The Fair Credit Reporting Act allows a person to add a 100-word consumer statement to their credit report. Often, people use the consumer statement as a chance to explain a derogatory mark or a bad credit score.
The consumer statement does not change a person’s credit score; it simply gives the consumer a voice. The statement, which can be 100 words or shorter, can be used to dispute a mistake:
The Visa credit card account ending in 1234 does not belong to me, and I am currently in the process of disputing this with the credit card company and credit bureaus.
The statement can be used after bankruptcy to explain that a person’s bad credit was caused by a medical condition:
You will a bankruptcy on my report from January 2007. I was the victim of a hit-and-run car accident and was unable to work for eighteen months. As a result, I fell behind on my payments and declared bankruptcy.
Some say the consumer statement will hurt a person. After all, it draws the lender’s attention to derogatory information. Others say the consumer statement is pointless as it most often unread.
Still, consumer statements do have their uses. If you are trying to rent a home, the landlord might read the explanation. If you know a potential employer is running your credit score, you can be upfront—let them know about any mishaps, and direct them to the consumer statement.
How to write a consumer statement:
A consumer statement should always be short and to the point. Never place blame on someone else (unless you are a victim of identity theft). If you decide to write a consumer statement:
- Do not complain or present yourself as a victim (unless you truly are a victim of identity theft)
- Take responsibility
- Do not blame anyone or anything
- Do not justify what happened
- Keep in 100 words or less
Let’s take a look at two examples:
An effective consumer statement:
I experienced bankruptcy because I naively expected the value of my home to go up. Instead, the payments grew and became unmanageable, so I began charging them to credit cards. Have since gone back to the basics and am working on building my credit and my savings. Also taking classes in financial management.
An ineffective consumer statement:
The bankruptcy is NOT my fault. I was sold a home that I couldn’t afford, and while the agent earned his commission, I lost my home, racked up huge credit card debt, and was stuck with poor credit! As far as I’m concerned, the mortgage broker should go to jail!
Do you see the difference? The first consumer statement makes the borrower seem responsible and mature. The second might sound entitled, immature, and irresponsible!