Color of Money: Credit Reports Still Not Error-Free

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“Roughly 1 percent of the reports in the sample experienced a credit score increase of more than 50 points,” the report said.

Several consumer advocacy groups feel that this conclusion confirms their long-held concerns about the accuracy of credit reports.
Because the credit bureaus have become powerful gatekeepers, you ought to care about this issue even if you haven’t found errors in your report, said Edmund Mierzwinski, consumer program director for the U.S. Public Interest Research Group.

“If 5 percent of consumers overall have serious errors, that’s about 10 million adults. Sooner or later, it will happen to you,” he said.
Everyone with a stake in this issue urges consumers to take action by pulling their reports every year. Only about 44 million consumers per year, or about one in five, obtain copies of their files, according to another recent report. You have the right to get a free copy of each of your credit files once every 12 months. Just go to annuacreditreport.com, the only official site, to get them.

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: The federal government needs to do more to monitor the systems the bureaus have in place to investigate a consumer’s complaint about an error. Far too often the furnishers of the data will just resend the incorrect information back to the bureaus.

Evan Hendricks, author of “Credit Scores and Credit Reports: How The System Really Works, What You Can Do,” has frequently testified in court cases and before Congress about the struggles people have in correcting their reports. Responding to the FTC survey, he said, “With FTC’s confirmation that credit report errors are all too common and harmful to consumers, it’s high time that credit reporting agencies overhaul their operations so they actually comply with the law and investigate consumers’ disputes, with actual human beings as investigators.”

Since consumers don’t control the flow of the data about them and yet this information is so vital to their credit lives, even the small percentage error rate the FTC found is unacceptable.

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Readers can write to Michelle Singletary c/o The Washington Post, 1150 15th St., N.W., Washington, D.C. 20071. Her email address is singletarym@washpost.com. Comments and questions are welcome, but due to the volume of mail, personal responses may not be possible. Please also note comments or questions may be used in a future column, with the writer’s name, unless a specific request to do otherwise is indicated.

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