How to Dispute Your Credit Report
Whether you are looking for a new fracking job or you already started working in the oilfields, it pays to take a look at your credit reports. While not terribly common for oilpatch jobs (unless an employer is eager to fill a lot of open positions quickly), some employers check credit backgrounds before they consider interviewing job candidates. It pays to take a look at your credit reports at least once a year. Keep in mind that most negative (or “adverse”) accounts will fall off of your credit reports over time. For those adverse accounts that are still on your report, you should dispute them when possible. All three major credit reporting companies (Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion) have online mechanisms to deal with the negative accounts on your file. “Negative” accounts can be:
- Outdated. If the last activity involving a negative account happened over seven years ago, it should be removed. You may have to do this yourself if the account doesn’t fall off automatically.
- Fraudulent. It’s not very common, but once in a while a negative account might appear on your credit reports that got there via out-and-out fraud. Identity thieves might be at work if this is the case.
- Just plain incorrect. Credit reporting agencies are run by humans (well, ok – humans using computers). Those computers, and the humans who use them, make mistakes. Quite often, in fact.
- Disagreements. This is the kind of negative issue you need to be the most proactive with. Read on.
Negative issues on a credit report can highlight a disagreement between you and the party that believes you owe it money. Large corporations – especially cell phone and cable companies – are notorious for providing lousy customer service and then reporting you to the credit bureaus even if they are in the wrong. If you have been mistreated by a corporate entity, and they place a “negative” on your reports – then you need to dispute that negative account. Once upon a time, I had an issue with a certain cell phone provider (T-Mobile) that led me to cancel my service with it. Surprise, surprise – I “broke” the provider’s contract (I don’t do cell contracts anymore, I prefer “pay-as-you-go” plans*); and my account was immediately sent to a third-party collector. Of course, the collector placed a “negative” on my credit report. This means I had to file a dispute with, in this case, Equifax.
I lodged my dispute, the collector confirmed with Equifax that (as far as they were concerned) I “owed” the debt, and so the negative report remained. Case closed, right? Wrong…
A dispute over the same issue can be reopened by you, the mistreated party. In the case of Equifax, when you initiate a dispute on certain items in your report, you’ll be presented with checkboxes that give the reasons for your dispute. Check the box that most closely describes your situation, and submit it. If your first dispute is “rejected” as mine was – then resubmit a dispute with a different reason. Doing so in my case resulted in a successful removal of the offending item from my credit report.
You can’t successfully dispute legitimate negative accounts in your files, but that’s not the point of this post. Too often bad customer service results in a one-time customer receiving a negative mark on his/her credit report. It’s unfair, and you should fight these types of “negatives” every time.
Be sure to use AnnualCreditReport.com to get copies of your credit reports, free of charge, from all three bureaus. Other “free” credit report and/or credit score providers actually have a cost: in the form of your time or your personal information. *Regarding cell phone contracts: “pay-as-you-go” or prepaid cell phone service provides comparable service to contract service, and is usually less expensive. In addition, cell phone numbers are portable from one carrier to another – it’s the law.