Consumer Reports: Pandemic negatively affecting credit scores

PHILADELPHIA (WPVI) -- Many consumers hardest hit by the pandemic are being blindsided with another problem that could further hurt their financial futures.

The CARES Act, passed by Congress last March, allowed many consumers to defer payments on certain mortgages, loans, and credit card debt. But some companies have erroneously reported those deferred payments as late, and that is a big problem.

At the onset of the pandemic, some consumers got a lifeline of sorts: the ability to defer payments on federally backed loans, including student loans and mortgages, and on some credit cards and car loans.

Consumers say they were told that deferring their payments would not impact their credit scores. But instead of listing accounts as current, some companies reported those deferred payments as late, an error that can have a lasting impact on your credit.

"Even a small error on your credit report can have a huge impact on your credit score. And in terms of trying to get credit cards, mortgage, or even a student loan, that can be the difference between getting a good rate, bad rate, or no loan at all," said Consumer Reports' investigative reporter Lisa Gill.

Credit reporting errors are common. One study found that one in four people have at least one error on their reports. And complaints to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau about credit report errors have reached record levels.

"This is a problem that existed long before the pandemic, but it's an even bigger deal today because so many people have been affected by the crisis," she said.

So, what can you do? Visit AnnualCreditReport.com to get your credit report from all three credit bureaus: Experian, Equifax and TransUnion. Then, if you find an error, dispute it with each credit bureau. Do it in writing and send your letter and any supporting documents using certified mail.

After you alert the credit bureaus of the errors, Consumer Reports said it likely takes at least 30 days to get an answer, so continue to check your report to confirm that the error has been fixed.
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