BOISE, Idaho (AP) — Jose Luis Calderon says he had the cash to buy a car, but his father urged him to get an auto loan to build up a credit history.
It wasn't until he was turned down that Calderon realized he already had a credit history — one that he says belonged to somebody else.
Now Calderon is suing the credit reporting company Experian Information Solutions, saying he tried more than a dozen times in the following years to get the company to remove incorrect and negative information on his report but that the company failed to fix the problem. In the meantime, Calderon says, he lost a chance to buy a home.
Calderon's lawsuit is expected to go before a jury in Boise's U.S. District Court in December.
Susan Henson, a senior Director of public relations for Experian, said she couldn't comment on the case because it was still pending.
Sylvia Goldsmith, a consumer protection attorney from Ohio, is representing Calderon in the lawsuit. She says Congress gave credit reporting bureaus the power to collect, farm and sell personal financial information with one caveat — the companies had to make sure the information is correct.
Credit reporting bureaus have a responsibility "to report accurately and do a reasonable investigation to correct it if they get something wrong. But they don't," Goldsmith said.
The other two bureaus, Equifax and TransUnion, are not named in the suit.
Idaho attorney Ryan Earl, Goldsmith's co-counsel in the lawsuit, said the other two major credit report companies, Equifax and TransUnion, also had the incorrect information included in Calderon's credit report, but they both removed it when he notified them of the error.
Calderon, a 27-year-old painter from Nampa, filed the lawsuit in 2011, contending that Experian included unfavorable information from perhaps two other people with similar names in his credit report, and as a result, he was turned down for loans when he tried to buy a car, and later, a home.
"Plaintiff takes great pride in his good name and credit record, and works very hard to ensure that his bills are paid in full and on time every month," Earl wrote in the complaint. "Plaintiff believes and understands that his credit rating with all of his creditors is excellent. Despite the foregoing, Plaintiff's Experian credit report paints a different picture."
According to the lawsuit, Calderon discovered the error in 2008 when he went to buy a vehicle but was told he couldn't qualify for a loan because of his negative credit history. That's when Calderon ran a credit check and discovered his Experian credit report, "contained false and highly negative information that did not belong to Plaintiff," his attorneys wrote.
Specifically, the credit report contained a public record report purporting to show that he had been sued by a debt recovery business, an outstanding collection account and the name Jose L. Martinez Caldero as another name of Calderon's. None of that was true, according to the lawsuit.
Calderon disputed the report with the help of a credit repair company, according to the lawsuit, notifying Experian in writing by certified mail in October 2008 about the disputed information and asking that it be removed from his report. Another letter was sent a month later, and on Nov. 26, 2008, Calderon said, Experian replied that it had investigated each of the pieces of information and that some was found to be false and deleted. But according to the lawsuit, the company said the public record about the debt recovery lawsuit would remain because Experian said it had verified that as accurate.
Calderon said he sent another dispute letter in December, and again in March, May, July and August of 2009. He contends the company refused to provide information about how it verified the lawsuit, and how it investigated his contention that the data was wrong.
"Plaintiff questions how and why he is supposed to prove that some debt he never heard of is not actually his, and why Experian is allowed to get away with skirting its obligations under federal law to report only accurate information about him," Earl wrote in the lawsuit.
Goldsmith described Calderon as frugal and a hard worker who just wants to keep his head down and move forward with his life, but she said because of the low credit score, he's still living at home with his parents.
"You really are guilty until proven innocent in the credit reporting review process," Goldsmith said.