Uh-huh. And I'm Elvis, back from the dead.
Don't get me wrong, that's supposed to be exactly the way the system works. The only flaw here is that the system doesn't work anymore.
Disputing Credit Report Information
The Fair Credit Reporting Act explicitly states that you not only have the right to contest the validity of any information on your credit report, once you file a dispute the credit bureau you file the complaint with is bound by law to investigate whether or not the error is, in fact, an error. This is performed in much the same manner regardless of whether the dispute is over a tax lien or a collection account. Collection accounts take special precedence here and I'll explain why in just a minute. For now, lets examine how credit disputes work.
Investigation Method A: The Telephone Call
Collection Representative: Hello, this is John at ABC Collections, may I please have your account number?
Credit Bureau: Hi John, this is Mary from Experian/Equifax/TransUnion. I need to speak with a supervisor concerning a consumer credit dispute.
Collection Supervisor: Hi Mary, what can I do for you today?
Credit Bureau: I have a customer dispute here of a credit account from your company. I'm calling to verify that the credit information you reported is, in fact, correct.
Collection Supervisor: Ok, sure, what's the name? I'll look it up.
Credit Bureau: Joe Blow Schmo
Collection Supervisor: Oh yes, Joe Blow. Yes, yes, that debt is valid and I can assure you we are reporting it correctly.
Credit Bureau Thank you.
Now, do you really believe that the collection supervisor took the time to look up Mr. Schmo's account to verify his information? Probably not. Even so, there is absolutely no guarantee whatsoever that the Mr. Schmo being doggedly pursued by the collection agency is the correct Mr. Schmo. Hence, the credit dispute.
Some credit bureau representatives are thorough (stifle your laughter) enough to ask for a date of birth or some other piece of identifying information to verify that the collection agency is telling the truth. The problem here is that the credit bureau is merely verifying the fact that the collection agency owns the account and is reporting the account – not investigating whether or not the individual in question actually owes the debt being reported.
|A simple phone call constitutes a credit bureau "investigation."|
Ok, now that we've seen how investigation method A works, lets take a look at Investigation Method B.
Investigation Method B
BEEP BEEP BEEP
Collection Representative: Sir, there's a fax coming in from the credit bureau
Collection Supervisor: Hmmm...Hand me a pen. I need to sign this to verify that the information the credit bureau wants us to check is correct.
Collection Representative: But sir, you haven't checked the information!
Collection Supervisor: Of course not. It's just deadbeat debtors trying to clear up their credit reports. I'm not letting them get rid of us that easy. (signs the paper) Ok, now fax that back to the credit bureau.
Collection Representative: Yes, sir.
In this scenario, the credit bureau literally handed the collection agency the information it would have needed to validate the debt if it actually intended to do so, which, of course it didn't need to. Why? The credit bureau essentially self-validated the derogatory credit information.
Now, imagine how treacherous this gets if the validation form contained information about the debtor that the collection agency didn't have, such as his Social Security number?
Why Credit Bureau Collection Disputes Don't Work
An actual "investigation" on the part of the credit bureau would require both time and manpower. Because the credit bureaus are private, for-profit companies, they aren't the slightest bit interested in devoting resources to doing anything other than the bare minimum, as this cuts into their profit margins.
|It's all about the money for the credit bureaus.|
Can you get a collection account off your credit report? YES. Are you going to be successful doing it by the book? Probably not. The worst part of all this is that it comes back to bite those innocent people who genuinely do end up with collection accounts on their credit reports that aren't theirs. They are the true victims in this scenario.
When Credit Bureau Collection Disputes Work
Every now and then, you'll dispute a collection account on your credit report with the credit bureaus and...lo and behold...it will actually vanish because the collection agency failed to validate. In this case, one of the following events occured:
1. The credit bureau representative called the collection agency and couldn't dig her way through the maze of demands for an account number and Social Security number before ever speaking to a live human. Since no direct line was available, she merely deleted the entry to end the hassle.
2. The faxed "investigation" request made it through on the credit bureau's end, but someone didn't make it through on the collection agency's end. The result is that the agency never responded and the account gets deleted.
3. That collection representative who saw innocent consumers getting the shaft managed to trash a few investigation validation faxes on the sly before quitting.
And the real kick in the pants? If you dispute the same account more than once for the same reason, the FCRA allows the credit bureau to deem your dispute "frivolous" and verify the collection account automatically rather than conduct a follow-up investigation. Now do you understand a little more clearly why your credit bureau collection dispute didn't work?