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How to Fight a Collection Report

By Philip Tirone

This letter asking for information about how to fight a collection account just came into my inbox:

“I am currently fighting a collection agency who suspiciously has me owing over $1,000 to a hospital that I have never heard about, and that is no longer in existence. The collection agency’s report states that I had a dog bite and visited the emergency room.”

My student went on to say that the collection company could not link his Social Security number or current address to the bill, and so the collection agency asked my student to send a letter to dispute the matter.

You know, to clear things up …

So my student sent a letter letting the collection agency know his SSN, his address, and his current employer. Guess what collection company did? It took the information from the letter and entered it into the database, linking my student’s Social Security number, address, and current employer to the bill.

That’s right: My student was trying to correct an error, and the collection agency used this information to make the error even worse! Boy does this have me steamed!

If a creditor or collection agency ever mistreats you, fight back! The Fair Credit Reporting Act is a set of laws that protects consumers from creditors and credit bureaus that is incorrectly reporting information.Under this act, you have the right to dispute any item on your credit report that you believe is wrong. And credit agencies must respond to your dispute.

Here are the steps you can follow to fight a collection report.

1) Upon identifying an error, send a “dispute letter” detailing the items listed incorrectly in your credit report. Since my student is dealing with a dishonest collection company, I suggest that he approach the credit bureaus directly.

The first letter should state, very simply, “I am writing to request that you remove information from my credit report. The information does not belong to me.

“Following are the details: [Insert the details of the mistaken account, and include a copy of your credit report with the incorrect account highlighted].

“Please investigate this claim and remove the inaccurate information from my credit report.”

2) Upon receiving the dispute letter, the bureau will contact the creditor and ask it to verify that the item in question is correct.

3) Expect a written response from the bureau within 30 days. The response will either provide the results of the investigation, or it will request more information from you, in which case it will have another 15 days to complete the investigation.

4) If you do not hear back within 30 days, fill out this form, which will help you fight back and protect your rights under the Fair Credit Reporting Act.

5) If the agency determines that the dispute is valid, or if it cannot verify the disputed item’s accuracy, it is required by law to remove (permanently or temporarily) the item you are disputing. Unless the agency receive information validating the account’s accuracy, the information should not reappear on your credit report.

6) Be sure to keep great records. Send letters via certified mail, return receipt requested. And pull your credit report a few months after the dispute has been resolved to make sure that the inaccurate information doesn’t make its way back onto your credit report.

Hope this helps. If you have more questions about how to fight a collection account, be sure to leave a comment below.