A Credit.com reader, Lori, wanted to know if a debt collector could continue to pull her credit even after a small-claims case had been dismissed. She had successfully had the information removed from her credit reports, but the collection agency, which now had no case against her, had pulled her credit twice since the case was dismissed. Her question: Is that legal?
The answer is simple, according to Chi Chi Wu, an attorney with the National Consumer Law Center: No. In the organization’s legal manual Fair Credit Reporting, it says:
Even in the case of credit accounts, collection is not a permissible purpose for obtaining a consumer report once the account is no longer collectible.
Making the debt collectors stop checking, however, may not be easy. Lori may need to to complain to regulators and/or hire an attorney, Wu said. She can submit a complaint to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, or she could look for a lawyer (the National Association of Consumer Advocates has a list on its website).
But Lori has already done a couple of things right. First, she has seen copies of her free annual credit reports, and she disputed negative information and successfully had it deleted. Checking credit reports is something all of us should do, whether or not we’ve had to deal with debt collectors. The reports can contain errors, and some can be serious. You don’t want to find out about an error when you get turned down for credit and/or you discover your credit scores have dropped. (You can get two credit scores for free every month using the Credit Report Card. An unexplained change in scores can clue you in to a problem that might need to be addressed, so keeping an eye on them is smart.)
Credit reports can look intimidating, but there are guides to help you make sense of them, and checking your reports can be the best way to find out who else has seen them, and when.
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