An inaccurate or misleading collection account will lower your credit score. Either because of clerical errors or miscommunication, collection accounts are among the most common errors on credit reports. That’s why factual disputes are better than disputing “account not mine”, especially if the account is really yours.
To find factual errors go through the negative tradeline and list every error, inaccuracy, incomplete or false thing you find. No doubt you can find a factual error or two, or three.
And when you find an error, request the credit bureau delete the negative tradeline, not make a correction. Corrected negative information is still negative.
The E-Oscar Investigation Method
Because the credit bureaus utilize the E-Oscar method of investigation, a consumer dispute is reduced to a two-digit code. This code is intended to best describe the dispute issue. What the code really does is reduce the credit bureaus’ time in processing disputes and eliminates the FCRA requirement for the dispute to be properly investigated.
When you should dispute collection accounts
You can choose to dispute a collection account at any time, however, there are times when disputing a collection account may produce better results. When an original creditor transfers a debt to a collection agency, the original creditor still owns the debt. It may be difficult to dispute in this situation. Working with the original creditor to resolve the debt may be the best option.
When the original creditor has sold the debt and it ends up in the hands of a junk debt buyer, you have a pretty good chance in disputing the debt and here is why. Junk debt buyers are collection agencies that purchase “old” debts and are working for themselves. Sellers of “old” debt include cell phone companies, utilities, medical companies, card issuers, and many other types of businesses.
Because junk debts are purchased for pennies on the dollar, debt collectors and junk debt buyers usually seek to negotiate a settlement with the debtor. They just want the money. Disputing the listing on your credit report may result in a deletion because they don’t have the time or desire to deal with credit disputes.
How to find a factual error
- Account reporting “One Month Term.” What terms and agreements did you sign and agree to when the debt collector purchased the debt? None. Collection accounts should not have one month terms.
- Account reporting as “120 days late”. How can this be? Collection accounts are not like original creditor accounts. You did not open an account with a collection agency and promise to pay monthly payments. The debt collector can report the last status from the original creditor but they cannot update lates on a monthly basis.
- Account is reporting as an “Installment”. Again, what terms and agreements did you sign and agree to when the debt collector purchased the debt? None. Is the debt collector posing as a bank, lender or finance company? Collection accounts are not installment accounts.
- Another common error is reporting the debt as revolving, which is not only inaccurate, but may cause the credit score to further decrease. The collection account now looks like another revolving account in default and will be scored along with other revolving accounts on the credit report.
- Account “ balance” or the “high balance” is incorrect.
- Many collection agencies pose as Data Factoring Companies. Even if the credit bureaus allow this deception, you did not open a “data factoring account” with them. Collection accounts are not “data factoring accounts.”
- The date of first delinquency with the original creditor is not reporting and according to the FCRA, Section 623, “…A person who furnishes information to a consumer reporting agency regarding a delinquent account being placed for collection, charged to profit or loss, or subjected to any similar action shall, not later than 90 days after furnishing the information, notify the agency of the date of delinquency on the account, which shall be the month and year of the commencement of the delinquency on the account that immediately preceded the action.”
You will probably find more than one factual error, however, do not list all of them in one dispute letter. Save some for later in case you do not get the desired result on your first round of dispute letters. Disputing negative tradelines based upon factual errors may eliminate the credit bureaus’ excuse of “previously investigated” notation.
Finding factual errors causes the credit bureaus to do their job properly. Frustrate the credit bureaus to the point they will follow the FCRA and actually investigate a dispute or even better, frustrate them to the point they will delete the negative tradeline.
It may not work every time but you will find you can get a lot more mileage out of dispute letters containing factual errors whether than disputing “not mine” only to have the investigation results come back verified.
There could be negative consequences to your credit score by disputing collection accounts so it is important to read “What you should know before disputing a collection account.”
Dispute collection agencies that are listed twice
Collection accounts often change hands with debt collectors selling accounts to other collectors making it possible to have more than one debt collector listed on your reports for one account. When this happens, you can typically have the older collection removed by disputing it with the credit bureaus.
Pay for Delete
If you can’t remove the debt by disputing it, try negotiating a “pay for delete” with the collection agency. With a pay for delete the collection agency removes the account from your credit report in exchange for payment. Send the collector a letter stating your interest in paying the account. Offer to make payment if the collector agrees to remove the entry from your credit report. Ask that the collector to return a signed copy of the letter to you to seal the agreement. Make sure you get the agreement in writing before you make a payment. Don’t make any payment, full or partial, until you have the agreement in writing. See (Sample Pay for Delete Letter.)
Options if disputing does not work
If you have exhausted your dispute efforts there are still options you can attempt. Make complaints to the CFPB, the FTC, or your state’s attorney general. You can also sue the debt collector for this or other violations of the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA). If you sue under the FDCPA and win, the debt collector must generally pay your attorney’s fees, and may also have to pay you damages.
Consider allowing a professional repair your credit. Lexington Law helped clients remove 3,120,442 negative items in 2013 alone which included collection accounts. Other methods can be used to get rid of collection accounts such as debt validation, settle the debt and even pay for deletion of a collection account.