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Credit Dispute Experience at Experian and Equifax

Contributed by mm | October 21, 2006 9:00 AM PST

For more than four years, it seems that the credit reports of both my wife and I are immune to material errors -- the biggest inaccuracies in our reports are merely a wrong zip code and a wrong birthday, and over the time, we enjoyed best ratess in mortgage and floods of juicy credit card offers.

However, my wife's lucky streak ended recently.

Lately I activated one-year free credit monitoring service at Experian for my wife (thanks to promotional offers in Microsoft Money 2007). The credit monitoring service includes a free credit report, unlimited credit score update and analysis over 12 months. The initial pull of credit score and report surprised us a lot: my wife's credit score was only 661, and there is a collection item on the credit report. At that moment, I started to wonder how the "universal default" clause in our massive credit card inventory will play against us now that we have over $40,000 in l0% or low APR balance transfers.

A closer look at the collection item turned an account we have no idea whatsoever:

ALLIED INTERSTATE INC.
Agency Address: 3000 Corporate Exchange Dr, Columbus, OH 432317689 (336) 333-3100
Date Reported: 05/2006
Date Assigned: 12/2005
Creditor Classification:
Creditor Name: CINGULAR WIRELESS
Accounts Number: 3483XXXX
Account Owner: Individual Account.
Original Amount Owned: $226
Date of 1st Delinquency: 10/2005
Balance Date: 05/2006
Balance Owned: $226
Date of Last Activity : n/a
Status Date: 05/2006
Status: D - Unpaid
Comments: N/A

In fact, we have never been a Cingular customer (we currently keep two mobile numbers with Verizon Wireless with $1.00 monthly maintenance fee, and we used to be a Virgin Mobile customer.), and we've never been contacted about this account, nor any collection activities!

I immediately turned to the national free credit report service to pull out my wife's credit report at Equifax and Transunion. The Equifax report was contaminated with the same collection information, while the Transunion report is error-free. On the brighter side, all three reports seem to indicate this collection item is more a clerical error instead of blatant identity theft -- there are no credit inquiries from unknown parties, and we don't have any unfamiliar accounts except for this one.

Confident that we shouldn't be penalized for something we didn't do, and we stand a good chance to right the wrong, we initiated credit dispute process with both Experian and Equifax. Both credit bureaus allow online dispute, but I have to say the credit dispute experience at Experian is much better than that of Equifax:

- Experian: After submitting a form, I was provided a confirmation number. Within three days, I received an email indicating the collection item has been removed from my credit report. After the removal, my wife credit score was boosted from 661 to 728.

- Equifax: Unlike Experian's, the online credit dispute form at Equifax does not leave space for any verbatim feedback, nor does it provide a confirmation number that allows you to track the dispute progress online. Now I am waiting for early November to retrieve our postal mails from our UPS mailbox, and hopefully the dispute will turn in our favor.

(P.S. We haven't been affected by "universal default" clause yet, and probably never will.)

This Post Has Received 7 Comments. Share Your Opinions Too.


MrOpine Commented on October 21, 2006

I suspect Experian, at some point over the last 6 months, implemented some new "system" to integrate data from different sources. Why? The EXACT same thing happened to me, my credit report became contaminated with strange overdue loans that I'd never heard of. Upon calling Experian (after much trouble) I came to find out the same person with a similar name to mine got "merged" into my credit file. No explanation as to why or who did it just that two seperate people with totally different SSNs got merged onto one file. I did later find out that we had lived in the same zip code and gone to the same college so someone must have assumed we were the same person.

What got me started on the path of finding out what was wrong with my credit file was the fact that a rather rude collection agency started calling me at home demanding payment for credit cards and loans I'd never taken out.

I can only imagine the horror if I had let it go like that for a year or two THEN tried to dispute it. Credit Bureaus are a joke and they should be sued until they are bankrupt or they clean up their act.


Nagel Commented on October 22, 2006

That is some important information. Many people do not even look at their credit reports and studies show a large percent have errors.

Credit bureaus do seem to be a scam. Why should anyone have to pay for their own personal information? While the government probably would do it worse there has to be a way to get it done because it will affect more and more people.


pab Commented on October 22, 2006

Luckily, I have not (yet) had this experience of having incorrect or fraudulent information on my credit reports. However, I regularly obtain free copies of our credit bureau reports from annualcreditreport.com and have done research to prepare myself in case this happens, which I would like to share with you:

Thanks to the FACT Act, we are eligible to receive one free copy from each of the three major credit bureau agencies: Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion. Two options:
1. Obtain one copy of all three at the same time... Repeat in 12 months.
-OR-
2. Space out your requests over 12 months by obtaining one copy of Equifax, then in four months obtain a copy of Experian, and then in four months obtain a copy of TransUnion... Repeat cycle.

Either way, it is important that we are regularly reviewing our credit file since it is so important to get the best interest rate on loans as well as protect from identity theft. If you can take the time to review your credit (whether every one a year or once every four months), then you should not have to pay for a credit monitoring service. If you cannot take the time to do this or do not have the patience to do so, look for an introductory or complimentary credit monitoring service as mm has taken advantage of.

It is important to note, however, that any credit disputes must go through the credit bureau agencies, who will contact the creditor to confirm your statements... You cannot contact the creditor directly and ask them to remove the information from the credit report. Creditors normally send a monthly file (electronically or on a CD) to the three agencies, and it is up to the agencies to correctly read the file and update the appropriate information with the appropriate credit reports.

Of course, your personal "investigation" of any incorrect or fraudulent information could start with the creditor. In this case, call or visit the creditor to find out the source/cause of the mistake. Then, ask for their response in writing on their company letterhead. Draft a dispute letter to send it to the credit bureau agency with a copy of the letter that you received from the creditor and a copy of the whole report with the incorrect information circled and/or highlighted. Always keep the originals of all of these documents, send your letter by certified mail, and request a return receipt so you can document what the agency received and when. Credit bureau agencies must investigate the items in question - usually within 30 days - unless they consider your dispute frivolous. As mentioned in the previous paragraph, the agency will then contact the creditor to confirm your statement. They also must forward all relevant data you provide about the dispute to the information provider. After the information provider receives notice of a dispute from the credit bureau agency, it must investigate, review all relevant information provided, and report the results to the credit bureau agency. If the information provider finds the disputed information to be inaccurate, it must notify any nationwide credit bureau that it reports to so that the credit bureaus can correct this information.

Note that:
* Disputed information that cannot be verified must be deleted from your file.
* If your report contains erroneous information, the credit bureau must correct it.
* If an item is incomplete, the credit bureau must complete it. For example, if your file shows that you have been late making payments, but fails to show that you are no longer delinquent, the credit report must show that you’re current.
* If your file shows an account that belongs to someone else, the credit bureau must delete it.

You should remember that positive credit information will stay on your report for up to seven years, and negative information could stay on your report for as long as 10 years. For example, we cannot dispute that a closed account still appears on our report. However, if it is not marked as “closed,” then we can dispute that it has been closed but not ask that it be removed. For another example, if we had a collection item that we later paid, we cannot ask that the collection be removed but we can send a dispute to ask that it be updated as “paid” and to show a zero balance due.

For more information, consult www.ftc.gov/credit and www.consumer.gov/idtheft


jengod Commented on October 24, 2006

I had almost the exact same situation: a collection appeared on my report for a Cingular account based out of Ventura. I've never had a Cingular phone nor resided in Ventura. I complained and it was cleared very quickly, but lord knows how long it was on there before I pulled my report and found it. This was actually back before I knew what FICO was, so I think I was turned down for a credit card or something (which I did NOT need), and I was like, "Really?" because while I was in debt up to my eyeballs, I was always on time with my tiny, useless minimum payment. I pulled the report and was shocked at the mistake. Anyway, hearing your story and comparing it mine makes me think Cingular has very fishy standards for its customer base, i.e. permitting new applications from identity thieves in the first place, and then not having any capacity to elicit payment from them after a default.


Nationwidebillrelief.com Commented on October 25, 2006

This article is well written and can be very informative for consumers with credit issues. I hope this also encourages other consumers to pull their credit reports at least once a year and look for any negative or inaccurate items they need to dispute. Remember to try and include all three credit reporting agencies while making a dispute.


Ramesh Commented on November 14, 2006

I had a slightly different experience with a Cingular wireless account in default. I DO HAVE a Cingular wireless account which I have had for more than 2 years, never a late payment. So, I was concerned when I received a phone call saying I had Cingular account which was overdue at home. I called Cingular and they had no record of a delinquent account in my name. I guess I have to look for a problem record on my credit file?


Mossi N lvus Commented on June 16, 2017


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