the judge approves it, he can garnish your wages to pay back the debt.
What Can We Do to Stop Debt Collectors From Garnishing Your Wages?
If the debt collector has not broken the law in order to collect on the debt—and remember, threatening you by mail or over the phone is illegal!—you will not be able to sue him for damages. If he sues you to collect on the debt, however, we may be able to defend you with one of the following arguments:
- The debt he is suing you for is not yours.
- He does not have the proper documentation to prove the validity of the debt.
- The statute of limitations on the debt has expired.
If these arguments are ineffective and a judge rules in the debt collector’s favor, I may still be able to work out a payment arrangement that does not involve wage garnishment.
You Do Have Debt Collection Options
The sooner you contact me about a debt collector, the more options we will have to fight back. Don’t let your situation escalate into a lawsuit. Call me today at 415.802.0137 to discuss your options!
When and where can a debt collector call me?
Phone calls that interrupt dinner are annoying, but calls that wake you up early in the morning or late at night are downright infuriating. When that call comes from someone trying to collect on a debt, it’s even worse. Debt collectors rely on telephone calls to reach consumers because they are hoping to persuade, trick, or bully them into paying a debt they may or may not owe. Fortunately, the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) protects you from disruptive or abusive phone calls.
What Debt Collection Calls Are Off Limits?
You can’t exercise rights you don’t know about, so it’s important that you know when and where debt collectors are barred from calling you. Here’s an overview:
- Debt collectors cannot call you before 8 a.m. or after 9 p.m. They can still send emails or text messages at any time, however.
- Once you tell them not to, debt collectors cannot call you at work. Many workers are not allowed to take personal calls at work, or just don’t have the time to deal with a call while they are working. Once you ask the collector to stop calling you at work, they must comply.
- Repeated or continual calls, even between 8 a.m. and 9 p.m., are not allowed. Debt collectors cannot keep calling you over the same issue. If you have disputed the debt in writing, they must stop calling you altogether.
- Telling your friends, family, or coworkers about the debt is forbidden. A debt collector may call others in an attempt to locate you, but may not reveal information about the debt to them.
If a debt collector violates any of these calling rules, not only can he be stopped, but he may also owe you damages. For some of our clients, this means not only is the collector held accountable for breaking the law, but their debt is wiped out!
Are You Being Harassed By A Debt Collector?
If a debt collector is harassing you, our experienced consumer financial protection attorneys can make it stop. It doesn’t matter if you really do owe the debt, you are still protected from harassment! Contact me online or call me directly at 415.802.0137 to put a stop to the abuse today!
Do I have a right to see what is on my credit report?
I can answer this question in one word: ABSOLUTELY!
The information on your credit report is about YOU, so you definitely have the right to know what’s there. Why should you care what some random report says about you? Well, for one thing, the information on there could be wrong. For another thing, whether you get approved for a loan, an apartment lease, or even a job, what you pay in rent and interest rates could depend on what that report says—so you better know what’s on there! Let’s back up and get to the basics.
What Is a Credit Report?
A credit report is a detailed report of a person’s credit history. Actually, you don’t have a single credit report—you have three—one with each of the three credit reporting agencies (CRAs)—TransUnion, Experian, and Equifax (yes, THAT Equifax). While the reports should theoretically be the same if all the information they have is accurate, a mistake can appear on any one of the three, so you should check each one every year.
How Do I Check My Credit Report?
Under the Fair Credit Reporting Act, you have the right to a FREE credit report from each of the CRAs every 12 months. Now, there are companies who will be happy to sell you a report, or claim they are giving you a free report, but then charge you an annual fee. Avoid these companies like the plague! The only authorized place to request your free credit report is this website: www.annualcreditrepor.com.
You will have to provide your name, address, Social Security Number, and date of birth to get your free report. I suggest getting a report from one of the CRAs every four months. That way, you are checking each report once a year—which I also highly recommend—but you will also catch anything really terrible that might have happened—like identity theft—sooner rather than waiting a whole year. Having said that, you are also entitled to a free report at any time if any of the following has happened:
- A person has taken adverse action against you because of information in your credit report
- You are the victim of identity theft and are placing a fraud alert in your file
- Your file contains inaccurate information as a result of fraud
- You are on public assistance
- You are unemployed but expect to apply for employment within 60 days
What Are You Looking For In Your Credit Report?
When you get your report, look at every entry. If anything looks wrong—there’s a credit card listed that you don’t have or a debt you already paid off—you can dispute it with the CRA and they are required by law to investigate. In most cases, they have 30 days to correct or delete the information. If they don’t, you may be able to sue them for damages. That’s where I come in.
When to Call An Experienced Consumer Financial Protection Attorney
If you are having trouble getting your credit report corrected, contact me to see if I can help. I will take a look at your situation and if it looks like you have cause to sue, I will help you take the necessary action. But don’t wait too long—check those reports and call me if there’s a problem!
What can I do if a debt collector is harassing me?
You do not have to put up with annoying calls from debt collectors. In fact, if a debt collector is harassing you, he is breaking the law and you can do more than stop him—you can sue him for damages. How do you know when a debt collector has crossed the line? What can you do about it? Read on!
What Is Debt Collection Harassment?
I’ve explained debt harassment in more detail in other articles on our website, but as a quick reminder, the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) prohibits debt collectors from calling you repeatedly, annoying and verbally abusing you, threatening you, and using obscene language, among other things. Basically, if the calls are bothering you, it is probably harassment and you do not have to take it.
So, What Can You Do About Debt Collectors Contacting You?
The very first time a debt collector calls you, record the call if possible. At the very least, make a note of who called, the date and time of the call, what was said, and what they claim you owe. After this first call, use our free Collection Blocker letter to stop them from calling you again. They can contact you one more time to inform you of their next move, but if they call you after that, call me! I will tell you now what I will tell you when you call—keep track of every call you get and every letter they send. This will be evidence in your lawsuit against them.
You Do Not Deserve to Be Treated This Way
It does not matter if you actually owe the debt you are being harassed about—you still don’t deserve to be mistreated. In fact, if the abuse continues and you save the evidence, you can sue for damages and eliminate your debt! Even if it is not your debt and the calls are meant for someone else, you can still sue! Hard to believe? Maybe, but it's worth contacting me to find out if you have a claim. Get a free case evaluation now. If I take your case, you pay me no money up front and I will not get paid unless you get paid. You have nothing to lose!
What should I do if I find an error on my credit report?
Wise consumers take advantage of their annual free credit reports to review the information they contain. Because loan approval, insurance rates, and job applications can depend on a clean credit report, it is important that you know what’s on your report each year and take steps to remove any inaccurate information. We explain how to do that here.
What Information Is on Your Credit Report?
Your credit report contains important and sensitive information, including your address, whether you pay your bills on time, whether you have been sued or arrested, and whether you have filed for bankruptcy. It also lists credit accounts you have—both active and closed. Often the first indication you have that your identity has been stolen is seeing unfamiliar information on your credit report. If someone has opened a credit card account in your name, it will appear on your credit report. If you find that your report has incorrect or unfamiliar information on it, you should take steps to correct it.
How to Correct a Credit Report
According to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), you should take the following steps when you find false information on a credit report:
- Send a letter to the credit reporting agency (CRA) telling them what information is incorrect. Send copies of any documents that support your claim. The CRA must investigate your claim within 30 days and inform you of their decision when the investigation is complete.
- Inform the furnisher of the information to the CRA that the information is false. CRAs do not create the information on your report. Instead, they receive information about you from credit card companies, insurance agencies, individuals, and law enforcement. If one of these entities has provided false information, they should be informed.
What details does a debt collector have to provide about my debt?
You know you have fallen behind on paying some bills, but that does not mean you actually owe the debt a collector has contacted you about. And even if you do, there are federal and state laws governing when and how often the debt collector can call, what he can say to you, and what information he must provide to you about the debt. Because so many people are not aware of their rights when it comes to debt collection, creditors and debt collectors often engage in abusive and harassing behavior when contacting people about debts.
What a Debt Collector Must Tell You
When a debt collector calls, he will likely tell you that you have a debt that his agency has purchased and that you now owe his company the money. He may try to get you to pay over the phone to settle the matter quickly. However, he is required by law to provide you with certain details about the debt in writing within five days of the first contact. This is called a debt validation notice and must include the name of the original creditor, the amount owed, and information about how to proceed if you do not think you owe the money. If the debt collector cannot provide this information, you may have cause to dismiss the debt and recover damages for harassment.
Why You Should Always Ask For Debt Verification
Even if you think the debt is legitimate, you should request verification for the following reasons:
- To verify that the debt is actually yours
- To make sure the person calling you is authorized to collect the debt
- To confirm you have not already paid
- To force the debt collector to prove that he has the original documents
You are within your rights to request debt verification, but you must do so in writing. You do this by sending the debt collector a letter in which you dispute all or part of the debt and request the name of the original creditor. Our experienced consumer protection attorneys can help in the writing of your debt validation letter. Contact us online or call us directly at 855.982.2400. We are happy to help people protect their rights under the Rosenthal Fair Debt Collection Practices Act.