Since January I have been fighting to get a fraudulent account removed from my credit report. In the time after my initial post about this almost six months ago, I have spent hundreds of hours working to get a $517 collection account for Sprint home phone service removed from my credit report (turns out the guy was from Brooklyn, not the Bronx as I had previously reported).
Over the past six months I have spent time daily doing fun tasks such as:
- Filing online disputes with Experian (3 times) and TransUnion (1 time). Equifax did not have this charge appearing on my credit report (go Equifax!).
- Filing written disputes with supporting evidence. These forms usually come after you lose an online dispute, giving you a “second chance” to prove your case.
- Sending certified letters to both the collection agency (3 of them) and to the credit bureaus (1 to each). Each time I paid about $5 for priority mail with delivery confirmation in case I ever went to court and needed evidence of my mailings.
- Retracing my life for the past few years to gather old bills, pay stubs, my social security card, license, fathers license (to show I’m not a “jr”) and pretty much anything else that I could think of to show that I have never lived in Brooklyn, did not start a home phone account with Sprint in Brooklyn, and that I’m not Adam McFarland “Jr”.
- Talking to our lawyer, who re-assured me that I was doing all that I could. Essentially no lawyer or company would do much more than what I was doing: file disputes over and over and send supporting evidence to both the credit bureaus and the collection agency.
- Checking my credit report every few days to see if anything has changed.
- Calling the collection company, which I eventually realized was an utter waste of time. These customer service reps here all sorts of stories all day long. They have no real power to do anything. They never let you talk to anyone with real power. So you pretty much get a bunch of miserable reps whose sole goal is to get you off the phone and be as mean as possible in doing so. One told me my dispute would take up to 30 days to resolve. When I called after 30 days I was told it would be 45. When I called after 45, I was told it would take 90 – 120 days. Always with a snippy attitude, always with the implication that I was lying. Enough to drive a man insane.
- Researching this stuff online, which pretty much served no purpose other than stressing me out more.
Finally, finally when I checked my credit report yesterday via Experian’s online console – for which I pay $15/month – the account was gone! I had almost given up. When we applied for a business line of credit at our bank earlier this year, the process took about an extra month because the underwriters had to review my situation. I had figured that whenever I went to buy a house I would have to present the mortgage company with a book of evidence just to get approved. Alas, it looks like my credit report is back to normal and my score is back to a respectable 747. Sure, I have some student loans and a car loan on there, but I’ve never missed a payment and the info on there is MINE.
Experian is supposed to notify the other bureaus so let’s hope that they do and this never arises again. My reports all have fraud alerts on them so *supposedly* nothing can be added without my permission and maybe, just maybe this is all done. The lessons from this are hopefully obvious: protect your SS# and credit cards as much as possible, check your credit report often, and if something does go wrong fight like hell until it is removed. This was a hell of a battle I had to fight for something seemingly simple, but I’m glad I continued forcing the issue and finally wore them down. It is utterly satisfying and an immense weight lifted off my shoulders moving forward with my life.