PITTSBURGH - A billing error nearly cost a man his business, after that error showed up on his credit report, and he's had a tough time fixing it. Consumer Investigator Robin Taylor learned how damaging credit reporting mistakes can be.
As many as 42 million of us have errors on our credit reports, according to a new study by the Federal Trade Commission. That's 1 in 5 of us and those errors can be costly.
Sometimes it's a simple clerical mistake. In this case, someone with bad credit had the same name as our victim.
"I never once had my electric service interrupted for the entire 20 years I was a customer," said Gary Lindner of Wexford.
Gary Lindner is the owner of Atlantis Custom Aquariums. Two years ago, Duquesne Light made a mistake. They reported he was delinquent on several properties, but the accounts weren't his.
And then, Lindner got a letter in the mail, saying his line of credit with Citizens Bank was being pulled because of “adverse personal credit information.”
"I absolutely freaked out. I think my heart skipped about 10 beats," said Lindner.
Without the line of credit he couldn't purchase food, chemicals or supplies for his business.
Lindner disputed the errors and filed a complaint with the Public Utility Commission.
"Duquesne Light was found guilty. They were fined," said Lindner.
The Public Utility Commission fined Duquesne Light $1,000, but Lindner’s problems didn't go away, because the errors remained on his credit report.
"It dropped my score significantly, enough that I could not rent," said Lindner, who says he was denied a townhouse rental after the landlord checked his credit.
He's now suing Duquesne Light.
The company admits to making a mistake, but says, "Mr. Lindner's claims of his business being ruined as a result of the erroneous credit report and the subsequent loss of the Citizens Bank line of credit are false," said Joseph Vallarian, a spokesman for Duquesne Light.
"These types of errors happen probably more than people think. Mr. Lindner's case is more of an extreme, but these kinds of things do happen," said Michael Gianantonio, Lindner’s attorney.
According to the Federal Trade Commission, as many as 10 million Americans are denied loans due to serious errors like this. They recommend checking your credit report at least once a year.
"The most important thing is to communicate to get it resolved, because it won't go away without action on your part," said Paul Rudoy, a CPA with the Pittsburgh firm Horovitz, Rudoy, Roteman.
Duquesne Light puts some of the blame on the credit bureaus. "The credit bureaus never acted upon the 2011 request to remove the erroneous report," said Vallarian.
"This situation has been unbelievable. It has. It's been a nightmare," said Lindner.
You can get a free credit report once a year from annual credit report's website.
If you find an error, dispute it right away. You should also contact the company that made the mistake to see if you can get them to correct it. Unfortunately, there's no guarantee of a quick fix.