Contributed by: Melissa Parkins
Back in April of this year, my husband and I finally decided we had waited long enough to refinance our mortgage. We contacted our lender, and he sent us a proposal that would allow us to drop our interest rate 0.625%. We were very pleased and agreed to move forward right away. Much to our dismay, our lender called the next day to inform us that our credit score had significantly dropped (100 points in 12 months!) and he wouldn't be able to get us approved for a rate any better than what we have now. He sent us our credit report that he had pulled, and we found a fraudulent claim showing a past due account balance on a PayPal credit card – which we do not have! He advised us to contact the credit reporting company that was showing this fraudulent claim. When we did, we found out that it was opened using my husband's name and social security number, but someone else's address living in New York! Neither of us has even been to New York! If you find yourself in my shoes, here’s what to do:
Tips for checking your credit report
1. Visit annualcreditreport.com to request your free credit report from your choice of 3 different agencies: Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion. Utilize all three. You are entitled to a free report from each of the three companies every 12 months.
2. Set a reminder to pull your report with each agency annually. Stagger each of the 3 reminders, so you can check your full report once every 4 months to keep a closer eye on it.
3. Review all information, including the basics like addresses, phones numbers, employers, etc. looking for any errors or discrepancies.
4. Make sure you recognize all accounts, loans, credit cards, etc. on your report.
Fixing or disputing errors
First, contact the credit reporting companies directly and let them know what information you believe is not correct. You may be asked to provide supporting documentation as to why you are disputing the claim as fraud. In some instances (like ours) it may be hard if not impossible to do. What documentation do we have to show we never opened a PayPal credit card?!
Second, contact the fraud/security department at the company that provided the fraudulent information to the credit reporting company. We had to get in touch with PayPal. They will send their dispute paperwork that you will need to submit with any supporting documentation. Make sure you provide them in writing that the account was opened or charged without your knowledge, explain why you are disputing the information, and that you are requesting it be removed or corrected. Keep a paper trail for yourself as well.
Another question to verify is if the debt has been sold to a collections agency or not. If it has, make sure they will be notifying the collections agency that the debit is being disputed. And brace yourself! It could be a 90-day review process (or more!) before anything gets resolved. Set a reminder to follow up if you have not heard anything within the given timeframe. Once you have received a confirmation letter that the fraudulent claim has been discharged, make sure they have also closed the account in your name.
About 60 days after we submitted our dispute paperwork to PayPal, we received a much welcomed letter in the mail saying our request was granted and the fraudulent debt would be removed from our credit report! After having to learn the hard way, we will be monitoring our credit reports unfailingly every 4 months. Hopefully regularly monitoring of your credit report will save you from the time and frustration it took us to fix the error on our credit report!
Melissa Parkins is a Registered Client Service Associate at Center for Financial Planning, Inc. Melissa is a contributor to the firm’s blogs.
This material is being provided for information purposes only and is not a complete description, nor is it a recommendation. Any opinions are those of Melissa Parkins and not necessarily those of Raymond James. The information has been obtained from sources considered to be reliable, but Raymond James does not guarantee that the foregoing material is accurate or complete. Raymond James is not affiliated with and does not endorse the opinions or services of Equifax, Experian, or Transunion. You should discuss any legal matters with the appropriate professional.
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