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Disputing an old account can trigger a new debt collector

Disputing an old collection account can trigger the collection agency to renew their collection efforts or sell the debt to a new debt collector.

QUESTION: I recently checked my credit history from annual credit report, myfico.com and Experian. I have one account in collection and am worried that I might have done something that flagged this collection company to potentially report negatively to the other credit bureaus.
Brief story regarding this account. Back in 2008, my boyfriend at the time and I moved in together. Things didn't work so I moved out in 2011.

He asked that I keep my name on the lease to help him build his rental history and he doesn't have to renew the lease. So I didn't realize he lost his job later on that year and eventually got evicted. I received a letter from the original management company that I owe this amount. I tried to dispute it but they wouldn't budge unless I started paying them. I contact my boyfriend (my ex) and he said he would resolve this and pay for it. So for a few years, I didn't see anything reported and assume it was resolved.

Until recently, I saw it was reported through another collection agency. I tried to dispute on Experian.com but I made the mistake of report it as “not mine” with no addition comments. It came back with this result: Outcome: Updated – Information on this item has been updated.

(818) 343-4800

Original Creditor:

Collection account.

Status Details:
This account is scheduled to continue on record until Sep 2018.
This item was updated from our processing of your dispute in Aug 2017.

Shortly after this dispute, I received a letter from this collection company Network Commercial Service they I need to pay in full with the current balance within 15 days or they can further report this to other credit bureaus. So far, this is the only reported on Experian. This is the only collection account I have and is the only one negative on my Experian account. All my other accounts from TransUnion and Equifax are all good.

My question to you is, did I made the mistake of disputing it and stir something up? Can I dispute it again and state the factual error or should I leave it alone and wait for it to be removed? Also, will the letter from the collection agency do what they said if O don't pay them within 15 days? I am so worried about this. I have been married for almost 2 years and I don't want this past account to affect my husband's credit or further damage my credit. Please help. Thank you for your time. I look forward to your reply.

ANSWER: First, your husband’s credit will not be impacted by a negative account on your credit report. The only way his credit could be impacted is that the account was in both of your names. However, if you apply for credit together, any blemishes in your credit file may cause approval with less favorable interest rates and terms.

Second, yes, more than likely the dispute triggered the debt collector. Unfortunately, that can be an unintended consequence of pursuing credit repair. Disputing a collection account could trigger new debt collection actions because a dispute causes the credit bureau to contact the furnisher of information to verify whether the account is accurately reporting.

Asserting a different dispute may end in the same result. Keep in mind the credit bureau can dismiss the new dispute as frivolous if it is substantially the same as the prior dispute. On the other hand, if the new dispute includes additional information not previously submitted, the dispute is not “substantially the same” and must be considered.

I can’t accurately predict what will happen. But an additional dispute probably won’t hurt at this point because the debt collector is now pursuing you. If the debt is yours they will verify it as accurate and might even correct any factual error that you dispute.
If the second dispute comes back verified a different approach might be to submit a complaint with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau for lack of an adequate investigation of the dispute.

As far as the collection agency reporting to additional credit bureaus, a creditor or collection agency reporting to the credit bureaus is a contractual agreement. It is not mandatory by any law that creditors or collection agencies report information to the credit bureaus at all. The collection agency may only have a contract with Experian. But there is no way to predict whether they will report to Transunion and Equifax. It could just be a threat to motivate you to pay; or, they could contract with Transunion and Equifax to start reporting.

Other options could be to negotiate a pay for delete; or, just wait it out like you stated. Unfortunately, you can’t undo the first dispute. Just remember going forward that disputing an account as “not mine” when it really belongs to you can lead to a whole host of unintended consequences.

I wouldn't beat myself up about the dispute. Really, the collection agency coming after you could have occurred anyway, especially as you get closer to the date it's due to be removed from your credit report. And, if your credit report and scores look better, or you apply for new credit, the credit bureaus will alert the collection agencies that you may now be in a position to pay the unpaid debt. And poof, here comes that old debt!

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