Credit Reports

How to dispute an error on your credit report

It's an unfortunate reality that many consumer credit reports contain errors. Here's what to do if you discover an error on your credit report:

Write a letter to the credit reporting agency explaining what information you believe is inaccurate

When the credit reporting agency gets your letter, they must conduct an investigation and remove any information that cannot be confirmed as accurate. The CRA is required to send the furnisher (the business providing the information on the report) all of the information that you provide. Your letter should contain the following:

  • (a) Your full name and address. You may also consider including your social security number to ensure that the CRA locates your file.

  • (b) Identification of every single item that you believe is inaccurate. One way to do this is to include a copy of your credit report and circle each of the items you dispute.

  • (c) An explanation of why each disputed item is incorrect. Be detailed and describe your dispute as if you were explaining it to a young child. CRAs may disregard your dispute if it isn't sufficiently detailed.

  • (d) Attach copies of all of the proof that you have that supports your dispute.

  • (e) Tell the CRA if you have previously disputed these items, provide the details of these prior disputes (including any phone disputes), and explain how the CRA's failure to correct the errors is harming you.

  • (f) Most importantly, tell the CRA what you want them to do (ie. delete the incorrect entry; modify it, etc).

Mail the letter certified, return receipt requested, and keep a copy of the letter and green card for your records

Address the letter to the credit reporting agency whose report contains the error. Some experts advise sending a copy of the dispute letter to the furnisher. This isn't a bad idea, but you're not required to do so. The CRA is required to send the furnisher all the information that you provide them with.

You may have to write several dispute letters

The CRA may not fix the error after your first letter. Be persistent and write follow-up dispute letters until you get the mistake fixed. Avoid the shortcut of just sending the CRA another copy of your first dispute letter. Read their response to your previous dispute letter and do your best to address the reasons they denied your dispute in your follow-up letter. Don't be afraid to detail your previous attempts to fix the error and to describe the harm the CRA's failure to correct the mistake has caused you in these follow-up letters. And be sure to keep copies of all the letters that the CRA sends you in response to your dispute letters.

If you've written multiple letters and the CRA still hasn't fixed the error, it's time to talk to a consumer attorney

If you've followed all these steps and the error hasn't been fixed, contact a consumer attorney with experience handling cases under the Fair Credit Reporting Act.

Finally, a few words of caution

  • It's perfectly acceptable for a CRA to report accurate negative information. Don't abuse the dispute process by seeking removal of accurate negative information. Similarly, be very wary of any credit repair "specialist" that promises to improve your credit score by using repeated and shallow dispute letters or similar questionable tactics.

  • It's much better to write dispute letters than to dispute over the phone or to use the CRA's internet form. Writing letters creates a paper trail for your records and it allows you to attach proof of your dispute. It's also possible that a CRA's internet dispute form might require you to waive some of your rights when submitting your dispute electronically.

  • Avoid using sample dispute letters that you find on the internet. Many of the sample letters you will find on the internet are shallow, deceptive, or even fraudulent. There is no magic language for writing a good dispute letter. Just adequately identify yourself, identify the account you're disputing, and provide a detailed explanation of the error. It's much better to use your own words than to rely on boilerplate language from a possibly untrustworthy source on the internet. If you must look at a form letter before writing your own, there's a sample letter on the Federal Trade Commission web site.

Common credit report errors to look for on your report

Your credit report is becoming increasingly important in our data-driven society. Lenders use it to determine your eligibility and terms for all types of credit. Employers may use it to determine whether to hire you. It's therefore critical to review your credit report on a regular basis to make sure it doesn't contain any incorrect information. Studies have shown that nearly 80% of credit reports contain a mistake of some kind. Here are some of the common credit report errors:

  • Incorrect name. Make sure your name is right, especially if your name is relatively common. An incorrect middle name or nickname may be a sign that someone else's information is incorrectly on your report. For example, if your name is Samuel and you sometimes go by Sam, make sure that the name Samantha isn't showing on your report.

  • Inaccurate biographical info. Similarly, make sure that the correct social security number and address appears on your report. Most reports will also list previous addresses. Make sure these are accurate too. If an address you never lived at shows up on your report, that's a sign that someone else's info may be on your report.

  • Mistaken account status. Review each account to be sure that current accounts are not reported as delinquent and that open accounts aren't showing as closed.

  • Duplicate reporting. Make sure that accounts aren't mistakenly listed twice on your credit report. This could lead a lender to believe that you have more debt than you actually do.

  • Accounts that aren't yours. Any accounts that don't belong to you should be an immediate red flag. This mistake is often caused when your file is mixed with another person's file. It could also be a sign that someone has stolen your identity and fraudulently opened accounts in your name.

If your credit report contains these, or other mistakes, your next step is to notify the credit reporting agency of the errors and ask it to correct them. This dispute will trigger the agency's duties under the Fair Credit Reporting Act. Normally, credit reporting agencies have 30 days to investigate credit report errors and correct them. Unfortunately, these agencies don't always take consumer disputes seriously and you may have to dispute multiple times to get the mistake corrected. If you've sent multiple disputes and the credit reporting agency still hasn't corrected your credit report error, you may want to consult with an attorney who handles credit reporting issues. An attorney can advise you about your options to get your inaccurate credit report corrected.

Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA): an overview

The Fair Credit Reporting Act is a federal law that regulates consumer credit reporting agencies, such as Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion. The FCRA also regulates those who provide information to the credit reporting agencies and those who use the information in a consumer credit report.

Studies have shown that nearly 80% of consumer credit reports contain errors of some kind. Examples of the type of errors found include accounts mistakenly listed as delinquent, loans listed twice, and inaccurate personal information. As the credit reporting industry has increased their use of automated procedures, additional problems have arisen. One common such problem is when information for one person is listed on another person's report (known as a merged or mixed file). A similar problem arises when someone's identity is stolen and accounts are opened fraudulently. These fraudulent accounts then show up on the identify theft victim's credit report and can be difficult to get removed.

There are a couple of reasons why inaccurate information ends up on a credit report. First, the information provided to the credit reporting agency may itself be inaccurate. Second, the CRA might assigned the reported information to the wrong consumer's file. Whatever the reason, these mistakes may lead to a person being denied for credit or receiving credit on less favorable terms. And increasingly, many employers are reviewing a job applicant's credit history when making employment decisions, which creates the possibility of a person being denied a job based on incorrect credit report information.

Unfortunately, the FCRA does not require credit reporting agencies to report accurate information. It merely requires them to use reasonable procedures to ensure the maximum possible accuracy. The Act is a bit toothless in this regard. Where the FCRA does have some teeth, however, is in its investigation requirement. Under the FCRA, if a person disputes information in her report to a CRA, the agency must investigate the dispute and correct the disputed information. Despite this clear-cut obligation, many consumer disputes do not result in the inaccurate information being removed from their report. One possible reason for this is that the CRA's customers are lenders, not consumers. For this reason, reporting agencies have an incentive to over-include items at the expense of accuracy.

Fortunately, the CRA's failure to conduct a reasonable investigation runs afoul of the FCRA and the person may bring a lawsuit to enforce the law and hold the CRA accountable. If the consumer proves that the CRA willfully failed to conduct a reasonable investigation of the dispute, she is entitled to $1,000 in statutory damages or her actual damages (such as loss of credit, higher interest rates, or even provable emotional distress). If, however, the credit reporting agency was merely negligent in failing to conduct a reasonable investigation of the dispute, the person is only entitled to her actual damages. If no actual damages are suffered, the consumer will lose the suit. In addition, the FCRA requires the credit reporting agency to pay successful consumer litigant's reasonable attorney fees and costs.

If you learn of a mistake on your credit report, your first step is to dispute it with the credit reporting agency. If the CRA fails to correct the error after receiving your dispute letter, you may consider talking to an attorney who handles FCRA cases. The attorney will be able to recommend next steps to get the mistake fixed and will be able to advise you if a FCRA lawsuit is an option.

Can I remove negative, but accurate, info from my credit report?

Generally, you don't have the right to remove negative accurate information from your credit report. Under the Fair Credit Reporting Act, creditors and credit reporting agencies are free to report negative information about you as long as that information is correct. This accurate, negative information can remain on your credit report for seven years in most cases. An exception to this general rule is when your credit report shows accurate, but negative, information multiple times. For example, let's say you have a delinquent credit card account. After a few months of delinquency, the credit card company sells the account to a debt-buyer. If both the original creditor and debt buyer are reporting that you owe money, that's something you could dispute in good faith. Otherwise, it might look like you owe twice as much as you actually owe.

Beware of any company that promises that it can remove accurate negative information. It's likely a credit repair scam. These scams usually prey on people with poor credit. They demand large, up-front fees and promise to get all negative information removed, even if the info is accurate. They try to game the error dispute process by sending repeated and shallow dispute letters in an effort to overwhelm the credit reporting agency into removing the information by mistake. However, the credit bureaus have caught on and this sort of gamesmanship is no longer successful. Save your money and work to rebuild your credit the right way.

How to get your credit report and credit score

Federal law allows you to get one free copy of your credit report from each of the three major credit bureaus (Equifax, Experian, and Trans Union) every 12 months. Use the website to get your free copy. This is the only website to get your free report. Beware of imposter websites. You can also order your free report over the phone by calling (877) 322-8228 or by mail by filling out this form and mailing it to Annual Credit Report Request Service; P.O. Box 105281, Atlanta, GA 30348. You can order all three reports at once, or you can stagger the reports every couple of months so that you can monitor your credit reports throughout the year. Consider using this staggering technique before you pay for a credit monitoring product.

Your credit report won't contain your credit score, but there are a couple of easy ways to get it. First, many credit cards provide your credit score on each billing statement. If you have credit cards, check your billing statements to see if your score is provided. Another way to get it is to buy it from one of the credit bureaus. You can also buy your credit score at any time from Keep in mind that your credit score may be different depending on who you buy it from.

If your credit score seems low, it's possible that errors on your credit report are dragging your score down. That's why it's critical to review your credit reports carefully for some of the most common inaccuracies, as well as signs of identity theft or a mixed credit file. If there are mistakes on your credit report, you should write a dispute letter. If your dispute letter doesn't clear up the problem, or if you've been denied credit due to a mistake on your credit report, you should talk to an attorney who handles Fair Credit Reporting Act cases.

Credit denial due to your credit report? What to do next.

If  your loan application has been turned down, or if your interest rate is higher than it should be, the first thing you should do is find out why. Under federal law, a lender is required to tell you certain things if it denied your credit application or took "adverse action," such as increasing your interest rate. These things include:

  • The name, address, and telephone number of the credit reporting agency that provided the report the lender used;

  • The credit score it used in making its lending decision and the key factors that affected this score;

  • Inform you of your right to obtain a free copy of your credit report from the credit reporting agency that provided the report; and

  • The process for fixing mistakes on your credit report.

This information will most likely be provided to you in a letter, called an adverse action notice. Once you have this letter, you should follow the instructions for obtaining a copy of the credit report that the lender used. It can usually be obtained online through the credit reporting agency's website.

Once you have your credit report, you should review it for common errors. If you see accounts that don't belong to you or accounts showing a balance that you've paid off, the next step is to dispute these errors with the credit bureaus.

It's important to note that you must dispute the errors with the credit reporting agencies (ie. Experian, Equifax, or Trans Union) not the creditor (ie. Capital One, Wells Fargo, etc.) to protect your rights.

When the credit reporting agency receives your dispute, they are required to investigate. They are also required to communicate your dispute to the creditor that is reporting the inaccurate information. The creditor is also required to investigate your dispute. Generally, these investigations must be completed within 30 days and the credit reporting agency must notify you of the results of the investigations within 5 business days of the day the investigations were completed.

If the credit reporting agency hasn't corrected the inaccurate information after completing its investigation, you might consider writing a more detailed dispute letter and providing additional documents or information to support your dispute. You may also consider talking to a lawyer who handles credit reporting cases for advice about what to do next. If the credit reporting agency or creditor didn't conduct a reasonable investigation of your dispute, you may have legal claims against them under the Fair Credit Reporting Act. An attorney can advise you about these possible claims and help you with the next steps.

Recovering from identity theft

Identity theft happens when someone uses your personal information to open new accounts or makes unauthorized charges on your existing accounts. According to the most recent data from the Bureau of Justice Statistics, 17.6 million people were victims of identity theft in 2014. That's approximately 7% of all U.S. adults, age sixteen or older. Here are some tips on how to spot identity theft and what to do if you've become a victim of it.

How to spot identity theft

Get in the habit of regularly reviewing your credit reports. The Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) gives you the right to one free credit report every year from each of the three main credit reporting agencies: Equifax, Experian, and Trans Union. You can obtain these free reports from the website This is the only website where you can get your free report. Watch out for imposter websites. If you request the three reports separately and stagger them every four months or so, you can monitor your credit throughout the year at no charge. Consider using this staggering technique before paying for a credit monitoring service.

Once you have your credit report, look for incorrect personal info, such as addresses you never lived at, inaccurate social security number, or incorrect middle names or nicknames. These may be signs of identity theft. You should also look for accounts that you didn't open or for credit report inquires from companies you never applied for credit from. Any accounts you don't recognize should be red flags. Also, if the balances on your existing accounts appear to be much higher than you think they should be, that could be a sign of unauthorized or fraudulent charges.

In addition to reviewing your credit reports, you should get in the habit of checking the monthly billing statements for all of your existing accounts for suspicious charges. It's also important that you don't ignore bills for accounts you don't recognize or debt collection letters or calls for debts you don't think you owe. While it's tempting to assume that these bills or collection efforts are a mistake and will go away, they may very well be a signal that someone has stolen your identity.

Call the companies where you know fraud has occurred

If you spot unauthorized charges on your existing accounts or fraudulently-opened new accounts, you should contact those creditors immediately. It's best to contact the company's fraud department and ask them to freeze or close the account. Make a note of who you talked to and the date you talked to them and keep it for your records.

Place a fraud alert on your credit reports

The next step is to place an initial fraud alert on your credit reports. All three of the main bureaus--Equifax, Experian, and Trans Union--allow you to do this online. A fraud alert is free and it makes it more difficult for someone to open new accounts in your name. An initial fraud alert lasts for 90 days and requires creditors to take reasonable steps to confirm your identity before opening a new account. If you provide a phone number with an initial fraud alert, creditors will contact you before opening a new account.

You may also consider placing an extended fraud alert on your credit reports. An extended fraud alert lasts for seven years and requires lenders to contact you in person before opening a new account. You may also think about a credit freeze. A freeze stops anyone from accessing your credit report until you lift the freeze. Under Minnesota law, victims of identity theft can place a credit freeze for free. Non-victims must pay a fee of $5.

File an Identity Theft Report with the Federal Trade Commission (and consider filing a police report)

You should also file an Identity Theft Report with the FTC, which can be done online at After filing the report, the website will create a recovery plan for your situation. You should print the Identity Theft Report and recovery plan for your records. You can also create an account after you file the report, so that you can access your report and recovery plan later.

After you file the report with the FTC, you should consider filling a police report too because identity theft is a crime. Contact your local police department and tell them you want to report that someone stole your identity. You should give them proof of identity, proof of your address, a copy of your FTC report, and all of the information you have about the identity theft. Make sure to get a copy of the police report and keep it for your records.

Close fraudulently-opened accounts and remove unauthorized charges to existing accounts

Make a list of all the accounts opened by the identity thief and any suspicious charges to your existing accounts. Call the fraud department for each of these creditors and provide them with a copy of the FTC Identity Theft Report and police report (if you have one). Ask that all fraud accounts be closed immediately and that any unauthorized charges be reversed. Ask for confirmation in writing that the account is closed or charges are reversed and that you don't have any liability for these accounts or charges. Keep copies of these letters.

Write dispute letters to the credit bureaus for all fraud accounts showing on your credit report

Write a letter to each of the big-three credit bureaus (Equifax, Experian, and Trans Union). Tell them about every single account that was opened through identity theft. A good way to do this is to send them a copy of your credit report and circle or star all the fraudulent accounts. Include a copy of your FTC Identity Theft report and police report if you have one. Make sure to request in your letter that they block all of these accounts from your credit reports. A good sample letter can be found at the FTC website. Keep copies of these letters, as well as copies of the responses you get from the credit bureaus.

If you get collection calls for letters for fraud accounts, notify the debt collector of the identity theft

It's no surprise that most identity thieves don't make payments on the debts they rack up in your name. As a result, many identity theft victims receive collection calls and letters from debt collectors. If this happens, notify the debt collector in writing that you are a victim of identity theft and that you don't owe the money they are trying to collect. Send them a copy of your FTC Identity Theft Report, police report, and any letters from the creditor confirming that you don't owe money. Keep a copy of your letter and any collection letters you get in response. It's also a good idea to keep a call log of all the collection calls and messages you get.

Contact an attorney if the fraud accounts aren't removed from your credit reports after you dispute them, or if a debt collector keeps contacting you after you've told them about the identity theft

If the credit bureaus don't remove the fraud accounts after you dispute them in writing, or if debt collectors continue to hound you after you've told them about the identity theft, you should contact a consumer attorney in your state to discuss the situation in depth. There are powerful laws, such as the Fair Credit Report Act and Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, that can be used against credit reporting agencies, creditors, and debt collectors who don't follow the law. A consumer attorney can help clean up your credit report and stop collection calls, as well as discuss any legal claims that you may have to hold wrongdoers accountable for breaking the law.

What is a "mixed file" on my credit report?

Unfortunately, many credit reports contain errors. One common type of credit report error is the mixed file. A "mixed file" is a term used to describe a credit report when credit information for one person is placed on the credit report of another person, creating a false description of the person's credit history.  Occasionally, this problem is caused by the "furnisher" of credit information (ie. a bank or credit card company). For example, a bank may incorrectly report that a spouse is responsible for a mortgage loan that was only in his wife's name.

More often, a mixed file is caused by the way credit reporting agencies match data to a consumer's file to create his credit report. Credit reporting agencies get mountains of credit data from creditors and public records. This data is then matched to an individual consumer's credit report through identifying information such as name, address, and social security number. Mixed files occur when the credit reporting agency's computer doesn't correctly match the identifying information in the credit data to the identifying information in the credit report. The credit reporting agencies closely guard their exact matching criteria and process, but it appears that commons reasons for mixed files include:

  • Mismatches between generations with the same name (ie. Jr./Sr.)

  • People with similar names (ie. Jon Smith / Jonathan Smith)

  • People with similar social security numbers

Mixed files are a big problem. According to one study, 44% of consumer complaints to the FTC involved mixed files. It's a particularly serious problem with the other person's accounts are delinquent or in collections. This can torpedo your credit score and lead to debt collection calls for a debt you don't owe. And mixed files are often very difficult to fix because it can be difficult to prove a negative--that the account isn't yours. You may have to submit birth certificates, social security cards, or sworn statements in order to prove an account doesn't belong to you.

If your credit report appears to have been mixed with someone else's, the first step is to write a detailed dispute letter to the credit reporting agency. You may have to follow up with additional information if the credit reporting agency requests more details or documents. Unfortunately, many mixed files are not resolved through the informal dispute process and only a lawsuit can get the credit report cleaned up. If you've disputed your mixed file and haven't gotten it fixed yet, your next step should be to talk to an attorney who is familiar with credit reporting issues and can advise you of your rights under the Fair Credit Reporting Act.

Building credit after bankruptcy

In an earlier post, we told you about the effect bankruptcy can have on your credit score. People who put in some effort to rebuild their credit after bankruptcy can usually make their score rise a lot faster than people who just wait for their credit to fix itself. here we give you some tips for boosting your credit score after bankruptcy.

Check-up on your credit report

After filing bankruptcy, it's important to make sure that your creditors have wiped your debts clean, or at least noted that the debt was discharged in your case. If old pre-bankruptcy debts come back to haunt you, they can drag down your score. That's why for our clients, we offer a free check-up appointment after a bankruptcy case is finished. We'll look over your credit report to make sure everything that was supposed to be wiped out was wiped out. If any accounts are still showing as active or in collection, we may use the Fair Credit Reporting Act to fix your report.

Secured credit cards

After bankruptcy, you might not be eligible to get a new credit card, or the cards you can get might not be the ones you want (watch out for sky-high rates, and predatory contract terms from the credit cards that solicit recent bankruptcy filers). Secured credit cards work like this: you give the credit card company some money for collateral (say, $500) and they give you a credit limit equal to the amount of collateral. But you use it like a credit card--your charges don't draw down the collateral--the money you deposited just stays on file in case you default on the debt. And unlike a debit card, your on-time payments will help boost your score.

You can get a secured card by comparing cards on But it might be an even better idea to approach a local bank or credit union that you have a strong relationship with--they might offer low-cost products that are meant to help you without all the tricks and traps.

Eventually, get an unsecured credit card

Often, after a year or so of on-time payments, the secured credit card company will return the collateral money and convert the account into a full-fledged credit card. A few months of on-time payments may also qualify you for more credit. Gas and store credit cards will probably be easiest to get, although they don't have quite the same score-boosting effect as major bank credit cards do. But remember what got you into trouble in the first place--pay off your balances in full every month, and watch out for sleazy credit card practices that might get you back in trouble.

Stay away from credit repair scams

There are services out there that claim they can fix your credit for a fee. But these services aren't worth the hassle. First of all, some of them will commit fraud to by trying to remove negative, but true information from your credit report, which may get you into more trouble in the long run. Also, you can probably do anything they'd do for you on your own without spending the money. In particular, stay away from any service that want money upfront for fixing your credit--this is prohibited by the Credit Repair Organizations Act, a federal law that governs credit-fixing agencies.

If you've filed bankruptcy and want help rebuilding your credit, or just considering bankruptcy and want to know what the impact on your credit will be, give us a call.

What happens to my credit score when I file bankruptcy?

If you're considering filing bankruptcy, you're probably concerned about what will happen to your credit--and rightfully so. Credit scores may temporarily be trashed when a client files bankruptcy, but the real question to ask is--who cares? Credit scores are based on the last 7-10 years of reporting information, but according to the credit scoring formula, things that happened in the recent past are weighted far more heavily than things that happened a long time ago. This is great news for the potential bankruptcy filer--your score may dip in the short term, but you can build your credit back quickly by opening new, positive credit accounts and letting that old stuff fade into the distance.

If you're considering bankruptcy, your credit score is probably on the brink anyway

There are alternatives to bankruptcy (working with debt management nonprofits or their more unsavory cousins, debt settlement and credit repair companies)--but anyone who tells you that these alternatives are gentler on your credit score is probably trying to sell you something. Once you have late payments, defaults and collection accounts on your credit, it's hard to get them to come off, and paying off collection accounts actually doesn't improve your score at all. Think about whether your credit score can be saved before you pay someone to save it.

it's time you and credit take a little break from each other

If you're considering bankruptcy, you're probably not planning to take out a mortgage or open a bunch of credit cards in the near future, and so you probably don't need to have a sky-high credit score right now. Your credit score may be a factor for renting apartments or finding new jobs, but having a recent bankruptcy may be less of a big deal to most people than if you haven't resolved your issues and have a bunch of debt collectors clawing after you. Sure--you'll need your credit to rebound eventually, but for now, explain your situation to a potential landlord or employer. If you're honest and upfront, you'll likely find that people are willing to overlook your earlier problems.

We have strategies for building back your credit

Remember, the recent past is much more important than the distant past when it comes to credit. The credit scoring models will reward you for opening new, positive credit accounts and paying on time every month. By stopping all new reporting on old accounts, bankruptcy cleans the slate so that your creditors don't keep dragging down your credit score month after month.

Once you file bankruptcy, you'll be inundated with new credit solicitations. But these offers aren't the ones you want--they tend to be expensive and predatory. We can point you toward safe credit building products--credit building loans and secured credit cards--that will help you build your credit back up slowly and surely. We also meet with you at no charge six months after your bankruptcy to make sure that all the negative information that was on your credit report pre-bankruptcy was cleaned up the right way. If you build new credit and pay on time, banks will begin to consider you for low-interest car loans and mortgages as soon as a year or two after your bankruptcy.

My ex is filing bankruptcy. What does that mean for me?

One of the questions we are most frequently asked is, "What happens to me if my former spouse declares bankruptcy?" The answer is, as always, it depends. Mainly it depends on whether you are obligated on any of your ex's debts. These could be credit cards, car loans, or mortgages that the two of you entered into jointly or that you are a co-signer for. A proactive first step is to pull your credit report and see if any of your ex's debts appear on it.  You are entitled to get one free copy of your credit report each year from each of the three credit reporting agencies. You can get yours online at

If you find debts on your credit report that relate to your former spouse, it may be smart to review your divorce decree and see if they were, or were supposed to be, resolved as a term of the divorce. You may want to call your divorce attorney for clarification.

If you have taken out joint debts and your ex files bankruptcy, you may be facing liability for 100% of them.  If you find yourself in this position it is probably worth your time to come in for a free consultation.  It is possible that your ex is filing bankruptcy due to an imminent creditor lawsuit.  As soon as s/he files, that creditor may turn their attention toward you.

Can my employer run a credit check on me?

If you've had financial issues, you might not want a potential employer to know--and you sure don't want the jerk that's your boss to know your private business. But more often employers and potential employers are pulling credit reports on you. This is especially common in workplaces where you may handle money, like a bank. Under the federal Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA), an employer can only perform a credit check on you if you have given your permission. They may get it by adding a line into your job application, something like "by signing below, you authorize Acme Inc. to obtain credit reports." If you are already employed and not sure whether your boss has authority to run a credit report on you, you can ask your human resources department.

But here's the tricky part for employers. If they decide to take an "adverse action" (i.e. not hiring you, not promoting you, or firing you) as a result of information contained in a credit report, there are rules they have to follow:

  • The employer must provide you with a copy of the report they used before they take the adverse action

  • The employer must provide you with a notice explaining which credit reporting agency supplied the negative information, and that you have a right to dispute the accuracy of your credit report

  • You are entitled to a free credit report within sixty days of the adverse action--even if you've already gotten your free credit reports from Just contact the credit reporting agency to order it

If they fail to give you the required notice, they may have violated the FCRA. Violations can result in being awarded actual damages, statutory damages between $100-$1000, and attorneys fees, which means you may only have to pay your attorney if you win your case.

5 steps for canceling a credit card without hurting your credit score

So you want to cancel a credit card, but you're worried that it will damage your credit score. FICO, the company that calculates your score, recently explained that the main thing to be concerned with before canceling a card is your credit utilization ratio. This is basically how much credit you're using compared to how much credit is available to you--the higher the ratio, the more it negatively affects your credit. So if you're looking to close an account without hurting your score, you need to have zero balances on all of the cards that you want to keep before canceling an account. That way, your credit utilization ratio doesn't change because it's still zero. Don't worry about a canceled card shortening your credit history--FICO recently explained that that's a myth. So, assuming that all of the credit cards that you want to keep  have a zero balance, here are 5 steps for canceling a credit card:

  • Pay the balance in full

  • Because interest may have still be accumulating, call and confirm that the card has a zero balance.

  • After confirming that you really have a zero balance, call and cancel the account.

  • Send a letter confirming that your account is closed.

  • Because it often takes awhile for the credit card company to update your credit report, wait 60 days, then use the free credit report at to confirm that the account is closed.