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How to ensure a judgment gets on a credit report

As we discussed last month, beginning July 1 judgments will appear on credit reports only if they contain a minimum of a name, address, and Social Security number and/or date of birth so the debtor can be properly identified.  It is up to county court clerks to record the judgments, but if we get a judgment against a debtor, we have to be diligent in ensuring that all that information appears on the judgment.  If it doesn’t, that individual who stiffed you could get off scot free and never worry about satisfying the judgment because the judgment never appears on the credit report.  He or she could go merrily along running up new bills and not paying them, either.


One huge advantage of a judgment is that the person against whom the judgment is filed can’t buy anything on credit until at least the judgment is satisfied, assuming the judgment shows on his or her credit report.  That means you might get paid.  Likewise, your judgment could keep the deadbeat from getting another job or renting an apartment.


I spoke with Attorney Dean Shyshlak of  Portland, Oregon, who told me the reason Social Security Numbers and dates of  birth stopped appearing on court records is identity theft.  Judgments, and all court actions, are public record and anyone can look at them either by going to the courthouse or maybe even going online.  That means if a Social Security Number or date of birth shows up, a criminal can create an instant new identity to use or sell to someone.  Even so, most state laws require that both the Social Security Number and date of birth appear on all money judgments. It has become optional for other court records for judgments than money judgments to contain identifying numbers that could result in identity theft.  In fact, some court clerks may automatically leave off such numbers on all judgments they record, despite the fact they are required for money judgments. Why is anyone’s guess.


Here’s how to ensure your judgment gets picked up by the credit reporting agencies.  Make sure that the judgment information contains a Social Security and/or a date of birth, or at least the last four numbers of the Social Security Number.  If the person against whom you obtained the judgment wants those identifying numbers removed, he or she can request it, but removal would probably violate state law.


What happens if the identifying numbers are left off and you want to ensure that your judgment appears on that person’s credit report?  Call the court clerk or county clerk and complain.  Ask what you need to do to get the required numbers on the judgment.  If you don’t get satisfaction there, talk to supervisors, then keep working your way up the ladder, if need be.


By Robert L. Cain

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