There is a company that believes I owe them money. I disagree, and they've hired a debt collector. I know how about my rights per the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, and in particular that I should contact the collector in writing within 30 days to dispute the debt. As far as I can tell, though, the debt collector can still report the item to the credit reporting agencies, and the best I would be able to do in that case is to get those agencies to mark the item as "disputed." (The FDCPA doesn't mention this topic, the Fair Credit Reporting Act is vague on the matter, and I haven't found anything directly relevant elsewhere on the internet.)

How I would expect it to work is that, if I tell the debt collector in writing that I don't owe anything, it shouldn't affect my credit report unless a court rules for the creditor. That doesn't seem to be the case, however, as best as I can tell. Am I missing anything?

It is probably relevant that I have actually had a business relationship with the original creditor, and that the claim isn't unfounded; it's just wrong (in my assessment). As such, it doesn't seem like credit reporting agencies would remove a hypothetical entry on the topic as "inaccurate": I wouldn't expect them to adjudicate the matter in detail the way a court would.

2 Answers 2


You're not missing anything. Consumer protection in the US is very basic and limited, if at all. So if someone claims you owe them something, it would be really hard for you to prove otherwise unless you actually drag them to court. Especially if there actually was a relationship, and there probably is some paperwork to substantiate the claim. I suggest talking to a consumer issues attorney.


If you tell the collector that the claim isn't valid, they're obliged to go back to the creditor to verify it. Sometimes that gets a real person, instead of their automatic billing system, to look at the claim, and if you're right, they'll drop it.

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    From what I understand, the consumer has the right in any case to demand that the credit report include with the item a consumer-supplied statement of some certain length which could instruct anyone reading the report how to find evidence showing the creditor's claim was not legitimate. If the "creditor" claims to have solid evidence of the debt but the "debtor" disputes that, the reporting agency will not attempt to determine who is right, but will give both sides a chance to state their case for anyone reading the report.
    – supercat
    Commented Jul 26, 2015 at 22:38
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    @supercat Correct. The limit is 100 words, and the credit reporting agency can instead opt to provide a "clear and accurate codification or summary" of the dispute instead of your literal statement. (Fair Credit Reporting Act section 611, subsections (b) and (c).)
    – user27684
    Commented Jul 27, 2015 at 15:36

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