That's incorrect. A provision of the Fair Credit Reporting Act
, when something's amiss with your credit report, you have the right to add a statement to your file about it, either to dispute a mistake or to explain your personal financial debacle. The Big Three credit bureaus limit you to 100 words a statement, but both Experian and TransUnion
allow you to add multiple statements to your report; Equifax
draws the line at one statement on your credit report at a time.
Do the 100-word letters actually work to a consumer's advantage? Theoretically, statements give you more of a voice in your own financial future. Used unwisely, they can do more harm than good.
"It's a good idea to add a statement when you disagree with the results of a dispute," says Rod Griffin, director of public education for Experian. "A statement of dispute allows you to tell your side of the story." Similarly, if medical issues led to late payments, a statement can point out the reason behind the misstep and reassure lenders that you've since regained financial control.
although many lenders rely on computers to determine your creditworthiness, some still do things the old-fashioned way. "With every lender I worked for, we were encouraged to look beyond the credit score," says McClary.
Even as new models for determining credit scores give consumers the benefit of the doubt when it comes to things like limited credit history or paid collection accounts, "responsible lenders are still wise to look beyond the score when serving their customers since there are still issues that might require additional documentation or explanation."
Some experts even think that the ongoing credit crunch may mark a return to more manual underwriting. "Given the current economic environment, the shift to automated approvals may be reversing itself," says Steven Katz, a spokesman for TransUnion. "Banks are clearly scrutinizing every aspect of candidates' qualifications for a loan, so your paperwork may be more important than ever before."
At the very least, a consumer statement can make you look proactive about your credit situation in a way that appeals to potential lenders. It can even scare off debt collectors. "Filing a statement shows that the consumer is educated about their rights, and that's what debt collectors try to avoid," says Jonathan G. Stein, a consumer law attorney in Elk Grove, Calif. "Debt collectors know that a consumer who is educated is going to fight them and make them prove everything; they can't collect money as easily from people asserting their rights."
Plus, Stein points out, "A consumer statement will also let prospective lenders know that you take your credit score seriously and want to do the right thing. That is never bad for being able to borrow money."
If an undeserved ding on your credit affects your credit score or your borrowing ability, explaining what happened may serve you well. When in doubt, however, you may find that you say it best when you say nothing at all.
Here's an example of such a letter:
(Send by certified mail) Your full name Current mailing address Equifax credit report file # XXXXX Date Equifax P.O. Box 740256 Atlanta, GA 30374 Dear Sir or Madam: Please add the following statement to my credit file in reference to [credit file account number and name of creditor]: On [date], I ordered a product from [creditor] that was of inferior quality and that was not as represented in the company’s advertising. On [date], I asked in writing for a full refund, but the company did not respond. While waiting to resolve the issue, I declined to pay my bill with the company. They, in turn, reported that payment was 60 days late. I have disputed this matter with both the company and the credit reporting agency, but it has not been resolved to my satisfaction. I have also included the following information as confirmation of my identity. • Current mailing address: ________________________________ • Phone number: ___________________________________________ • Previous addresses from last five years: ________________ • Social Security number: _________________________________ • Date of birth: __________________________________________ Thank you for your prompt attention to this matter. Sincerely, [Signature] Your name
You would change the reason explaining the situation and that you were a guarantor or co-signor and
weren't notice that the original debtor hadn't paid. Explain what you did and that you are having the payments
automatically deducted from your bank account.
Although it won't change your credit score - prospective lenders will review and see that you
take your credit history and score seriously.