Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Q&A: Collection Agency Not Updating Credit Report After Debt Settlement

Hello Lee,
I hope you can help me here. I called a collection agency to inquire about a debt I have settled and asked why this was not reported to the credit bureaus and they said they did even if my Equifax still shows it as unpaid. then they asked to talk about another account and I was surprised. It is an old account from 2005 that was not showing on my CR and my first reflex was to say I have no knowledge of this and she kept asking if this was my mine and still said I have no knowledge of it. can they use this to restart the SOL?



Ok, lets address the credit reporting issue first. Federal law requires the collection agency to report changes to your account and requires that the credit bureaus keep these records updated and accurate. All too often something gets lost in translation. I'm going to give you two methods of dealing with this, but I need to first point out that, if you're doing this to improve your credit scores, you're wasting your time. Collection accounts have the same negative impact on your credit scores regardless of whether you've paid them off or not. Although paid collections may illustrate to some lenders that you're making an effort to be responsible, paid collections are just as bad for your actual scores as unpaid ones. 

You have two options here: 

Option #1:
Make a copy of the credit report that shows the collection account as unpaid. Use a permanent marker to black out any identifying information on the credit report (because you never know what information they do or don't have, and you don't want to give them the tools they need to pursue you in the future). You'll also need to make a copy of your proof of payment to the collection agency. I sincerely hope you requested a zero balance letter. If not, provide a copy of the collection agency's written settlement offer and evidence of your payment, such as a cancelled check. 

Write a letter to the collection agency pointing out that your Equifax credit report still shows the debt as being unpaid. Feel free to point out that federal law requires the collection agency to update your tradeline with each credit bureau. Demand that they immediately update your credit records and, if you're feeling squirrelly, threaten to sue.  Oh, and make sure you send your letter via certifed mail, return receipt requested. This forces the collection agency to sign for the letter and prevents them from claiming they never received your dispute. 

Option #2:
Make a copy of the credit report that shows the collection account as unpaid. Make copies of your proof of payment along with a copy of your settlement letter, just as before. This time, however, you're going to write a letter to Equifax disputing the debt. Point out that the collection agency is not abiding by federal law in reporting this account correctly. Refer to the documents you've enclosed and request that Equifax investigate the entry and update it accordingly. 

If both methods fail, you could call and attorney and file a lawsuit. You'd be well within your rights to do so, and it might even be worth it if better credit were the result of all that hassle. The only way these disputes could improve your credit rating would be if the credit bureaus decide to delete the collection agency's tradeline rather than merely correct it. 

Ok, on to the statute of limitations. 

I wish I knew what state you're in, but it shouldn't matter. The odds are on your side that your nine-year old debt is no longer within your state's statute of limitations and the collection agency can't sue you. States have very strict guidelines dictating what does and does not restart the clock on the statute of limitations. Merely having a phone conversation with a debt collector isn't enough to renew the SOL on this debt. Heck, you didn't even admit that you owed it. You're in no danger on that front. Also, the collection agency can't legally reinsert the debt into your credit report, but I'd keep an eye on it just the same if I were you.

Given that you've just settled a debt with a collection agency, you need to know how to protect yourself. I know you didn't ask me about this, but its important that you realize that the collection agency may just turn around and sell the unpaid part of your settlement balance to another collector--letting the nightmare begin anew. Take the settlement offer and your proof of payment and put them away somewhere safe. If you get a call from a new collector in the future, you can use these documents as proof that the debt is no longer viable.

Best of Luck,

1 comment:

  1. Thank you so much that was extremely helpful you are a saint.