Equifax admitted this week to misstatingpotentially affecting mortgage, car loan or credit card applications.
The Wall Street Journal reported Tuesday that between March 17 and April 6, the company sent millions of incorrect credit memos to consumers. Yet Equifax said that less than 300,000 customers saw their credit score change by 25 points or more in either direction. Errors in how different elements of a credit report are weighted have led to fluctuations, the company said.
A Florida woman who was forced into an expensive auto loan following an incorrect Equifax score is now suing the company. The lawsuit, which seeks class-action status, notes that during the three-week period Equifax sent erroneous scores, 25 million credit reports were pulled from the three credit reporting bureaus. Given those numbers, millions of Americans could have been affected by the error, according to the lawsuit.
Although Equifax has stated that the underlying information has not been changed, a change in credit score of 25 points can mean the difference between approval or rejection of financial products and affect the amount of interest you pay.
Read on to find out if errors affect you and what you can do if your credit score has been affected.
Did you apply for a loan or credit this spring?
Unless you applied for a loan, credit card, or other financial product between March 17 and April 6, it’s unclear if you were affected by Equifax’s rating errors. .
“If you didn’t monitor your credit score and credit report regularly, how would you know?” said Bruce McClary, senior vice president of memberships and communications at the National Foundation for Credit Counseling
However, “if you went to a lender and got rejected…that could be a clue that you may have been a victim,” he said.
What did the lender say?
If you were refused a loan or if you obtained less favorable financial conditions because you were considered a credit risk, the lender is obligatory to send you a notice explaining the decision.
McClary advises going back to the rejection notice to see what factors were involved. If you can’t find it, call the lender and ask if they can remove it from their file.
“You want to be very sure what caused the lender to deny your request,” he said.
“It’s not fair to assume that it will always be the credit score,” McClary added. “Maybe your debt ratio wasn’t what they wanted. Maybe your work history didn’t reflect the kind of stability they were looking for.”
There are two types of notices lenders send when they deny credit, according to the Federal Trade Commission. If you’ve been turned down based on information in a consumer report, the lender is required to send an “adverse action notice.” If you received less generous terms, the lender must send a “risk-based pricing” notice.
If you applied for a credit card or loan and received no notice, you were not affected by Equifax’s error, nerdwallet.
Check your credit report
The next step is to request your credit report. Consumers are entitled to a free credit report periodically, which they can request at annualcreditreport.com. If something in the report is wrong, challenge it. You can also try calling the Equifax Helpline at 1-888-378-4329.
Once all the issues in your credit report have been fixed, “it’s worth going back and asking for a reconsideration.” That means asking for the loan again,” McClary said.
McClary noted that the current case is unusual. Unlike financial institutions that have been affected by data breaches, Equifax has not contacted customers to alert them to the problem.
The credit bureau did not respond to questions from CBS MoneyWatch about whether it plans to contact customers.
Some lawmakers are now pushing the company to explain the error and compensate for everything.