Q: I am having trouble removing an account from my credit report. The account is not mine. Each time I dispute it and the credit bureau removes it; the account reappears about two months later. What can I do to get this off my report forever?
A: Dear reader,
It’s easy to understand your frustration when it seems that you are doing all the things that should produce a final resolution of the problem. The good news is that you still have options that can lead to the results you expect. From what you tell me, it looks like you’ve only disputed the account with the credit bureau and not with the creditor or company that is providing the incorrect information about the ownership of the account.
According to the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA), when you submit a dispute to remove incorrect information from your report, the credit bureau has 30 days to investigate your claim. If the investigation is not completed within that timeframe, the account has to be removed from your file until it is completed. If the credit bureau verifies with the creditor that the information disputed is correct, the deleted account will be reinstated on your file.
If you haven’t done so already, you should contact the company or creditor that is reporting that you own the account. You can start by calling the creditor and asking for the correct address to mail in your dispute about the ownership of the account. Make a note of the date and time of the call and of the name of the person who spoke with you. Send your letter by certified mail and request a return receipt for your records. It is important that you keep proper documentation and copies about your dispute with the creditor and the credit bureaus. The creditor, just like the credit bureaus, has to follow FCRA regulations and investigate your claim within 30 days of receipt, but you can expect it to take up to 90 days.
If the creditor verifies the account is not yours, they will contact the credit bureaus and ask them to delete it from your file. Monitor your credit report to ensure that the account has been removed as agreed. You can check in a month or two. Now, if your creditor is refusing to delete the incorrect information or acknowledge that the account is not yours, you will have to take additional steps. At this point, you should consider talking with a consumer law attorney to explore your legal options. Also, you can report the creditor to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) and the Federal Trade Commission (FTC).
In the meantime, monitor your credit to make sure this “false” account is not part of an identity theft scam. You can get one free credit report from each of the credit bureaus every 12 months through annualcreditreport.com or, if your state allows it, you can get it from the credit bureau involved in the dispute. If you suspect that you are an identity theft victim, file a police report, notify the credit bureaus and creditors immediately and make a recovery plan. You have to be vigilant to detect any irregularities and act to correct mistakes. You have already started on the right path, continue your dispute with the creditor, and you should be on the right track to solving this situation. Be patient, and I wish you the best of luck!
Bruce McClary, Vice President of Communications
Bruce McClary is the Vice President of Communications for the National Foundation for Credit Counseling® (NFCC®). Based in Washington, D.C., he provides marketing and media relations support for the NFCC and its member agencies serving all 50 states and Puerto Rico. Bruce is considered a subject matter expert and interfaces with the national media, serving as a primary representative for the organization. He has been a featured financial expert for the nation’s top news outlets, including USA Today, MSNBC, NBC News, The New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, CNN, MarketWatch, Fox Business, and hundreds of local media outlets from coast to coast.