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Take steps to remove wrong info from credit reports

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GILBERT, AZ (CBS5) -

The owner of a Gilbert animal rescue says he can't get financing for repairs because of a bankruptcy on his credit report, but the bankruptcy isn't his - it's his son's.  He contacted CBS 5 over his battles to have this erroneous information removed.

The Fair Credit Reporting Act gives you the right to dispute these kinds of mistakes. It also requires the credit bureaus to investigate and remove the information if it's found to be wrong. And if you don't get it off, you could be denied a loan over somebody else's problem.

Gary Mittendorf runs this Jack Russell terrier Rescue in Gilbert. He's trying to secure a loan to do some repairs. Everything was moving along fine, until the lender found a problem with his Sam's Club card on his credit report.

"We went into the TransUnion file and found out that Sam's Club, through GE Capital Retail Bank, had filed that we had a bankruptcy on our account," Mittendorf said.

Mittendorf had filed for bankruptcy in the past but he says that listing fell off his credit report years ago. This bankruptcy was from 2012. Mittendorf knew right away it was his son's filing.

"Our son has the same first name but a different middle name, and for whatever reason, GE didn't do a thorough search and just charged it against our account," Mittendorf said.

When he complained, Mittendorf says GE just sent him a form letter saying the card had been reinstated. They offered no help with the erroneous notation on his credit report. Three months later, it's still there and the loan for the shelter repairs is dead.

"They can't do anything until the bankruptcy notice is taken off," Mittendorf said.

His and his son's names are very similar, but Mittendorf says he still can't understand how GE could make a mistake like this. And he certainly doesn't understand why they can't fix it.

"Somebody in their bureau made a mistake and no one's 'fessing up' to it and nobody wants to take responsibility for it," Mittendorf said.

If you find erroneous information on your credit report, you should take some quick action steps.

First, you can copy the business, but always file your dispute directly with the credit bureau.  If the mistake is on all three reports, you have to dispute it with all three.  Next, you're not required to put your complaint in writing but you should and request a return receipt with you mailing.  And lastly, express urgency in the letter that the mistake needs to be fixed right away or you will be harmed financially. By federal law, the bureaus must investigate and respond to you in 30 days.

This process should work, but many times it doesn't and the mistake remains on your report. In that case, your best bet is to find an attorney to formally sue the credit bureaus to remove the error. If you can prove financial damage, some lawyers may take the case on a contingency basis.

After I contacted GE, the lender acknowledged and recognized this mistake.  GE has agreed in writing to remove the wrong bankruptcy, which paves the way for Mittendorf to obtain his home equity loan.

Copyright 2013 CBS 5 (KPHO Broadcasting Corporation). All rights reserved.

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