Ask an Expert: A collection agency changed the origination date on my debt and now my credit report is inaccurate. Can I dispute it?

image

Q: I have a debt that was removed from my credit report in 2021. It was then sold to a different collection agency and placed back on my credit report in February of 2022 with an incorrect origination date of October of 2021. My question is, can I dispute this with the credit bureaus for reporting inaccurate information?

A: Dear reader: Under the Fair Credit Reporting Act, you have the right to dispute any incorrect information appearing on your credit reports. From what you tell us, it seems the new collection agency re-aged your account, which means they changed the date that the account first went delinquent, making the debt appear newer. This is a violation of the Fair Credit Reporting Act. You should not only dispute it on your credit reports, but also report it to Federal Trade Commission.

Normally, a creditor reports the first delinquency date of a charged-off account. This date should remain unchanged, regardless of how many times the debt gets sold. The only circumstance that a date would change is if you got the account current and then stopped paying on it, thereby creating a new delinquency date. That’s not the case in most situations. Note that there’s a difference between the origination date of the account and the date of first delinquency. The origination date refers to the date when the collection agency took ownership of the account, not when it was first reported delinquent.

Disputing incorrect information
The three main credit bureaus, Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion have detailed information on their websites explaining how to file a dispute to correct inaccurate information. The first step is to review your three credit reports (you can get copies at www.annualcreditreport.com) and gather relevant documents supporting your claim. Once you are ready, file your disputes individually.

After you file your dispute, the credit bureaus have 30 days to investigate your claim and provide a resolution. If the credit bureaus verify your claim is correct, they will update the information immediately. However, any disputed information deemed accurate on a credit report will remain unchanged.

Repairing your credit
Correcting errors on a credit report usually has a a positive impact on a credit score. In your case, it’s likely that you won’t see much of a positive impact. Collections remain on your credit report for seven years from the date of the first delinquency. And although the negative impact on scores decreases with time, a two-year-old debt is still recent enough to have a serious negative impact on your score. The history of missed payments and the amount owed associated with this debt probably weigh more heavily on your score than the actual date of the delinquency. So, it would be a good idea to also focus on credit repair strategies to deal with debt.

These strategies will depend on several factors, including your current financial situation and credit history. Still, the best way to improve your score is to pay all your other accounts on time, keep your balances low, and avoid getting new credit often. It takes time and discipline to rebuild your credit. If you need additional resources, you are welcome to visit our blog or reach out to an NFCC-certified financial counselor online or over the phone by calling us at 800-388-2227.