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What is the number-one black mark on consumer credit reports?

If you ventured a guess that adverse mortgage-related entries besmirched more credit reports than any other negative consumer-linked information, certainly no one would belittle your response or suggest that it was off base.

It would be wrong, though.

In fact, the prominent consumer advocacy group U.S. PIRG Education Fund reports in a recent press release that the ranking culprit that puts the creditworthiness and scores of most consumers in Arkansas and nationally in jeopardy is adverse debt information relating to one of more medical bills.

Bottom line: Medical debt -- pernicious and prohibitively high billings that often relate to problems that arise unexpectedly and cannot be budgeted for -- arguably drives more people to file for bankruptcy than any other catalyst.

And, thus, while it is obviously key for consumers to try to contain such debt and somehow deal with it if it arises (concededly, that is simply impossible to do sometimes), it can be just as important to ensure that medical information appearing on credit records is accurate.

Because, indeed, it often isn't. In fact, a co-author of the PIRG report states that "many of the consumers facing harassment and damaged credit due to medical debt never owed any money in the first place."

That sad fact can owe to many things. Debt collectors can be sloppy. Credit bureaus can be less than conscientious about vetting information that should reasonably be questioned.

An admonitory piece of advice to consumers is that it is up to them to periodically scrutinize their records to ensure data accuracy, and to immediately make waves when one or more entries are askew.

Failure to do so can be immediately detrimental to credit scores and lenders' propensity to make loans, and also result in unattractive interest rates being offered when loans are approved.

"Medical debt collection is a system run amok," says the above-cited report author and commentator.

Clearly, it needs to be fixed. And, just as clearly, many aggrieved consumers have cause to contact a proven debt-relief attorney without delay when their credit information is ambiguous or overtly incorrect and is financially threatening them in a material way.

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