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Report: Staggering Number Of Americans Have Mistakes On Credit Reports

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) -- A new report from the Federal Trade Commission found that 1 in 5 Americans has a mistake on their credit report.

A "60 Minutes" report that aired Sunday night on CBS found that most people cannot correct the problems.

A woman from Mountainside, N.J., said an error nearly destroyed her credit.

"We had to present so much documentation to say 'this wasn't ours,' and then we still had to pay something to get rid of it," Meg Pasternak told CBS 2's Christine Sloan.

Pasternak said it took months to resolve the problem.

"You feel kind of helpless because they've got you under the gun if you need to get a new car or a house or for anything," she told Sloan.

The government study released Monday found up to 40 million Americans have mistakes on their credit reports.

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But an investigation by Steve Kroft on "60 Minutes" found most people get nowhere trying to correct an error.

Ohio's attorney general told Kroft that is a clear violation of a federal law.

"The federal law says that if you believe that there is a mistake, you can go to them and they have an obligation to do a reasonable investigation. They're not doing a reasonable investigation. They're not doing an investigation at all," AG Mike DeWine said.

The Credit Pros in Newark help people fight agencies like TransUnion and Experian.

Credit expert and attorney Jason Kaplan with The Credit Pros said credit rating agencies have no way of forwarding information to merchants.

"All the information they receive from a customer they translate it into a code," Kaplan told Sloan. "They don't forward the letter and the proof of payment to the creditor. They just forward the three-digit code."

If you do notice an error on your credit report, Kaplan said there is a right way to go about getting the mistake fixed.

"Go directly to the creditor rather than going to the credit bureau themselves," he told Sloan.

Credit experts also advise checking your credit report periodically to make sure there are no changes.

Three credit reporting agencies did not return calls to "60 Minutes" or to CBS 2 regarding the FTC report.

"60 Minutes" was referred to the spokesperson for the agencies, who provided a statement citing an industry-sponsored survey that showed 95 percent of its customers were satisfied with the dispute process. The spokesperson told "60 Minutes" that the industry is in compliance with federal law.

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