In 1998 the Federation of State Public Interest Research Groups (PIRGs) published a now famous report called, Mistakes Do Happen: Credit Report Errors Mean Consumers Lose. This report detailed the results of the PIRGs sixth study on the accuracy of credit reports. The results, in their words, were troubling, and revealed that an alarming number of credit reports contain serious errors. Here are some of the highpoints (or low points) of their study findings.
Serious Errors can Have High Costs
Seventy percent of all of the credit reports investigated contained errors. The errors uncovered by the study were broken down into categories based on the severity of the errors. The worst of the errors occurred in twenty nine percent of the credit reports and were likely to result in the outright denial of credit. This type of error included accounts that are incorrectly marked as delinquent, accounts that do not belong to the consumer, and derogatory public records such as judgments that belong to someone else.
Not a Small Issue
The types of errors noted above are obviously very serious. It should be emphasized that twenty nine percent is a horrendously large number. This number alone indicates that you have more than a one in four chance of having errors on your report that will cause you to be denied credit. An additional result of this misreporting may include your placement into a sub-prime credit category and result in you receiving a higher cost loan than you would otherwise have received. Translated into dollars there is the potential for a life changing impact on your financial wellbeing.
Little Things Count
Forty one percent of the credit reports reviewed contained personal identifying information that was out of date or belonged to someone else. These erroneous items included incorrect Social Security numbers – often belonging to total strangers, wrong birthdates, addresses that had never been lived at, and employers that the consumers had never worked for. Here again it is essential to consider, not only the massive numbers of errors that are indicated by the study results, but the implications of these results. These statistics show a massive potential for every credit report to contain potentially costly errors.
Missing Accounts Can Hurt
Twenty percent of the credit reports reviewed were missing major account information such as auto loans, mortgages, and other consumer accounts that could have demonstrated the credit worthiness of the consumer. Credit repair services like ours discover these omissions on a daily basis. In many cases a credit report is as damaged by the absence of these major accounts as it would be by the presence of erroneous derogatory accounts.
Closed Versus Open Accounts
Twenty six percent of the credit reports contained accounts that had been closed by the consumer but remained listed as open accounts. Keeping in mind the significance that the FICO scoring method places on the number and status of current accounts it is clear that even this seemingly harmless omission by the credit bureaus can potentially cause expensive and intolerable damage to ones credit. In the majority of these cases it was concluded that this error could make it appear that the consumer is currently over extended and cause the denial of a credit application.
Credit Bureaus Are Not Government Agencies
The information noted above is an indication of the severity of the reporting problems that occur. We have been helping our clients with credit repair since 1989. I often find myself correcting customers’ impression that the credit bureaus are in some way connected to the government. This belief is understandable. The credit bureaus have a major impact on your financial life. But although the bureaus seem like an omniscient Big Brother, they actually have no connection to the government at all. In fact, they are under constant scrutiny and have been fined many millions of dollars for their failure to cooperate with consumers’ efforts to fix reporting errors.
Significant legislation has been enacted to protect you from the impact of the credit bureaus inaccuracies. The right that you have to receive copies of your three credit reports for free on an annual basis is not a friendly public service by the credit bureaus. The bureaus have been required to provide this service as one of the protective measures included on the Fair and Accurate Credit Transactions Act of 2003. Your credit report can have a major impact on your financial life. Give your credit the attention that it deserves and review your reports regularly.