Office of Maryland Attorney General J. Joseph Curran, Jr.

October 25, 2000 Media Inquiries: Sean Caine 410-576-6357


Baltimore - In the latest issue of his monthly publication The Consumer's Edge, Attorney General J. Joseph Curran, Jr. recommends that consumers check their credit reports once a year. Curran says that consumers have been turned down for credit cards, insurance policies, loans and mortgages because of errors in their credit reports. Such errors included accounts in good standing listed as being in collection, accounts that were paid off listed as "charged off," and bad debts belonging to family members or people with similar names mixed in. Consumers sometimes discover that an identity thief has been applying for credit in their name and running up unpaid debts.

"That's why consumers should check their credit report from time to time, and especially before applying for a loan or mortgage," says Curran. By law, Maryland residents are entitled to one free copy of their credit report from each of the major credit reporting agencies every year. They can request their free copy by calling the agencies toll-free: Equifax, 1-800-685-1111; Experian, 1-888-397-3742; and Trans Union, 1-800-888-4213.

If a consumer finds errors in his or her credit report, he or she can request the credit bureau to remove or correct the information. The agency must investigate the disputed information and reply within 30 days. If it cannot verify the information, the information must be deleted and the agency is required to mail the corrected report to the consumer and to anyone who received the wrong information.

Curran also warns consumers to avoid "credit repair" companies offering to help clear credit for a fee. "The only thing these companies can legally do is what you can do yourself - dispute any inaccurate information."

Curran's office distributes The Consumer's Edge through more than 800 businesses, agencies, schools, and community associations. Groups interested in receiving a monthly issue should call 410-576-6956.