One in five people find mistakes on their credit report every year.
And while you may think you can just call up and get something wrong removed from your credit report, it's not that simple.
In fact, a growing number of people are saying it can be impossible to get those errors corrected.
Thought They Had Good Credit Until...
Dick and Gayle Collier of Madeira, Ohio say they took their good credit for granted.
"You're totally embarrassed," Dick said. "It hits on your ego. I mean, you work all your life, you save and you're careful and then all of a sudden, no credit. We can't get accepted for a car loan. It just really messes with your head."
Five years ago, the Colliers started seeing big mistakes on their credit reports. They thought it would be easy to correct them.
Gayle's records are meticulous. She keeps binders, spread sheets and subscribes to a credit reporting service.
Keeping track of her and her husband's credit reports is like a full time job, she said.
Hard To Correct Errors
"You will hear, 'that's easy to do, to simply write a dispute letter,'" an exasperated Gayle Collier said.
TransUnion, one of the "big 3" credit bureaus, tells you the same thing. They even have an online video to tell you exactly how to dispute an error.
Federal law mandates all credit reporting agencies investigate any dispute.
But critics said the investigation often goes nowhere.
Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine is one of those critics.
"It's a joke, the investigation that they do," DeWine said.
DeWine, and other attorneys generals across the country, say they have started a large-scale investigation into credit report errors that plague millions of consumers.
"This is a system that works real well for everybody but the consumer," DeWine said.
Where Things Go Wrong
What's the problem? DeWine said if you find an error, you are supposed to send a dispute letter with documentation.
But he said the system breaks down from there.
The documentation doesn't get sent directly to creditors, he said, instead it goes to third party companies outside the country, where agents sometimes have to look at 90 complaints or more a day.
DeWine said he has seen cases dragged on for several years without resolution.
We were unable to speak with anyone with Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion to discuss DeWine's charges. A lobbying group for the credit reporting agencies, meantime, would not confirm the Attorneys General investigation.
And the lobbying group would not comment for our report.
But DeWine is not backing down from his criticism of the industry.
"We've had people who can't buy a house or car," DeWine said. "And they keep telling the reporting agency what the facts are and they keep getting jerked around."
It hasn't worked well for the Colliers.
They had to turn to DeWine's office for help. Finally, the mistakes were fixed -- or so they thought.
"Within six weeks of those changes," Gayle Collier said, "it changed right back."
She does not know who put the incorrect information back on her credit report. So the fight continues.
How to Protect Yourself
Here are some things you should do, according to DeWine:
- Check your credit report with the 3 credit bureaus every year: It's free at www.annualcreditreport.com .
- As soon as you find an error, start writing letters to get it corrected. You'll want that mistake gone next time you apply for a loan.
- Check out the official attorney general website for links and facts that can help you.
- If you get nowhere in two months, contact your State Attorney General's office and ask for their help.
In Ohio, call 800-282-0515.
In Kentucky, call 1-888-432-9257.
In Indiana, call 1-800-382-5516.
And that way, you don't waste your money.
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