Obtain copies of your credit reports after you receive your discharge.
You should check your credit reports to make sure that the debts discharged in your bankruptcy are being reported correctly. You are entitled to one free copy of your credit report per year from each of the national reporting agencies. The three nationwide consumer reporting agencies have set up one central website through which free annual reports can be ordered at www.annualcreditreport.com or you can call 1-877-322-8228. If you have already used your free reports for the year, you can purchase credit reports directly from the reporting agencies or through third-party companies. However, you should be cautious and read the fine print for any third-party company because there may be additional or recurring charges. Some states also have laws that require free credit reports or states may place limits on the amount that can be charged to their residents.
Is your bankruptcy discharge accurately reflected?
The credit reporting agencies may report your bankruptcy filing for 10 years. Other information regarding your debts, including late payments prior to filing bankruptcy, may be reported for 7 years. However, any debts that have been discharged in bankruptcy should be reported as having a zero balance. You may also see a notation that the debt was "included in bankruptcy" or "discharged in bankruptcy." Look out for discharged debts listed with a balance, late payments or other activity recorded after the bankruptcy filing, and discharged debts that may have been bought by a collection agency and reported incorrectly as incurred post-filing. Other inaccuracies could relate to the bankruptcy itself, including incorrect chapter, filing date, or case information.
Is all of your other debt information correct?
You should also look for accounts that do not belong to you or other incorrect information on your credit report. There is no reason your credit should be harmed by someone else's account or information that is simply wrong.
Dispute inaccurate information.
If you dispute the accuracy of any information that a credit reporting agency has in its file, you can ask the credit agency to reinvestigate. This request should be made in writing using the agency's dispute form or your own letter. You can find a sample dispute letter from the FTC at http://www.ftc.gov/bcp/edu/pubs/consumer/credit/cre13.shtm. You should include copies of supporting documents, including your discharge order, and keep a copy of whatever you send. You might want to send the dispute by certified mail with return receipt requested. Depending on the agency and the type of dispute, you may be able to submit a dispute through the agency's website. However, it can sometimes be harder for you to keep records of your dispute if you do so.
Follow up on any disputes.
The agency must reinvestigate within 30 days by asking the source of the information to respond to your dispute. If the source cannot or does not verify the disputed information, it should be removed from your credit report. You should also receive a response in writing detailing the result of the dispute. If you disagree with the results, you may also submit a short statement in writing telling your side of the story. In all future reports, the credit agency must note your dispute. In some cases, after you have followed the dispute procedures, you may need to retain legal counsel or file a lawsuit to have the incorrect information removed.
No Legal Advice
Please note that although this answer may provide information concerning potential legal issues, it is not a substitute for legal advice from qualified counsel. You should consult an attorney for individual advice regarding your own situation. Answering this question does not create any attorney-client relationship between you and Kelly Zinser, Shareholder at Olenicoff & Zinser, PC in Irvine, California. For more information on bankruptcy, please see our website.
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