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Credit Problems

Lost and Stolen Debit/Check Cards and Stored-Value Cards

Report a lost or stolen ATM or debit/check card to the issuer immediately.

• If you report an ATM card missing before it’s used without your permission, you are not responsible for any unauthorized withdrawals.

• Federal regulations limit your liability to $50 if you report the loss within two business days after you realize your card is missing, and to $500 if you report the loss between 2 and 60 days.

• Self-imposed industry rules limit your liability to zero if you report the loss within two business days, and to $50 if you report it more than two business days after realizing your card is missing.

Stored-value cards contain cash value stored electronically on the card itself. Stored-value cards and the transactions you make using them may not be covered by the Electronic Funds Transfer Act. This means you may not be covered for loss or misuse of the card.

Credit Billing Disputes

The Fair Credit Billing Act applies to problems with credit card and charge accounts and overdraft checking such as:

• billing errors;

• unauthorized use of your account;

• goods or services charged to your account but not received or not provided as promised; and

• charges for which you request an explanation or written proof of purchase.

To dispute an amount, request proof of purchase, or complain regarding goods or services received:

• Write to the creditor or card issuer within 60 days after the first bill containing the disputed charge is mailed to you. (Even if more than 60 days have passed since you were billed for the item, you still may be able to dispute the charge if you only recently found out about the problem.)

• Send your letter to the address provided on the bill. Do not send the letter with your payment.

• Be specific. In your letter, give your name and account number, the date and amount of the charge disputed, and a complete explanation of why you are disputing the charge

Send your letter by certified mail, with a return receipt requested, if you want to be sure it’s received.

If you follow these requirements, the creditor or card issuer must acknowledge your letter in writing within 30 days after it is received and conduct an investigation within 90 days.

While the bill is being investigated, you need not pay the amount in dispute. The creditor or card issuer may not take action to collect the disputed amount, including reporting the amount as delinquent, and may not close or restrict your account.

If there was an error, the creditor or card issuer must credit your account and remove any finance charges or late fees relating to the amount not owed. For any amount still owed, you have the right to an explanation and copies of documents proving you owe the money.
If the bill is correct, you must be told in writing what you owe and why. You will owe the amount disputed plus any finance charges.

Out of Control Debt

Counseling services provide assistance to persons having difficulty budgeting money and paying bills. Credit unions, cooperative extension offices, military family service centers and religious organizations are among those that may offer free or low-cost credit counseling.
Members of the National Foundation for Consumer Credit (NFCC) provide educational programs on money management and help in developing debt payment plans. These locally managed, nonprofit agencies operate under the name Consumer Credit Counseling Service (CCCS). To locate the nearest NFCC member, call toll-free, 24 hours a day, 1-800-388-2227 or visit is a nonprofit, Internet-based debt counseling service. It assists families and individuals with debt, credit, money and financial problems through its website at, as well as through one-on-one counseling at 1-800-680-DEBT.

Negative Credit Information in Your Credit Report

If there is inaccurate or incomplete information in your credit report:

• Contact both the credit reporting agency (CRA) and the company that provided the information to the CRA.

• Tell the CRA in writing what information you believe is inaccurate.

Under The Fair Credit Reporting Act, the information provider is required to investigate and report the results to the CRA. If the information is found to be incorrect, it must notify all nationwide CRAs to also correct your file. If the investigation does not solve your dispute, ask that your statement of the dispute be included in your file. A notice of your dispute must be included anytime the CRA reports the item. See Your Rights: Credit Reports.

If the information is accurate, only time, hard work, and a personal debt repayment plan will improve your credit report. Credit repair companies advertise that they can erase bad credit for a hefty fee. Don’t believe it.

Under the Credit Repair Organizations Act, credit repair companies can’t require you to pay until they have completed promised services. They must also give you:

• a copy of the “Consumer Credit File Rights Under State and Federal Law” before you sign a contract;

• a written contract that spells out your rights and obligations; and

• three days to cancel without paying any fees.

Some credit repair companies promise to help you establish a whole new credit identity. You can be prosecuted for fraud if you use the mail or telephone to apply for credit with false information. It is a federal crime to make false statements on a loan or credit application, to misrepresent your social security number, or to obtain an Employer Identification Number from the Internal Revenue Service under false pretences.

Your state may also regulate credit repair companies. If you have lost money to credit repair scams, contact your state or local consumer affairs office or the National Fraud Information Center.


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