Father & son share name, erroneous collection

By Barry Paperno

Dear Barry,
I went through quite a bit of repairing and resolving good and bad debt prior to purchasing my first home.  I feel as though I gained great knowledge in this field, however, I have something we have encountered and I fear if I don’t get this resolved quickly our son will be in a boat we once traveled and that is not of his doing.

Because our son and his father share a first name, last name and mailing address, we have found that a collection agency not only attached a bad debt to my husband’s credit (which we have no idea what it’s for), but they subsequently added the same collection debt to our son, who just turned 20 in May this year. He is a full time college student that we cash flow and he works part time.

He has yet to apply for any credit as of yet, but we decided to add him to our credit protection program, ran a credit report and that is when we noticed this creditor that is collecting under my husband’s account is now on our son’s account.

The fact is I know what to do with the creditor when it comes to my husband’s credit, however, I’m very upset as to what it could have already done to our son’s credit, not to mention a bad reputation he may have in the credit world once he begins his life fully on his own.  I feel they have committed defamation of his name, character and I am not happy about this.  I know we will have to contact all the credit agencies to try to have it removed, but in my experience this is very hard to do and it takes a very long time.  My next thought is to just get a lawyer and go after the company itself for not fully checking their information before attacking someone.

I would like to know your thoughts? Or any suggestions you may have? -K.R.

Dear K.R.,
I can understand how unnerving that must have been to see a collection on your son’s credit report, not to mention your husband’s. Before spending money unnecessarily on a lawyer, let me offer a few suggestions:

  1. If you haven’t already obtained his credit report from all three credit bureaus – Equifax, Experian and TransUnion – do so. AnnualCreditReport.com is a good site for this, as there’s no charge for one report per year from each bureau.
  2. The process for removing the collection should be the same for both your husband’s and son’s credit reports.
  3. Since you have no idea what the debt is for, send the collection agency a debt validation letter. They will be required to reply to you in writing with information as to the nature of the debt. You can find examples of these letters by Googling “debt validation letter“.
  4. Once you hear back from the collection agency, assuming it’s not your husband’s or son’s, advise the agency in writing that it’s not theirs, to stop any collection actions and to remove it from the credit bureaus – and to advise you in writing when this has been done.
  5. Dispute the collection with all credit bureaus reporting it, including all documentation to support your case.

Important: All correspondence with the collection agency and credit bureaus should be in writing via certified mail – return receipt requested. Don’t speak with the collection agency over the phone.

Then if all else fails, you can take the agency to small claims court (without a lawyer). Going forward, your husband and son should attach as much unique identifying information to each of their credit files by using Sr./Jr., if applicable, and different addresses, such as a business address for you husband or school address for son.

I hope this helps.

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