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Mark McCown: Man finds his line of credit has run out

Dear Lawyer Mark: I have been fixing up my home over the last few months, and have maxed out all my credit cards.

My cousins invited me to go on vacation with them, so I called the credit company and asked them if I could get a credit limit increase so I could put my airline tickets on them.

The credit card company said no, even though I have always paid the cards on time.

When I asked them why they said no, they told me that I had overdue bills on some other accounts (I had a car repossessed a couple years ago before I got my job), and my phone bill (I switched companies, and they got all messed up).

My question is, how can these people find out about these other debts, and can they refuse to give me more credit when I have always paid them?

Is there anything I can do about this? — Credit Card Holder in Chesapeake

Dear Credit Card Holder: Presumably these other debts are showing on your credit report and the card company saw them when you called and asked for a credit line increase.

A company that is making the decision whether to extend credit to you may legally obtain a copy of your credit report.

Credit reports typically contain information on accounts that are current, as well as those that are delinquent.

Under the Fair Credit Reporting Act, negative information may stay on your credit report for up to seven years, and if you have filed bankruptcy, the bankruptcy can show up for ten years.

You should receive a letter from your credit card company explaining why you were rejected and whose agency provided them with the report they used to reject you.

You should request a copy of your report from that agency.

The three main reporting agencies are Equifax, Experian, and Trans-Union. You have the right to receive a free copy of your credit report from each agency for the following reasons: 1) you were denied credit based upon information in a credit report; 2) you are the victim of identity theft and place a fraud alert in your file; 3) your file contains inaccurate information as a result of fraud; 4) you are on public assistance; 5) you are unemployed but expect to apply for employment within 60 days. Additionally, everyone is entitled to one free report each year from each credit agency.

Once you get your report, look over it carefully, as it is not uncommon for mistakes to be made on a credit report.

Should you discover an error in your report, you have the right to dispute that error.

You can request the agency verify the debt with the original creditor, and if they cannot, they must remove the information.

If they verify it but you still object to owing the debt to the original creditor, and the creditor refuses to correct it, you may write a brief statement that explains your objection to the particular item, and the statement will become a part of your credit report.

Thought for the Week: When money speaks, the truth is silent. –Russian Proverb

It’s The Law is written by attorney Mark K. McCown in response to legal questions received by him. If you have a question, please forward it to Mark K. McCown, 311 Park Avenue, Ironton, Ohio 45638, or e-mail it to him at LawyerMark@yahoo.com. The right to condense and/or edit all questions is reserved.