If your credit score is hit because of inaccurate information reported by a creditor or a collection agency, you may be able to remove it yourself in three simple steps. This guide will show you how.
Step One: Obtain a Credit Report with Transunion, Experian, Equifax
There is one report per year that a US person can obtain for free with every reporting agency. Go to www.annualcreditreport.com and input your information. Then select Transunion, Experian, or Equifax. You will be directed to answer security questions. You will either get access to a full credit report, or you will be prompted to mail in your request. Repeat this for every agency. A couple of tips here: Save each report for each agency as a PDF (you can use a free tool www.cutepdf.com) because you will use it later to dispute negative entries. Create a separate folder for each agency.
Step Two: Dispute Negative Entries with Creditors or Collection Companies
To remove an adverse entry, you want to contact the reporting party and dispute inaccurate information. Each party provides their name and address. Sometimes you have to google their phone and fax number. Tip: dial that phone and fax number to verify that the numbers still belong to the party. Next, you will have to write a letter to the reporting party. In the letter, you demand verification of the negative entry under the Federal Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA). Most entries on your report would come from lenders, collection agencies, and from public records such as court records. The process described here is only for the first two types of entries. For public records correction you should contact the office that handles this type of records. Over the years, attorneys have become creative in drafting debt verification demand letters. You may have seen letters with a lot of bullying and legalese. However, your letter does not have to be that complicated because it does the job anyway. Here is an example. --- Beginning of Letter --- This is a notice that Jane Smith (the Consumer) is disputing your claim and requesting validation under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA), 15 USC Sec. 1692g. Pursuant to the FDCPA, you must do the following: (a) Provide the requested validation before continuing collection activity; OR (b) Stop all collection and reporting activities. Consumer: Jane Smith Account number: 123456789 Reporting Agency: Collection Agency Name The Consumer hereby demands that any future communication related to this account be put in writing and be mailed or faxed to the Consumer at the address and fax shown above. Pursuant to the FDCPA, you and your company must seize all attempts to contact the Consumer directly via telephone or in person. Be advised that the validity of this debt is disputed under the FDCPA. Pursuant to 15 USC 1692g Sec. 809, the Consumer demands validation of all portions of this debt in its entirety and with sufficient particularity. The Consumer further demands to provide all competent evidence to support your claim, including but not limited to the following: 1. An agreement with the original creditor in which the original creditor authorizes your agency and you personally to collect on this alleged debt; 2. An agreement bearing the Consumer signature who agreed to assume the debt; 3. Valid copies of the debt agreement stating the amount of debt and interest charges; 4. Complete history of transactions on this account; 5. Your company's license, registration or authorization, that allows collection in the state where the Consumer resides; 6. Proof that the statute of limitations has not expired. If anyone from your office has reported any negative information to any credit reporting agency (e.g., Equifax, TransUnion, Experian), you must now remove that information because it is disputed under to 15 USC Sec. 1692e(8). If your company does not respond to these Consumer's demands within 30 days, all references to this account must be deleted from the Consumer's credit reports and completely removed from the credit file. Send a copy of any such deletion request to the Consumer. Thank you for cooperation, Jane Smith. --- End of Letter --- When you have your letter ready, send it via certified mail with a signature receipt. You may also fax it and retain a fax delivery confirmation page. You can send a fax without a fax machine at www.gofreefax.com. Tip: After fax delivery has been confirmed, call and make sure that the fax was in fact received. When you mailed and faxed all letters, now you have to wait for 30 days from the date indicated on the signature receipt.
Step Three: File a Dispute
Now, here is the trick. Are you ready? Most debt validation demand letters are either bluntly ignored or insufficiently answered. Oftentimes, a collection agency mails something that does not actually verify the debt, such as their account statement showing only your name and the amount owed. If you do receive an actual verification, this case should be addressed further, which is outside the scope of this guide. Here, we will focus only on cases where no sufficient validation was received. After the 30 day waiting period, you can use your report to dispute every non-validated item. Transunion will ask you to create a login name and a password. Their system is the most customer friendly because you can log in at any time to check on the dispute resolution progress. Equifax and Experian will only allow you to submit your dispute, and then you need to wait until you are notified via email of any changes. Using your credit report number (see on the top of each report), you will open a dispute for every entry which you did not receive a sufficient validation response for. All three agencies will suggest standard reasons for a dispute, and you may choose "I no longer owe this debt". In the notes you can put something like this: Creditor failed to respond to a debt validation request and violated FDCPA. Every agency will offer you to submit documents. You will submit your letter and the proof of mailing and/or fax sending. When you complete the process, hit submit and save as a pdf the dispute submission receipt. Your negative entry should be removed soon. Congratulations! You have successfully cleared your credit report.
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