Money: On the practical side–getting something inaccurate off your credit report

English: This is an example of the angst cause...
English: This is an example of the angst caused by the use of a telephone. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Every time you apply for a mortgage, a bank runs a credit report. Some interesting stuff can turn up. On mine, a mysterious bill for $8 to a now-defunct business came up.

The good news is, I called in time, before they went out of business. As it turned out the company owed me $3. That got taken off my credit report right fast.

But they never did pay me that $3.

It ended up pushing my credit score up by twenty points.

It’s worth the effort – especially when you need a loan or just want to rent a car. Your credit rating can even affect your car insurance.

But doing it takes some time and some work that you might not want to do.

For instance, I hate the phone. But if you want to get something on your credit report cleaned up, you’re going to have to make some phone calls. Email won’t cut it, and chat programs are not secure enough.

You’re going to have to make at least three phone calls per transaction. Also, customer service agents WILL hang up on you for the following reasons:

1)You sound mean/aggressive

2)The call just sounds too difficult.

I got #2 twice trying to straighten this one out. I kept calling back.

I know from working for these services that customer service reps worldwide are churn and burn rate employees. Some companies deliberately under train their reps.(*cough* Qwest *cough* Wells Fargo.)

When I worked for the phone company sales line, they deliberately started dumping repair calls into our cue and telling us we had to resolve them. We were trained to transfer these calls to repair, with a nominal look at an excessively complex repair order system. The queue dumped them back on us. This made for around 40 – 70 angry phone calls per day.

Imagine that with someone who works for a credit service.

Knowing this, I kept redialing.

It took me three phone calls to get to the department that reported my credit information. Then, the first rep hung up on me. It wasn’t a bad connection, it was a “this sounds hard, so I’m going to cut you off while still talking,” maneuver. I’ve done it myself, but I generally saved it for the screamers. In this case, since I told her it was for an $8 charge off, she was likely expecting me to be a screamer and just cutting the line in anticipation. Perhaps she thought it wasn’t worth $8. She didn’t know that $8 was worth 20 points on a credit report; most people don’t.

The second call, I saved the “I have an $8 charge off here,” for AFTER the guy had my data. He confirmed that not only had I paid, the company owed me $3. Since the company in question closed in January 2013, I’m not expecting to see that money. He gave me his name and direct extension, requested a letter be printed for me – but wasn’t sure if it WOULD be printed for me. Banks and credit agencies don’t like admitting they’ve made errors. Since this didn’t show up on my report when we applied for a car loan two years ago, and the charge off is ostensibly  from 2006, something was definitely afoot.

So what I learned about the process of correcting a credit report:

There is not a linear system of calls. Be nice, be clear, expect to have to dial a few more numbers.

You will have to persist. No one at a credit company likes dealing with charge-offs.

It’s up to you to get the data and send it to the credit reporting agencies – all three of them. The FTC does help with the communications, at least. Really, the entire FTC website merits study.

In this case, the last guy I met was nice and sent the information straight to the agency himself. I didn’t have to do anything.

Don’t expect to get someone that nice – I lucked into him after 2 misdirects and a hangup.

So a lot of this really is a game of tenacity – and perhaps explaining that it might look like an $8 bill, but it could mean limiting access to $10-$20K for buying a house.