About a month ago, a reader wrote to report that her credit history had been accidentally wiped out by TransUnion. It's back now, and there's a lesson in it for all of us.
About a month ago I did a post called Ask Stacy: Help…My Credit History Disappeared! Here’s part of the reader’s correspondence from that post…
Thank you so much for taking time to read this email. I hope you may be able to provide me with some guidance on how to handle this situation.
Here is what occurred: My husband and I went to apply for a mortgage a month ago, only to find that my husband’s credit had merged with another man’s credit. While we were in the process of disputing all 25 debts, we found out that the man (who was merged with my husband) had received my husband’s credit report in the mail AND disputed my husband’s debt. Now, my husband’s real credit has been removed from Transunion! We are concerned that Transunion will report this to the other credit agencies as well.
Obviously, we are very upset about this- we have worked hard for many years to repair my husband’s credit and now this has happened. Any advice would be greatly appreciated!
I wrote Katherine and asked if she had talked to TransUnion and if so, what they had said. Here’s part of her response…
We were told that since my husband’s credit has been deleted from the account there is nothing they can do about it – that we must contact each creditor ourselves in hopes that the current and past debt will get re-reported to their agency.
Now, here’s part of what I advised her to do…
Rather than asking Katherine to do their work for them, the party that blew it (TransUnion) should fix it. They should also apologize for the stress, time, and trouble they’ve caused Katherine and her husband.
Katherine should write a letter to TransUnion demanding satisfaction under Section 611 of the Fair Credit Reporting Act. She should send it certified with return receipt and it should include copies of any documentation that supports her assertion. If she doesn’t receive a timely response, she should proceed to the nearest consumer lawyer, since the Act also includes legal remedies for noncompliance, including punitive damages and reimbursement of attorney’s fees.
And here’s an email I received from TransUnion shortly after this post went up…
Stacy, recently read your article. I work for TransUnion and if you have any contact information on this couple (phone number, email, etc…), we would be happy to reach out to them to see if we can rectify their situation. Thanks in advance.
I put TransUnion in touch with Katherine, and got this email from her last Tuesday…
I wanted to follow up with you regarding the outcome of the mixed file with Transunion. I have been working with (name withheld) on this issue. When he contacted me, I informed him that my husband’s credit continued to merge over and over (even after we thought it had been fixed). He dealt with this issue immediately and within a few hours everything was resolved. All of my husband’s real credit was placed back on his report and the incorrect debt was removed. I did give Mr. (withheld) feedback on my personal experience and I hope he can make some changes at Transunion. It should not be this difficult to correct inaccuracies on one’s report.
So TransUnion saw the story and Katherine’s problem is now solved. What can we learn from this?
1. Don’t take it lying down
There are tons of consumer protection laws already on the books, but they won’t do you any good if you don’t take the time to learn them or make the effort to use them.
Companies that are more interested in making money than playing fair often count on you getting frustrated and walking away. It’s their strategy to tell you they won’t or can’t help, even when they know the law requires them to.
Don’t get pushed around. Learn your rights at places like the Federal Trade Commission‘s website, then leverage those laws to get what you deserve.
2. The media, lawyers, and the government can help
Before I became a consumer advocate, I had a very low opinion of the media, lawyers, and the government.
After 20 years as a consumer reporter, however, my views have changed. That’s not to suggest that all lawyers, members of the media, and government regulators are golden. In fact, many in the media are self-absorbed, many lawyers are sleazebags, and many in government are lazy.
But there are only three ways to change the bad behavior of big companies: The first is to expose it, which only the media can do. The second is to sue them into submission, which only lawyers can do. The third is with rules and regulations, which only government agencies can enforce.
So when you’ve been treated unfairly, do everything you can to solve the problem yourself. But if that doesn’t work, don’t hesitate to escalate the battle. Media people like me can’t help everyone, but I love nothing more than exposing bad behavior and trying to help someone like Katherine. As for lawyers: Some will take cases free and earn their fees from the company causing you a problem. For example, see Abused by a Debt Collector? Get a Free Lawyer. As for government agencies, as I said above, the FTC is a great place to learn about your rights, and outfits from state consumer protection agencies to the BBB are often willing to intervene on your behalf.
And one last thing: While it can sometimes be hard to believe, there are people working at companies like TransUnion who actually give a damn. Hat tip to the one who picked up the ball with Katherine’s problem and ran with it.
3. If you don’t do it for yourself, do it for someone else.
Sometimes we capitulate and walk away from bad corporate behavior because the effort to win simply isn’t worth the time or stress. Nothing wrong with that, but remember many companies are counting on that kind of response. They want to cut corners because they make more money that way, and they will for as long as we allow it. And the next person they screw may be more vulnerable and less wealthy – it may be your grandmother or someone else’s.
So if you have the time and patience, hold companies responsible. Because you’re not just fighting for yourself.
Got a question you’d like answered or a problem you need help with? Drop me a line and I’ll try to help!