My mother- and father-in-law recently asked me to help them with their credit and I was happy to do so. After reviewing their information, I thought I would write a few GW letters for them. They have pretty good credit. They just have a couple 30-day lates I'm trying to take care of. Otherwise, their biggest problem is their accounts keep getting closed for being inactive.
The problem is they don't seem to understand much about their accounts and they literally toss their statements in the trash. I've tried to tell them to keep them or at the very least shred them, but they don't want to be bothered with it. They're certain they didn't owe any balance at the time the last 30-day late was reported (9/2012) but have no statements to back that up, never set up online access, don't know their account number, etc.
I just feel like I don't know where to start when I'm missing so much information. Initially I intended to write the letter in their names, address the envelopes, and hand them over, but now I'm wondering if I should just state that I'm writing on behalf of two senior citizens who don't have a great command of the English language and can't provide much information.
Given more information I think the GW requests should be granted. It looks as though they may have mailed in the payment late once over the course of many years, twice on one account separated by years, but that's the late they dispute. And some of the information in their credit report seems to support that. It says the last payment was 1/2012, then there's a late 9/2012, and it's paid and closed now.
I already submitted an online dispute for that particular late. But as far the GW letters are concerned, how should I proceed? In one instance, they told me an account was an auto loan, but it's reported as a credit card with a high credit and the last payment was in 2009, so given that they just got new cars last year, I think they're mistaken.
How do you help someone who doesn't seem to know anything about their accounts? And what can I suggest to them to protect them from identity theft? I feel like they're especially vulnerable since it doesn't seem like they would even recognize fraud if it has occurred or does occur in the future.
Much of the back-data you need can be obtained if you get a comprehensive credit report, not a run-of-the-mill commercial CR.
Items, such as complete data on account types, CLs, monthly payments due, monthly balances, are reported to the CRAs and retained in consumer credit files.
However, all commercial credit reports pick-and-choose what data they wish to provide. More obscure data is usually omitted.
I would begin by ordering their free, annual CRs from annualcreditreport.com. That is the site officially sanctioned by the FTC as means to fulfill the CRA annual credit report requirement, and is more comprehensive than most commercial CRs. It provides one free CR from each CRA once every 12 months.
It is, for the most part, non-commercial. Your CR is always free, however they will offer to sell the associated score. You can just decline, print a copy, and log-off.
If there is specific info you need that you cant find in any of the credit reports, and it is information that is reported to the CRAs, you can also send a request directly to the CRA under the provisions of FCRA 609(a)(1), which entitles a consumer to "all information in their credit file at the time of the request."
Section 609(a)(1) requests require payment of a processing fee to the CRA, which is currently $11.00.
You can only do so much without their cooperation. You can get past statements if they register online, but you'd need to get them on board before doing so. If they aren't open to that, I'd move on.
If writing GWs, make sure you know 100% of the facts behind the late first. It may be reporting a 30 day late in September, but maybe they were late in the following months too. There can be a risk of added lates after a GW. You'd want to make sure they were on-time from October to present.
Definitely don't write on their behalf. Creditors legally cannot entertain a third-party request like that without a power of attorney. I helped my in-laws (also weak in English skills) and I typed their letters and had them understand the letters fully before asking them to sign it. I wouldn't do it for them.
Sounds like they have no interest in credit. In the case of my in-laws, they didn't want to buy any future reports which made repair pointless since I had no clue what changed or didn't change. After one round of letters (GWs and PFDs), I gave up on them. I figured if they wanted it bad enough they would take the steps needed for repair. In your case, I personally wouldn't recommend any CMS or ID theft product. I'd throw out the options, but you can't sign up for them.
I did get their free annual credit reports. That's how I got the information I do have. The problem is the discrepancy between what they remember about the accounts and what's reported. Without statements I don't know how to verify anything.
I'm hoping I can work with what I have. But do you think anyone will work with me if it's not my account?
That's kind of what I figured. Unfortunately, I can't even get past statements by signing up online because most of the accounts have been closed due to inactivity. They're so terrified of debt they don't use credit cards at all, and then they're upset when their accounts are closed.
I keep trying to get more information from them before writing a GW letter for just that reason. I definitely don't want to make the situation worse. But they can't tell me much. I only disputed the one late because the rest of what's reported seems like it supports their assertion that there wasn't a balance at the time.
I'm starting to think there's not much I can do for them.
There might not be alot you can do about the past, but you can be proactive about the future. You can help them organize what they have now and help prevent them from creating new problems.