The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) is a consumer protection watchdog agency whose goal is to educate consumers, enforce laws, and guide future financial market reforms through analysis and study. The CFPB was established earlier this year by Congress, through the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act, which aims to lessen the likelihood of and damage caused by wide-reaching financial shocks such as those we’ve endured over the last few years.
Earlier this month, the CFPB made public its procedures for examining major credit bureaus and other consumer reporting agencies. The reporting companies will now have to show an examiner that they have taken adequate steps to verify the accuracy of all of the information that appears on an individual’s report. And they must show that they have sufficiently investigated disputes over items contained on a person’s report. “Examiners will also evaluate the systems, procedures, and policies used by the company for tracking, handling, investigating, and resolving consumer inquiries, disputes, and complaints,” states the CFPB. That includes fraud prevention and identity theft protection for all consumers, and additional safeguards to protect active duty military personnel.
Your credit report is a critical element in your financial life. It can make or break your application for a mortgage, a student loan, a credit card, an apartment or a job. The CFPB and its examination procedures will ensure that the reporting agencies treat you fairly.
Get your free annual credit report
Don’t pay for your credit report or your credit score. By federal law, you are entitled to receive a copy of your credit report once per year from each of the three major credit reporting agencies (Equifax, TransUnion and Experian). The only website authorized to provide you with those free reports is AnnualCreditReport.com. (Feel free to decline any “special offers” that come up on screen during the process.) Any other site offering “free” credit reports is likely trying to sell you something. You can also request a free copy of your credit report any time you apply for credit and are denied. And Credit Sesame provides you with your credit score every month, free of charge.
Retrieving your free credit report every year and regularly monitoring your credit score are the best ways to keep an eye out for fraud and identify theft. Click here for guidelines about what you should look for when you review your report.
Report any errors you find
You don’t want to be turned down when you apply for credit – especially if the basis for that denial is an inaccurate item on your credit report. If you find something on your credit report that you believe shouldn’t be there (including old items that should have been removed), take steps to correct it.
Your credit report will include instructions for disputing errors. In most cases, the easiest way to begin the process is to submit your dispute online while you are viewing your report on the agency’s website. You might have to follow up with documentation. It may also benefit you to contact the creditor or whoever furnished the erroneous data to the reporting agency. If you prefer to dispute errors by mail, click here for the correct forms and mailing addresses for all three major credit reporting companies. Don’t forget to include these important details and items:
- Your complete name, address, phone number, credit report order number or confirmation number, and the account or ID number for the item you are disputing
- An explanation of the error, including a clear explanation of the facts and a request that the error be corrected
- A copy of the relevant portion of your credit report, with the error highlighted
- Copies of any documents that support your dispute
You can find more information about your rights, tips for improving your credit report, and a wealth of other related information on the Federal Trade Commission’s website, or by calling (877) FTC-HELP (877-382-4357).
Kimberly Rotter is a writer, businesswoman and mother in San Diego, CA. She holds a Bachelor’s degree in English, a Master’s degree in Business Administration, and a Graduate Certificate in Distance Education. Kim and her husband own two homes, a couple of vehicles and a few investments, and live with minimal debt. Both are successfully self-employed, each in their own field.