A debt dispute letter to a credit bureau (CRA) under the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) is the topic of this blog post. The statutory authorization for the FCRA is found in Title 15 United States Code § 1681 et seq. The FCRA requires a CRA to conduct “a reasonable investigation” into the disputed information and remove anything they can’t verify as accurate. The big three CRA’s are Equifax, Experian and Transunion.
If a CRA does not properly investigate or does not respond to repeated dispute letters a complaint can be filed with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau by visiting their website at: http://www.consumerfinance.gov/complaint/
I do NOT recommend ever submitting any debt dispute using the telephone or online as in most cases you will not have the opportunity to include enough information. Yes Equifax, Experian and Transunion all prominently feature that you can submit your dispute online or over the telephone but I strongly suggest submitting any debt dispute through a detailed letter sent by certified mail, return receipt requested to all of the CRA’s that are reporting inaccurate or obsolete information on your credit report.
Unless a full explanation of the dispute is given the CRA may simply respond to any lawsuit by claiming that they are not liable as they did not receive adequate information to investigate the dispute. An adequate dispute letter should be at least one full page if not more and should state in detail why the information in the credit report is inaccurate and also contain facts and documents that support the claim of inaccurate information being reported. Be sure to keep several copies of the debt dispute letter and all documents that were provided for your records.
A lawsuit can also be filed against any CRA although that should be considered as a last resort. Everyone disputing a debt with a CRA should ensure that they save ALL evidence that could be used in court to prove that they have been damaged. That evidence should also include documentation that there is a factual disagreement about what happened to their debt dispute or disputes. Failure to save all of the supporting evidence may result in the CRA or the furnisher of the information filing a motion for summary judgment which will result in the case being decided by a judge instead of having a trial by jury.
Of particular importance are documents such as a certified mail receipt that shows that the CRA received the debt dispute letter as the big three CRA’s are notorious for consistently losing or at least claiming to lose correspondence from consumers. Just as important are any letters detailing all denials of credit that have been received as those are proof that a consumer may have been damaged by errors in their credit report.
Consumers should also be sure to include enough information in their debt dispute letter so to ensure that the CRA or the furnisher of the information and copies of all documents relevant to the dispute should be attached.
Consumers should realize that many CRA’s are somewhat unlikely to use the evidence provided to investigate any complaint. However the advantage of providing as much information and evidence as possible is that this will make it much harder for the CRA to later claim that the error is the fault of the consumer because they did not provide adequate information.
Another letter along with all relevant documents should also be sent by certified mail, return receipt requested to the furnisher of the information to ensure that the furnisher of the information cannot later claim that that the error is the fault of the consumer because they did not provide adequate information.
With a few exceptions a CRA can be held liable under the FCRA for reporting negative information more than seven (7) years old and any bankruptcy more than ten (10) years old. In most cases a court judgment can be reported for no longer than ten (10) years or the statute of limitations for enforcing a court judgment in the state where the judgment is entered which may be more than or less than 10 years depending on the particular state where the judgment was entered.
Another issue to watch out for that should be properly disputed is what is known as re-aging of debt. This happens because debt collectors will often sell accounts to one another and occasionally they will report an inaccurate time causing the debt to be reported longer than it should.
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Please note that the author of this blog post, Stan Burman is NOT an attorney and as such is unable to provide any specific legal advice. The author is NOT engaged in providing any legal, financial, or other professional services, and any information contained in this blog post is NOT intended to constitute legal advice.
The materials and information contained in this blog post have been prepared by Stan Burman for informational purposes only and are not legal advice. Transmission of the information contained in this blog post is not intended to create, and receipt does not constitute, any business relationship between the author and any readers. Readers should not act upon this information without seeking professional counsel.