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QUESTION: Hello,

There's an item on my credit report that does not belong to me and I believe that it is a result of identity theft. The name used to open the account is very similar to mine, it's a variation of my name that I don't use. I sent in a copy of my birth certificate showing that the name on the account isn't my name and therefore the account isn't mine; however, I received a letter from the credit agency saying that the account was updated and verified and therefore not deleted. How can I get this account removed?

ANSWER: There was a recent piece on 60 Minutes in which they showed witnesses from the various credit reporting agencies that basically had instructions to NOT verify mistaken information.  They were instructed to simply state that whatever the complaint was, it was verified and it was correct.    You have done what you can do insofar as trying to resolve this unofficially.   At this point, unless you bring a lawsuit against them under the Fair Credit Reporting Act, you have no real chance of getting this corrected.   From their perspective, you have no leverage.

Over the years I have had a few cases where the credit reporting bureaus refused to remove an erroneous entry and what happened in all of them was that the credit bureau and the original creditor ended up settling the case and removing the error.    If this false entry is that important to you, you can not only get the error removed, but there is a very good chance that the court will award you a judgment against them -  but as stated, once they get the lawsuit, chances are they will settle for a few thousand dollars.

If I were to help you do this, I would charge you $300.     If you would like to talk about this further, you are welcome to call me at this number.  I will not charge you anything just to talk on the phone.    


Jack Hall,   J.D.
915  261-3893

---------- FOLLOW-UP ----------

QUESTION: Thank you for your answer. I have suspicions that a relative opened this account under my name but I'm not sure that I can prove it. If I do bring a lawsuit against the creditor would I also have to pursue identity theft charges against the relative( I'd rather not) or are those two separate issues?

ANSWER: Hello again James:
This issue (whether you have to file a criminal complaint as a prerequisite to making a claim) comes up sometimes when a person is trying to collect on an insurance claim or something like that, but that is not what is happening here.    If you filed a civil complaint to get leverage in order to compel the credit reporting agencies to correct your record, that "who is the bad guy" issue is not likely to come up.    Both the lawyers for the credit reporting companies and the court itself are going to be concerned with whether the erroneous entry was accurate or not, and if it is not, the court will award you a judgment for damages and will order the record changed (corrected).   Your relative (or not) will be in the clear.    However, as we discussed previously, my experience with these cases over the years has been that you will probably be offered a settlement way before it got that far.


---------- FOLLOW-UP ----------

QUESTION: I'd like to pursue this. Is the 300 upfront or after the settlement?

Answer
Hello James:
I will prepare the papers so you can file them after you pay the $300.    I doubt that you would be able to find anybody that would assist you with this on a contingency basis, i.e., paying the fee out of any settlement.  In my earlier response to your original question, I described to you what my experience had been with these kind of cases, but to be clear, there is no one that could guarantee any particular uutcome.  On the other hand, the facts that you describe give rise to a legitimate cause of action against the credit reporting agencies and you have a very good chance of either winning at trial or provoking them to a quick and favorable settlement.

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