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The Color of Money

Consumer credit bureau’s complaint line is now open

If there’s something’s strange in your credit report, who you gonna call?

Not Ghostbusters.

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If something’s weird and it don’t look good, who you gonna call?

Sorry, Ghostbusters still won’t help even though consumers often describe being haunted by errors in their credit reports that they can’t get corrected.

If you haven’t been successful in getting a credit bureau to address problems with inaccurate information in your credit report, you might have felt alone in pressing for a resolution. You probably had no idea who to call.

That’s changing. Now you can call the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. The watchdog agency has begun accepting individual complaints about credit bureaus.

The CFPB will be investigating inaccurate information on credit reports, the improper use of people’s reports, the inability of consumers to obtain copies of their reports or credit scores, and problems with identify theft protection services.

“This is a big step for the federal government, which has never had widespread access to information about the credit reporting industry,” said Bill Hardekopf, chief executive of LowCards.com. “It will help bring transparency and public accountability to credit reporting agencies.”

The credit reporting industry has consistently maintained that the vast majority of reports are error-free and that it is rare for a mistake to affect the credit terms a consumer gets. In a study released last year, researchers found that less than 1 percent of credit reports had errors that could adversely impact consumers.

The study was funded with a grant from the Consumer Data Industry Association, a trade group that represents consumer data companies.

Consumer advocacy groups have produced their own studies showing just the opposite — that many reports are riddled with errors. A much-cited study by the National Association of State Public Interest Research Groups found that almost 79 percent of all credit reports had some type of error.

If you have an issue with a credit bureau, your first stop isn’t going to be the CFPB. The agency wants you to initially go through the credit reporting company’s complaint process. If the problem isn’t fixed, then you should contact the consumer agency.

The CFPB said it expects the consumer reporting agencies to respond to complaints within 15 days.

You have several options to file a complaint. You can go online to www.consumerfinance.gov/complaint/ or call toll-free 855-411-2372. You can fax your complaint to 855-237-2392 or mail it to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, P.O. Box 4503, Iowa City, Iowa 52244.

With the CFPB on your side, now’s a good time to review your credit report. You can receive free copies from the three major national credit reporting companies — Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion — every 12 months.

The only official site to get the reports is from www.annualcreditreport.com. Please be aware of copycat websites that offer a free report but require you to sign up for credit monitoring or some similar product.

Michelle Singletary writes for the Washington Post.
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