5 On Your Side

Nash Woman Learns Firsthand About Checking Credit Report

Posted February 8, 2006 6:21 a.m. EST

— According to the Public Interest Research group, almost 80 percent of credit reports contain some kind of mistake. More than half contain personal information that was misspelled, outdated, or belonged to a stranger. You can count a Nash County woman in that group.

Work hard, save money and establish good credit are just some of Teresa Abernethy's goals. Another is to own a home. When she first checked on financing, the bank found a "big" problem on her Experian credit report.

Abernethy found $271,164 of debt that did not belong to her. She also found that nine of the accounts that were not hers were opened when she was between the ages of 5 and 12.

"I totally freaked out. I cried. I called Mom, I called Dad, called sisters," she said.

Apparently, the information of another Teresa Abernethy got mixed into her report, so she ordered the full report from Experian, the first step in disputing it, but she couldn't get it.

"Because they have my identification information wrong, as far as my date of birth, my address, my employment history, when I go in to enter my personal information, it kicks it back with errors because they don't match," she said.

Plus, Experian's automated phone system would not let her get through to a person until she had a report. The company's Web site warns letters "take a long time to open, read, and enter into our system before the dispute can be initiated." So Abernethy called Five On Your Side.

Experian spokeswoman Heather Greer told Five On Your Side in a case like this, for "security purposes," Abernethy must send her dispute through the mail. But because Five On Your Side called, Greer escalated Abernethy's dispute and that day, the company removed all of the erroneous information from Abernethy's report.

There is now a note in Abernethy's file so that going forward, this problem won't crop up again. Also, she will get free copies of her Experian credit report until they are sure the issue is gone for good.

Experts warn people to check their credit reports at least once a year. You can get a free report from one of the bureaus each year by going to


, a Web site set up by the Federal Trade Commission.