07 Jan Can I get a debt collector to fix a mistake on my credit reports?
Q. My husband and I looked into refinancing our mortgage and discovered that my credit score, which had been well above 800, had dipped to the high 600s. A debt collection agency said we failed to pay a bill to our children’s pediatrician. I did get calls from the collector in 2019 but I didn’t think I owed any debts so I ignored it. In April 2020 I got a letter from the collector saying I owed $90. I looked and found teh bill and proof that we paid. It turns out the doctor’s office credited the $90 to a bill for my other child and they agreed I didn’t owe anything. They said they would tell the debt collector but apparently they never did. What can I do to fix my credit?
A. This is certainly a headache, but it’s something you can fix.
Start by going online to view your credit history with all three credit agencies: TransUnion, Equifax and Experian. You can request a free copy once a year with each agency through annualcreditreport.com.
First, check to see if this incident is still being reported by each of them and what your current credit score is, said Jody D’Agostini, a certified financial planner with Equitable Advisors/The Falcon Financial Group in Morristown.
She said if the debt is still listed as unpaid, you can file an appeal online with the credit bureaus.
“Have all your supporting documents ready to upload showing proof of payment and a letter from the pediatrician’s accounting department that the invoice was paid in full on time,” she said. “This should be enough to see your credit clear up quickly and your score return to normal.”
She recommends you follow up by sending the dispute in writing as well.
“Make sure to identify the information in dispute. You may want to include the report with the items in question,” she said. “Send these by certified mail with return receipt requested. Please make copies of your correspondence. “
The credit agencies have 30 days in which to respond, D’Agostini said. If they have not done so, you can share the complaint with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.
“They also need to forward the relevant information to the organization that has falsely reported this,” she said. “They are required to provide you with the results in writing. If they do not resolve in your favor, you can also include a statement of dispute to be kept on file for future reports.”
You may also wish to send your appeal to the debt collector also, she said, along with the proof of payment online and satisfaction of the debt due. Let them know that you have disputed the claim with all the reporting agencies, she said.
Once it’s repaired, you have the right to ask all the reporting agencies to send this updated information to everyone who requested a report within the past six months, D’Agostini said.
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This story was originally published on Jan. 7, 2021.
NJMoneyHelp.com presents certain general financial planning principles and advice, but should never be viewed as a substitute for obtaining advice from a personal professional advisor who understands your unique individual circumstances.