How to Dispute Collections on Your Credit Report
You have the right to dispute any information on your credit report that’s inaccurate, incomplete, or you believe can’t be verified.
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Check your credit report
The first step to disputing a collections notice on your credit report is to obtain a copy of your credit report from the major credit reporting agencies. You are entitled to one free report from each agency every year. Review your credit report carefully to make sure that the collection notice is the only negative information on your report. If there are other items, you will need to dispute those separately.
If the collection notice is accurate, you have a few options for dealing with it. You can try to negotiate with the creditor to have the debt removed from your credit report in exchange for payment, or you can wait seven years for it to fall off your report naturally. You can also try to have the debt validated, which means that the creditor must prove that you owe the debt and that it is accurate. If the creditor cannot validate the debt, it must be removed from your credit report.
Identify the collection account
When disputing a collection on your credit report, the first step is to identify the collection account.
A collection account is a financial debt that has been turned over to a third-party collections agency in an attempt to recoup the money owed. Collection accounts can be the result of overdue credit card payments, unpaid medical bills, utility bills, or any other type of outstanding debt.
Collection accounts will appear on your credit report as a separate entry, and will include the name of the collections agency, the date of the original debt, the amount owed, and any relevant payment history.
If you decide to dispute a collection account, the first step is to request debt validation from the collection agency. This means that you’re asking the agency to provide proof that you actually owe the debt in question. Once you request debt validation, the agency has 30 days to respond.
If the collection agency can’t provide proof that you owe the debt, it must remove the collection account from your credit report. Even if the collection agency can provide proof, there are other ways to get a collection account removed from your credit report — even if you actually owe the debt.
If you have documentation that proves the debt is not yours, send this evidence to the collection agency along with a letter asking them to remove the collection account from your credit report. If you don’t have proof that the debt isn’t yours but believe there’s a mistake, you can send a “good faith” letter asking the collection agency to remove the account while you investigate.
You can also dispute a collection account by asking the collection agency to remove it in exchange for payment. This is called “pay for delete,” and it’s technically against the law for acollection agency to agree to this arrangement. However, some agencies may be willing to negotiate — especially if you offer to pay in full.
Write a dispute letter
You have the right to dispute any information on your credit report that you feel is inaccurate, incomplete, or fraudulent. When you dispute an item on your credit report, the credit reporting company must investigate and confirm or correct the information. If you don’t agree with the results of the investigation, you can ask the credit reporting company to put a statement in your file explaining your side of the story.
Here’s how to write a dispute letter:
1. Include your name, address, and phone number
2. Include a clear explanation of why you are disputing the information
3. Include copies (NOT originals) of any documents that support your case (canceled checks, payment history, court documents)
4. Include a copy of your credit report with the items in question circled
5. Send your letter by certified mail with “return receipt requested” so you have proof that it was sent and received
6. Keep copies of everything for your records
Send the letter
The first step is to send the collection agency a dispute letter. Be sure to include your name, address, and account number. Indicate that you are disputing the debt and request proof that you owe the debt. You can also request that they cease all communications with you. Once you have sent the letter, the collection agency must cease all collection activity until they provide you with verification of the debt.
Wait for a response
If the collection agency does not respond to your initial dispute within 30 days, the collection will be removed from your credit report.
Take additional action
If the collector cannot verify that the debt is yours, or if you believe the debt is not yours, you can take additional steps. You can:
-Send a certified letter to the collection agency demanding that they stop trying to collect the debt and remove it from your credit report.
-File a complaint with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB).
-File a lawsuit against the collection agency.