Ask a JAG, April 4

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Q: I applied for a loan and discovered negative information on my credit report.  What can I do?

A: No one can legally remove accurate and timely negative information from a credit report. But the Fair Credit Reporting Act, enforced by the Federal Trade Commission, is designed to promote accuracy and ensure privacy of information used in consumer credit reports. It requires Consumer Reporting Agencies and information providers to correct inaccurate or incomplete information in your report. To protect all your rights under this law, contact both the CRA and the information provider.

First, tell the CRA in writing what information you believe is inaccurate. CRAs must reinvestigate the items in question unless they consider your dispute frivolous. They also must forward all relevant data you provide about the dispute to the information provider.

After the information provider receives notice of a dispute from the CRA, it must investigate, review all relevant information provided by the CRA, and report the results to the CRA. If the information provider finds the disputed information to be inaccurate, it must notify all nationwide CRAs so they can correct this information in your file.

When the reinvestigation is complete, the CRA must provide you the written results and a free copy of your report if the dispute results in a change. If an item is changed or removed, the CRA cannot put the disputed information back in your file unless the information provider verifies its accuracy and completeness, and the CRA gives you a written notice that includes the name, address, and phone number of the provider.

Second, tell the creditor or other information provider in writing that you are disputing an item. Many providers specify an address for disputes. If the provider then reports the item to any CRA, it must include a notice of your dispute. In addition, if the disputed information is found to be inaccurate — the information provider may not use it again.

If the reinvestigation does not resolve your dispute with the CRA, ask the CRA to include your statement of the dispute in your file and in future reports. If you tell the information provider you dispute an item, a notice of your dispute must be included any time the information provider reports the item to a CRA. Be persistent. Only time, a conscious effort and a personal debt repayment plan will improve your credit report.

This column is not intended as individual or specific legal advice. If you have specific issues or concerns, you should consult a judge advocate at 421-4152/civ. 0711-729-4152.