If you’re trying to improve your credit score, one of the best things you can do is dispute any negative items on your credit report. This includes collections. Here’s how to do it.
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Get a copy of your credit report
You can get a free copy of your credit report from each credit reporting agency (Experian, TransUnion, and Equifax) once every 12 months. You can also create a myEquifax account for free to view your report more frequently.
To dispute a collection on your credit report, you’ll need to contact the collection agency and send a certified letter explaining why you believe the debt is inaccurate. The collection agency will then have 30 days to investigate your claim and remove the debt from your credit report if they find it to be incorrect.
Look for the collection account
The first step in disputing a collection account is to find it on your credit report. You’re entitled to one free credit report from each of the three big credit bureaus every year. You can get your reports from annualcreditreport.com. Look over each report carefully to find any collection accounts that you don’t recognize.
If you find an error, write a dispute letter to the credit bureau that supplied the report. Include copies (not originals) of documents that support your position, such as a cancelled check or letter from the original creditor indicating you paid the debt. In your letter, explain why you are disputing the information and ask that it be removed or corrected. Send your dispute letter by certified mail, return receipt requested, so you have proof that it was sent and received.
You should also send a dispute letter to the collection agency itself. This is called a “validation of debt” letter. Under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, once a collection agency receives your validation of debt letter, it must stop trying to collect on the debt until it sends you written verification of the debt, which includes the amount owed and the name of the original creditor.
At this point, you can choose to pay the debt or try to negotiate a payment plan. If you do nothing, the collection agency may eventually sue you and get a judgment against you, which could lead to wage garnishment or seizure of assets.
Request validation of the debt
If you find a collection account on your credit report that you don’t recognize, your first step should be to request validation of the debt from the collection agency. The collection agency is required by law to send you a notice that includes the name of the creditor, the amount of the debt, and your rights under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act.
If you don’t receive this notice within 30 days of the initial contact, you can send a “validation letter” yourself. This is a formal request for proof that you owe the debt in question. Once again, by law, the collection agency must provide this proof within 30 days. If they cannot, they are not allowed to continue trying to collect the debt, and the negative information must be removed from your credit report.
dispute the debt with the credit bureau
Disputing the debt with the credit bureau is the first step in getting a collection removed from your report. You can do this online, by phone, or by mail.
The credit bureau will then investigate the debt and get back to you within 30 days. If they find that the debt is valid, they will report it back to the collection agency, and it will remain on your credit report.
If they find that the debt is not valid, they will remove it from your report.
dispute the debt with the collection agency
If you’re dealing with a collection agency, you have the right to dispute the debt. This means that you can request proof that you owe the debt, and if the collection agency cannot provide this proof, they must remove the debt from your credit report. You can dispute the debt by sending a letter to the collection agency. Be sure to include your name, address, and account number, and request proof that you owe the debt.