Tax Tips
How to handle potential identity theft, back taxes and debt

By Howard Abrams, PBS Tax & Bookkeeping

Q. I am trying to refinance my equipment loans. Even though I have a good credit score, the bank will not proceed with the refinance because one of my credit cards indicates that there is a dispute. I’m very frustrated and feel I’m up against a stone wall. Can you help me?

A. Yes. First of all, are you aware of a dispute that they initiated or that you initiated? Are you otherwise in good standing with that credit card company?

Q. I’m not aware of any dispute. Maybe one was initiated years ago, but I am current in my credit card payments. Should I call the credit card company?

A. Yes. Tell them you are not in dispute with anything, and if they have no dispute with you, ask them to send a letter to the three credit bureaus and a copy to you asking to drop the “dispute” label. Then call the bureaus yourself and wait two or three days to make sure the dispute label has been removed. If not, tell the credit bureaus to remove it.

They must investigate your problem usually within 30 days. The credit bureaus will also notify the information provider (creditor that reported the information) of the dispute. If the information provider finds the disputed information to be inaccurate, they must notify all nationwide credit bureaus so they can correct your files. Also, any disputed information that cannot be verified must be deleted from your file.

Q. What else can I do to make sure all will be taken care of properly?

A. In addition to calling and protesting online, and to review what we said previously, make sure you have followed, or will follow, the procedures below.

  • Contact the creditor first to request they send corrected information to the credit bureau;
  • If you are unable to get the creditor to correct the error, write a letter to the credit bureau;
  • Make a copy of your credit report and identify each item you feel is incorrect;
  • Write a “dispute” letter listing each disputed item, state whether the item is inaccurate, incomplete or false and why. Request that the item be corrected, updated or deleted, whatever the case may be. Enclose copies of any documentation you have to support your claim. Request an investigation into the matter as soon as possible. Also, request that the letter be made a permanent part of your credit record;
  • Send a copy to each credit bureau and the creditor both;
  • Send everything certified, return receipt to document that the materials are received; and
  • Keep copies of all correspondence and documentation for yourself. Do not send originals.

When the investigation is complete, the credit bureaus must give you written results and a free copy of your credit report if the dispute results in a change. You may also request that they send notices of corrections to anyone who received your credit report in the past six months.

Negative information

When you have negative information on your credit report that is accurate, the only way to get it removed is with time. Bankruptcy information may be reported for 10 years, and other information such as foreclosures and short sales usually remains for seven years. Lawsuits or unpaid judgments against you can be reported for seven years or until the statute of limitations runs out, whichever is longer. Criminal convictions may be reported without any time limitation.

Because we get numerous calls from our clients about their credit report scores, we recommend that everyone periodically review their credit report. Statistics indicate that 70 percent of credit reports reflect damaging errors. This is especially important if you are planning on making any major purchases, such as new equipment or buying a home.

Consumer reporting agencies

To get copies of your credit report, either call or go online and request a copy. It’s important to get a copy from all three credit bureaus since each one may have different information.

Equifax
Credit Information Services
P.O. Box 740241, Atlanta, GA 30374
866-349-5191, equifax.com

Experian
National Consumer Assistance Center
P.O. Box 2002, Allen, TX 75013
888-397-3742, experian.com

TransUnion
Consumer Disclosure Center
P.O. Box 1000, Chester, PA 19022
800-916-8800, tuc.com

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