Ask Stacy: Help…My Credit History Disappeared!

Photo (cc) by firepile

While some people might prefer their credit history to disappear, those with a good history want to harness it when they’re ready to borrow. Check out this recent email…

Hi Stacy,

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!

Thank you,
Katherine

When I got this email I responded to Katherine and asked what, if any, response she’d gotten from TransUnion. Here’s what she wrote back…

Yes, we have been in almost constant phone contact with Transunion since we were made aware of the mixed file. We have kept good documentation of these conversations. 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. I spoke with a Transunion supervisor today who assured me they would not report the deleted accounts to the other credit agencies.

As far as Equifax and Experian, we pulled my husband’s reports when we were made aware of the mixed file. Both Equifax and Experian did not have the mixed file information. They were reporting accurate information, thankfully. We have not checked recently to see if any of his credit has been removed.

Reading these emails enrages me. I’m sure Transunion would have a different take, but here’s mine.

TransUnion and the other credit reporting agencies, Experian and Equifax, run for-profit databanks that collect, store, and sell something that doesn’t really belong to them: our credit histories. They make hundreds of millions of dollars doing this, some of which they use to fund clever and deceptive commercials to try to rake in even more.

Fine. This is America, and we’re all entitled to make a living. But if your credit history is incorrectly collected, stored, disseminated, or in Katherine’s case, deleted, the potential cost in terms of higher interest, higher insurance bills, and lost job opportunities could be measured in the hundreds of thousands of dollars. Your credit history is precious, and should be handled accordingly. Your information should be totally accurate and handled with extreme care. If mistakes are made, they should be corrected immediately. If they’re not, the agency screwing up should be held liable for any damages that result.

But credit reporting agencies historically have apparently been much more interested in creating clever commercials than properly maintaining their records. One of many examples: In 2004, the Public Interest Research Group conducted a study that concluded that as many as 25 percent of credit reports “contained serious errors that could result in the denial of credit, such as false delinquencies or accounts that did not belong to the consumer.” The Federal Reserve later disputed that finding on page 6 of this report [PDF]. However, on page 26 of the same report, the Fed admits “we have investigated only some potential sources of error…we can say nothing about the consequences of mistakenly including account records that do not belong to an individual in the individual’s file.” This is exactly what happened to Katherine’s husband.

What should Katherine do?

Fortunately there’s a law on the books that should help Katherine – and you, should you find yourself in similar straits. It’s called The Fair Credit Reporting Act. Section 611 (it starts on page 46 of the law [PDF]) is called Procedure in case of disputed accuracy. Here’s the relevant language:

…if the completeness or accuracy of any item of information contained in a consumer’s file at a consumer reporting agency is disputed by the consumer and the consumer notifies the agency directly, or indirectly through a reseller, of such dispute, the agency shall, free of charge, conduct a reasonable reinvestigation to determine whether the disputed information is inaccurate and record the current status of the disputed information….before the end of the 30-day period beginning on the date on which the agency receives the notice of the dispute from the consumer…

Katherine’s husband found incorrect items (somebody else’s debts) in his credit report. He notified TransUnion that these were erroneous items, and they removed them. Unfortunately, however, they removed his entire credit history in the process – something that was almost certainly their error and thus should be corrected by them. How? By either reinstating the erroneously deleted information, or doing what they suggested Katherine do: going to each creditor they deleted and asking them to resubmit their historical information.

In short, rather than asking Katherine to do their work for them, the party that blew it should fix it. They should also apologize for the stress, time, and trouble they’ve caused Katherine and her husband.

Fortunately, since the other two primary reporting agencies haven’t made the same mistake, and other proof of her husband’s good credit thus exists elsewhere, the impact of TransUnion’s screw-up should be minimal. Still, 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.

Got more money questions? Browse lots more Ask Stacy answers here.

Disclosure: The information you read here is always objective. However, we sometimes receive compensation when you click links within our stories.

Read Next
8 Types of Companies That Check Your Credit Report
8 Types of Companies That Check Your Credit Report

Federal law lets these entities peek at your credit — regardless of whether you’re borrowing money.

10 Food Staples That Are Easy and Cheap to Make Yourself
10 Food Staples That Are Easy and Cheap to Make Yourself

Making any of these key foods yourself will improve meals — and your budget.

15 Purchases That Make Life Easier As You Age
15 Purchases That Make Life Easier As You Age

There are many products that can make getting older — or any time of life — a little easier.

Eat This Food If You Want to Avoid Alzheimer’s Disease
Eat This Food If You Want to Avoid Alzheimer’s Disease

One type of food associated with the Mediterranean diet offers especially large benefits.

60% of People With This Disease Don’t Know They Have It
60% of People With This Disease Don’t Know They Have It

Millions of people overlook this potentially potent condition that tends to strike women and older adults.

View this page without ads

Help us produce more money-saving articles and videos by subscribing to a membership.

Get Started

Most Popular
7 Kirkland Signature Items to Avoid at Costco
7 Kirkland Signature Items to Avoid at Costco

Even if it seems you save a bundle buying Costco’s Kirkland Signature brand products, they may not be the bargain they appear to be.

How to Buy Gas At Costco Without a Membership
How to Buy Gas At Costco Without a Membership

The warehouse club often has some of the cheapest gas in town. Here’s how you can get it as a nonmember.

10 Things to Stop Buying If You Want a Clutter-Free Home
10 Things to Stop Buying If You Want a Clutter-Free Home

If you like to keep things simple, avoid these purchases.

If You Find This Thrift Shopping, Buy It
If You Find This Thrift Shopping, Buy It

Vacuums from this brand can last a half-century, if not longer — and they’re hot on the resale market.

A Simple Way to Silence Robocalls Today
A Simple Way to Silence Robocalls Today

A few steps can keep your phone from ringing when a spammer calls.

This Company Makes the Best Tires in America
This Company Makes the Best Tires in America

Driver satisfaction with tires is at an all-time high, but one brand stands out.

Can I Switch to Spousal Social Security Benefits When My Ex Dies?
Can I Switch to Spousal Social Security Benefits When My Ex Dies?

Knowing when to claim can help you maximize benefits.

36 Things That Will Be Obsolete Soon
36 Things That Will Be Obsolete Soon

The writing is on the wall for dozens of things we have grown up with.

This Health Issue Can Hint at Dementia Years in Advance
This Health Issue Can Hint at Dementia Years in Advance

One type of pain is especially associated with cognitive decline.

8 Things You Should Always Buy on Amazon
8 Things You Should Always Buy on Amazon

The giant retailer shines when it comes to these things, from basics to hard-to-find specialty goods.

8 Federal Income Tax Breaks for Homeowners
8 Federal Income Tax Breaks for Homeowners

Some of these deductions and credits are available to a wide swath of homeowners.

10 Deep Discounts Available on Amazon This Friday
10 Deep Discounts Available on Amazon This Friday

These items are steeply discounted — but the deals won’t last long.

3 Ways to Get Microsoft Office for Free
3 Ways to Get Microsoft Office for Free

With a little ingenuity, you can cut Office costs to zero.

5 Ways to Get Amazon Prime for Free
5 Ways to Get Amazon Prime for Free

Hesitant to drop $119 a year on an Amazon Prime membership? Here’s how to get it for free.

17 Surprising Things You Can Sell for Extra Money
17 Surprising Things You Can Sell for Extra Money

You probably don’t realize these items are worth decent cash.

5 Ways to Fill Your Pantry With Free Food
5 Ways to Fill Your Pantry With Free Food

Anyone can take advantage of these resources.

10 Types of Retirement Income That Are Not Taxable
10 Types of Retirement Income That Are Not Taxable

There are lots of things Uncle Sam can’t touch — so long as you play by the rules.

9 Things You’ll Never See at Costco Again
9 Things You’ll Never See at Costco Again

The warehouse store offers an enormous selection, but these products aren’t coming back.

6 Reasons You Should Stop Hiding Cash at Home
6 Reasons You Should Stop Hiding Cash at Home

Stashing money around the house is anything but harmless.

View More Articles

View this page without ads

Help us produce more money-saving articles and videos by subscribing to a membership.

Get Started

Add a Comment

Our Policy: We welcome relevant and respectful comments in order to foster healthy and informative discussions. All other comments may be removed. Comments with links are automatically held for moderation.