When you initiate contact with a debt collector, the first thing you should do is request validation of the debt. This proves several things:
- The debt collector is who they say they are, as opposed to a scammer.
They have the right to collect on the debt.
- It tells you in no uncertain terms how much you owe and how the debt collector computes that figure.
- The name of the original creditor.
- The age of the debt, if the collector provides a copy of the original invoice to support their claim.
- Every consumer’s procedural right to dispute a debt and request validation is clearly outlined in the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA).
This is all well and good if the debt collector actually responds to your request for validation. But what if you don’t hear anything back? What if you request validation and 30 days tick by with no response? This is usually a clue that the debt collector can’t find proof you owe the debt.
The next step is to dispute the derogatory entry with the credit bureaus.
The Dispute Process
The first thing you should know is that each of the three major credit bureaus have a mechanism to dispute errors in your credit report online. However, the standard dispute forms may contain language that limits your rights in ways that simply writing them a letter in your own words will not.
So it’s best to write the credit bureaus directly, in your own words, disputing whatever errors you find. Here are the dispute addresses for each of the credit bureaus:
P.O. Box 4500
Allen, TX 75013
Equifax Information Services, LLC
PO Box 740256
Atlanta, GA 30374
Consumer Dispute Center
PO Box 2000
Chester, PA 19016
Dispute Letter Template
A dispute letter looks a lot like this:
I am writing to dispute the following information in my file. [One specific item you wish to dispute from your credit report.]
I believe this entry is inacurate because [state your reasons.]
Enclosed are copies of supporting documentation including [a list of attachments.]
When you send your dispute letter, you’ll need to send supporting documentation as well that supports your case that the derogatory entry should be deleted.
You’ll also need to include identity documents to prove you are who you say you are — because scammers send fake letters to credit bureaus, too.
Proof of Identity Documents
You’ll need to attach the following information as proof of identity. It’s probably best to put this information on its own sheet of paper and not mingle it with the text of the dispute letter.
- Your full legal name, including any generation indicator such as JR, SR, II, III, etc.
- Your date of birth.
- Your Social Security number.
- All addresses where you have lived during the past two years.
- A copy of your driver’s license.
- One copy of a utility or bank statement at your current address.
Remember: Dispute One Issue at a Time
Do yourself a favor and only dispute one derogatory entry per letter. This drastically reduces the chance that something will get missed in your complaint.