Do I need to dispute with the credit agencies if I sue under the FCRA?

“Do I Really Have To Dispute False Credit Information under The FCRA With The Credit Reporting Agencies Before Filing Suit Against The Furnisher?”

Do I have to talk with them before suing them under the FCRA?Yes – With Some Exceptions

Let’s deal with the exceptions and get those out of the way first.

If a debt collector (debt buyer, collection agency, or collection attorney) reports false information on your credit reports, you can sue under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA).  You can — but don’t always have to — dispute first under the FCRA.

For example, if you have been sued by a debt collector and won your case (that is you do not owe the money claimed by the collector) and after this if the collector reports you owing money, then you can sue under the FDCPA.

Here’s another example:

When you’ve settle a debt, sometimes the debt collector will still say that you owe them money.

If this is the case, then you normally can sue them directly under the FDCPA.

If any furnisher of information that goes on your credit reports furnishes false information, you may can sue under state law for invasion of privacy, defamation, etc.

However,  there are problems with this approach as some courts believe that your state law claims are knocked out (“pre-empted”) by the federal law FCRA.

What About A Claim Under The Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA)?

When we talk about the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA), Section 1681s-2 applies.

It imposes obligations on the furnishers (i.e. the credit card company, debt collector, etc.) who furnishes the information to the reporting agencies.

The main obligation is to provide correct and accurate information to the credit reporting agencies (Equifax, Experian, Trans Union, etc).

It also requires the furnisher to conduct a proper and reasonable investigation.

However, this is only after the furnisher receives your dispute directly from the credit reporting agency.

So, before any dispute to the credit reporting agency is made, the furnisher must furnish truthful information.

But there is no “private right of action” that allows you to sue the furnisher.

This doesn’t make sense except that the ability to sue a furnisher was a result of give and take in Congress.

The bottom line is you must first dispute with the credit reporting agencies before you have the right to sue the furnisher under the FCRA.

You can sue the furnisher if it does not correct the false information during its investigation.

We often are approached by potential clients who want to sue, or have sued, a furnisher for providing false credit information.

But they have not disputed through the credit reporting agencies.

If no dispute ismade, then there’s no FCRA claim against the furnisher.


If you have false information on your credit reports there is a way to correct it.

Dispute through the credit reporting agencies.

You can also dispute directly to the furnisher.

We often “copy” the furnisher on a dispute letter to the credit bureaus.

That is icing on the cake – but you have to dispute through the credit agencies or there is no FCRA claim.

You also may have claims against the credit reporting agencies.

Feel free to contact us.

If you have any questions or want to discuss your situation with us, please feel free to contact us.

Or call us at 1-205-879-2447 for a free consultation.

I look forward to talking with you soon!

-John G. Watts


  1. rick yaw says:

    We had an account with Verizon Wireless. Not knowing that it only allowed 3MB of usage per month we began to watch television through the “hot spot”, we amassed a $500 bill in a very short time. We did not have the money at the time to pay it and we then received another bill for $800. Shortly after that bill it went to $1000 and during all of this time we weren’t even receiving the service.

    I wrote them and said we would pay the bill but wanted an itemized statement as to what all of the charges were for. Their response was to send the account to a collection agency. I wrote them the same letter that we would pay the bill but wanted an detailed itemized list of all of the charges.

    We saved up the money for the down payment on a second house and upon looking at our credit scores last night we were astounded to find they had been battered by Verizon.
    This destroyed our plans and I would like to know what can be done. Can I sue?

    • JohnGWatts says:


      Is it Verizon or the collection agency reporting on your credit reports? Or is it both?

      Did you tell the collection agency by letter that you disputed the debt and wanted an itemized list of the charges?

      Is the collection agency showing your account as being “disputed” or is that left off of your report?

      We are preparing a suit against Verizon for false credit reporting — we have sued Verizon Wireless a number of times for doing this.

      Get with a consumer lawyer in your state so you can find out your rights….

      Best wishes….

      John Watts
      Birmingham, Alabama

      • Robert says:

        Hello John,
        I’m having a time getting Verizon Wireless to remove a derogatory from my credit report. My wife and I change our account of 11 years into her name to take advantage of a discount offered by VZW to her employer. We were told the only thing that would change was the first mane on the account. Seems a partial months bill fell thru the cracks. Verizon Wireless tried to call me 59 times in the month of an out dated contact number that had been disconnected YEARS ago.They got a message “this number is no longer in service” 59 times. They never once attempted to call any one of the Verizon Wireless cell phones we have, which are listed as contact numbers.

        Bob Russell

        • John Watts says:


          We’ve sued Verizon Wireless as they seem, in my opinion, to not be the sharpest tools in the shed.

          Is this account that’s on your credit reporting from 11 years ago? The one you closed back then? That should NOT be on your credit reports.

          If you are in Alabama call us at 205-879-2447 and let the receptionist know you are having a credit report problem and she’ll get you to the right person at my firm.

          Best wishes getting this corrected ASAP.

          John Watts

          • Mary Headley says:

            How do I get help in Florida, I don’t live in Alabama

          • John Watts says:


            You can find a consumer protection lawyer in Florida who can help you.

            If you need help finding a lawyer, email me: john [at] and let me know what you are dealing with and I can see if I know someone in Florida who can help you. Tell me where you live (Pan Handle, Orlando/Tampa, Miami, etc).


            John Watts

  2. Charlie B says:

    I am 24 fresh out of college and have been working hard at making a solid credit score. I have recently moved to Seattle and had been looking for apartments but kept getting applications declined for bad credit. I found this odd and hopped on my computer to check my credit report. To my amazement there is a $14,000 court judgement recently placed on my public record/credit report! After digging around I found out that the judgement was against my father. They mistakenly put it under my name, but we have the same name, and I’m obviously a Jr. I disputed the error to the company and haven’t heard anything. I would understand the mix up if it was a lesser amount, but $14,000 is a huge chunk of change that I expect would be placed under the right name and social security number. The collector should have known the information was wrong, I got declined while applying for apartments, and I cant apply for any type of loan. This has severely damaged my credit, can I/should I sue?

    Charlie B
    Seattle, WA

    • JohnGWatts says:


      Unfortunately this is a fairly common error — to have a relative (especially Senior/Junior) on your account.

      You have to dispute this directly with the credit reporting agencies and I would also dispute it to the company that received the judgment as well as the collection lawyers.

      The best way to do this is to get with a consumer protection lawyer who handles Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) cases. You can look here to get a starting point:

      Best wishes and let us know what happens.

      John Watts
      Birmingham, Alabama

  3. Starla Lowry says:

    I have given up on credit reports. Verizon has me charged with a cell phone I never ordered or received and they claim it was delivered to my home address. Considering the time, I could have been out of state (not sure). They or Verizon will not correct the credit report. Experian will send me a copy of my credit report, but the other two will not send one. I have been told that another credit bureau has another cell phone purchase listed to me I never order or have I received a statement from the company. I have tried and there is no way to remove false and incorrect information from a credit report. They even have me shown at places where I have never lived and connect me with names that are not mine (relatives).

    • JohnGWatts says:


      It can be frustrating dealing with credit reporting agencies and the furnishers. We recently sued Verizon Wireless for something similar as well as each of the credit reporting agencies. Equifax refused to correct false information. TransUnion did also. Experian would not even accept the investigation requests — this is a typical game Experian plays so we sued them under the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA).

      I’ll get in touch with you privately and let’s see what can be done to get your credit reports and then make sure they are accurate.

      Sorry you are having to deal with this nonsense…

      John Watts

  4. ATG says:

    Through monthly credit monitoring, I noticed a $8200 collection randomly show up on my report. It says it was originally filed in 10/2008 but showed up on 4/2013. When I contacted the collections agency, they told me I was named as a co-signer for an apartment, which is where this bad debt is coming from. I was a leasing agent at this apartment building in 2008 but NEVER co-signed for an apartment (that would be illegal for a staff member to co-sign for an apartment, duh). They are refusing to show me the documentation showing that I ‘co-signed’. I am thinking they saw my name on the application or lease (as I signed as agent for owner), and looped me into the case. How can I get this off and why is it JUST NOW showing up on my report if it was opened in October 2008? What should I do.

    • John Watts says:


      The simple answer is if this is false information, you can dispute through the credit reporting agencies (Equifax, Experian, and Trans Union) or potentially sue the collection agency under the FDCPA (Fair Debt Collection Practices Act) for false credit reporting.

      It is not unusual for alleged “debts” to float around for years and then pop up on your credit report or for you to start getting letters or calls.

      If you live in Alabama give my office a call at 205-879-2447 and we can discuss this. It sounds like a collection agency that is so seduced by the idea of getting $8200 that when you told them your story and asked for documentation (very reasonable request by the way!) they want to “close their eyes” to the truth and hope you will give them money.

      This is called “parking” an account on your report — they just put false information on your reports and trust that the pain will cause you to pay to get rid of the false info. Happens all the time.

      But if you will take action against them, you can turn the tables on this agency.

      Best wishes….

      John Watts
      Birmingham, Alabama

  5. Sandra Green says:

    I received a phone call saying that I owed $79 to verizon and when I called the collection agency back they said that they made a mistake and it was not me. Because of this I went to Equifax and ordered a copy of mine and my husbands credit reports and found that he had a collection agency after him for a Dish Network unpaid bill of $17. I called Dish and they have no recorded of us (stopped Dish in 2002) ever having an account with them. I called the agency, “Enhanced Recovery Corp” and they could not find us anywhere owning anything to anyone. What do I do now? I did file a dispute with Equifax and ERC said that they would look into it also.

    • John Watts says:


      It is very important to keep careful track of what is happening — who you have called, what they said, etc.

      If this account is not removed and if it is false information, it means ERC (Enhanced Recovery Corporation — a company we have sued many times) is falsely credit reporting on you or they are not but Equifax is doing this.

      I would make sure you and your husband pull credit reports from both Experian and Transunion also to make sure ERC is not on those reports.

      If you live in Alabama, give us a call at 205-879-2447 and we’ll be glad to help. If you live out of state, definitely get with a lawyer in your state to help you. You should not have false credit reporting — you have a right to have accurate reports. Sometimes it is necessary to sue to fix your credit reports and that is ok if you need to — whoever is violating the law can fix your credit reports and pay you money.

      Keep us posted….

      John Watts

  6. Rama says:

    On 06/07/2013, I received an alert from my credit monitoring service that negative info has been posted to my experian credit report. When I pulled a credit report, I saw ATG Credit, LLC posted a collection item for $25 due. I called ATG Credit and they said i did business with BMG Music Services back in March 2003 and didn’t pay the bill. I am sure that I never did business with them or bought any merchandize from them.
    I tried to explain to ATG but they don’t listen at all. They didn’t provide the contact details original creditor as they say it is against their policy. Instead, they asked to Google it to find out the details of the original creditor. They posted on my credit report as if this all happened on 02/2013.

    Also, I noticed that ATG provided false credit information about the Original Creditor to the Credit Reporting Agency. My Experian Credit Report shows that “PAY” is the Original Creditor but ATG says that the Original Creditor is “BMG Music Services”.

    I live in California. Please advice what are my options.


    • John Watts says:


      First, I think you need to get with a consumer lawyer in California to advise you on your options.

      Second, this is a fairly common dirty trick to put a small bogus balance on your credit report. The thought process of the debt collectors is “Hey, this is too small to fight over. Just pay it and be done.”

      Third, any false information on your credit report that the collection agency knows is false (or should know is false) creates liability under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) and you can sue them directly. Often it is good to still dispute through the credit reporting agencies to give them a chance to do the right thing — if they don’t then you can sue them under the Fair Credit Reporting Act also.

      Fourth, any calls you have with any collection agency should be documented — who you called (or who called you), when the call happened, and what was said in the call.

      Sorry you are dealing with this non sense…..

      Keep us posted when you get this resolved….

      Best wishes

      John Watts

  7. Art Hill says:

    Another dirty trick played by credit bureaus. Sued Equifax. A year later, a Dell Financial Services account disappeared from my credit reports. Dfs claims they re-reported the info when contacted directly. Then claim they can’t locate the account when I go through the bureaus. The bureaus ignore the credit report I include with the disputes from them showing the account reported and either do not respond (Equifax) or claim they don’t add information from private parties (Dell who is a furnisher).

    Moral of the story is…look to ensure your good credit remains also, especially if you have sued a car or a furnisher. Removing good credit can lower your score too.

    • John Watts says:

      That’s a new one for me. When you sue Equifax they normally take your credit report offline which is not kosher. They always put it back when you point out that you will amend your lawsuit to add this.

      But taking an account off? No prohibition against this as we don’t have a right to force companies to report accounts.

      Is Dell on your other reports?

      Thanks for the tip and insight and keep us posted.

      John Watts

  8. Jonathan Walker says:

    I have been trying to turn around my credit for years. I was recently turned down for a job and an apartment. So I checked my credit. It has millions of dollars in mortgages and one foreclosure. I have never owned a house m entire life. I understand that this site is for Alabama residence but when it gets up into the millions of dollars I get nervous. For obvious reasons. Can I sue for misrepresentation and false information. Can I sue the person using my SS #? I disputed it with the one agency and awaiting a response. Its been less than thirty days but my credit report is a mess because of this person that stole my identity. I don’t have any houses…heck…I am on disability! Can you help me?

    • John Watts says:


      I’m sorry you have been the apparent victim of identity theft. It is possible someone with a similar name has had their file mixed up with yours but it is most likely identity theft.

      Given how serious the errors are on your credit reports, you need to get with a lawyer in your state.

      What state do you live in?

      I’ll be happy to make a suggestion if I happen to know someone in your state.

      If the false information is not corrected you may be able to sue under the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) but get with a lawyer in your state who is experienced in suing under the FCRA.

      Best wishes and I look forward to hearing from you as to your state.


      John Watts

  9. dawn says:

    I filed bankruptcy(13)in 2006, I was buying a mobile home on payments through the bank. I did not include it in the bankruptcy and after looking at papers I have from bankruptcy it is not listed in paperwork anywhere.I recently acquired my credit report and it says that I filed bankruptcy and the bank reported they foreclosed on said mobile home. When in fact I have papers from bank stating I maid monthly payments and paid it off in full on march 29th of 2011.I also have the title for the title to the mobile home showing ownership.I have spoke to the bank who has stated they have no idea if they have made a mistake or if I say is true yet I have all this paperwork from them showing payments and ownership. They have stated they are unable to fix without investigation yet refused to investigate.what are my options at this point. Disgruntled in Kansas

    • John Watts says:

      Dawn you’ll need to get with a lawyer in Kansas to advise you on this as we can’t practice in Kansas unless a Kansas lawyer gets us admitted to federal court in Kansas.

      Having said that, if you paid off the loan and there was NO foreclosure then your credit report showing a foreclosure and I’m assuming an amount still owed sounds false to me.

      We see a lot of this where companies refuse to correct false information.

      Get with an experienced FCRA lawyer as you may have a significant case but you need to make sure you have done — or do — the right type of disputes and that you bring the case in the right way.

      Best wishes with your situation and I hope you get this straightened out soon — I understand how frustrating this can be!

      John Watts

  10. Cindi King says:

    I recently received a letter from 5/3 bank. Stating they inadvertently reported to four of the credit agencies that I was bankrupt. I thought what. This happened during October thru December 2013. I just received the letter about 2 weeks ago. I am in total shock because my husband and I have worked very hard in keeping a high credit score. I have heard that this can stay on your report for up to 10 years. They said they have corrected this. In my opinion isn’t it the bank who was negligent in sending the false information in the first place? I haven’t banked with them for a few years now. I don’t know how they would get information that I had filed when it is not there???? Shouldn’t I sue 5/3 for negligence because this is something that I don’t appreciate at all.

    • John Watts says:


      Sorry this happened.

      Few suggestions for you:

      **Pull your credit reports and see what is reporting and what 5/3 says about you.
      **If any false information, dispute it through the credit reporting agencies and copy 5/3 on it — you can send the letter they sent you. Send all letters certified mail, return receipt.
      **If there is no false information, it depends on where you are as to whether you can sue outside of the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA).

      Many judges have ruled there is no state law (negligence) that you can sue on. Many others have ruled the other way so it does depend on where you live.

      Check with a lawyer in your state who does this type of litigation. If that’s in Alabama, feel free to call my office at 205-879-2447.

      Amazing how badly these companies mess up credit reports — normally they don’t fix it voluntarily so there is that to be said for 5/3….

      But make sure they have fixed it — pull your credit reports. or go to each bureau and pull your report from that place only (Equifax from Equifax, Experian from Experian, TransUnion from TransUnion, etc).

      John Watts

  11. Janette says:

    Hi I had just recently checked all 3 credit reports, and it turns out that my BANK gave them false information! like my name. They have me down as Jeanette Shepard, when that is in fact not my name, my name is Janette Clarke, big differnece, and I’ve never been married or anything, so I am not sure why they did that, but can they get in trouble for supplying false info?

    • John Watts says:


      If your credit reports have false information, you can dispute it to get it fixed. If the bank, which is a “furnisher” under the law, furnished false information, then it has to fix it when you dispute through the credit reporting agencies.

      Sometimes it is merely a typo or there may be a “Jeanette Shepherd” with a similar date of birth, or social, or other “personal identifier” who the bank is getting you confused with….

      Dispute it in writing, certified mail, to both the credit reporting agencies AND the bank and tell the exactly what is wrong, what you want to happen, and see what response you get.

      If you live in Alabama and want to talk with us you can call us at 205-879-2447 or you can find a consumer lawyer in your state at

      Best wishes

      John Watts

  12. catrina cassidt says:

    My husband had gotten dish network(in his name) but he didnt have a credit card so I gave them my info just to use my card to start.we were seperated but he gave me the money to do it for him and the kids.the first bill came in my name so he called and they said it was put in my name because of the card name.we called several times since.I now have a 500$ bill in collection. What can i do?

    • John Watts says:

      If the card on the account was in your name but the service (Dish Network) is in his name, I don’t think you have liability on this.

      Is the collector claiming YOU owe $500?

      Is the collector on YOUR credit report? (Check to find out for free).

      Is the collector calling for you? Leaving you messages?

      Which collector is it?

      Be glad to help — give us a call at 205-879-2447 and Carolyn will set us up a meeting or call so we can find out more to be able to help you.


      John Watts
      Birmingham, Alabama

  13. Vicki says:

    Hello. In May 2013 was under eviction from my apartment because my roomate failed to pay her share of the rent and disappeared on me. I went to the eviction hearing and sat down with court appointed people and the lawyer from the apartment company. The lawyer from the property stated that the manager did not want to work with me as far as staying in the apartment and wanted to indeed evict me. The balance owed on the apartment was 5,960 dollars. However, in court the lawyer offered me a settlement of assuming the whole debt under just my name, paying 1,200 dollars, and evicting the property in 7 days. I got everything in writing and it was signed by the court.

    A month later, when I logged on to renters portal, I realized they still had the 5,960 balance showed on my account. I called the apartment office that day and they told me to leave a message for the manager. I left a message and got no response. I called again about a week later and finally got a hold of the manager. I asked him why the portal still showed the 5,960 balance when I assumed the debt and setteled in court with their lawyer to pay the 1,200. He acted like he did not know anything about the settlement, but stated that he would get in touch with their lawyer and get it corrected.

    With being busy, and life in general I forgot about this all and never checked back. A year later (last week) I was looking at my yearly free credit report. On my report I saw the 1,200 settlemtnt I made with the apartment in court, but to my suprise I also saw the 5,960 balance on there as well that was showing a negative reporting on my credit since 8/2013.

    I really want to sue the company because I feel like it was neglect on their part and they cared nothing to fix this error even after I told them. I dont understand how I settled in court with their lawyer and on top of that am still getting the 5,960 negatively affecting my credit for about a year.

    What are th steps I should take as far as lawsuit? And do I in fact even have a case?

    • John Watts says:

      I suggest you either do this on your own or get with a consumer protection attorney in your state — dispute the debt that is listed on your credit report that shows you owe $5,960. Hard to owe a balance when you owe nothing since you settled the debt.

      If it doesn’t get fixed, you sue in federal court under the FCRA.

      I need to know more details but generally you can’t sue without doing a proper dispute under the FCRA.

      If you are in Alabama, give us a call at 205-879-2447 and we’ll be glad to chat with you about what exact steps you need to take now to be able to get your credit repaired or sue for money damages if these guys won’t fix your credit report to make it accurate.

      Best wishes

      John Watts

  14. David says:

    Found this via Google search.

    I’m curious to ask you question…

    I used to share/rent an 2-BR apartment with two other adults roommates in Southern California. We split 1/3 to pay the rent. Both my roommates have history of failing to pay rent on time several times and only twice I had to cover ALL rent myself which pissed me off. That’s $1,380.00 rent. My primary income is from government benefit which is approx $760 a month. I had two contract agreement with them to re-pay me back the rent owed. They still failed.

    Until the last time they’ve failed to pay rent again. I already paid my rent on time. The manager fed up and refused to accept the rent from my roommates and proceed to do an eviction. I felt like both my roommates and the manager are breaching MY lease contract which I REFUSE to break it myself because I always paid the portion of rent on time and had to fight with the roommates to pay the rent many times. After received the summons, I quickly went to legal aid office. I spoke with an attorney at local legal aid office and asked her a really important question about my credit report. She said they (apartment) CAN NOT report me to credit bureau IF I vacate the apartment and hand over the keys. So I decided to SAVE/PROTECT my credit report by forced my roommates to vacate out the unit and vacate myself out before the end of the month. Neither the apartment or their attorney send my debt to collection agency.

    The apt manager had dropped the eviction so I don’t have to go to the court.

    I checked my credit report and discovered that there’s debt collection on it which from the apartment. I was kinda of confused and contradicted from what the attorney at legal aid office told me.

    I know I may have to file a dispute with the credit bureau first but the problem is how do I explain it to them?

    Should I file dispute to credit bureau? Or should I write a letter dispute to the collection agency instead? Where do I start?

    I really would like to get my hands on civil/penal code # with FCRA to use it to emphasize to both collection agency and the creditor (property management in Northern California).


    • John Watts says:

      Thanks for your comment.

      Some of the answers will depend on where you live — are you still in California?

      There may be some aspect of California law that says if you hand over the keys and vacate they cannot credit report as no money is owed. That seems surprising to me but I don’t practice in California so I just don’t know.

      I suggest you contact a friend of mine Robert (Bob) Brennan in the LA area — he’s great with credit reporting and I’m sure he’ll know the answer.

      If you were in Alabama you would have a difficult time with this case unless you were sued for money damages and then the case was dismissed with prejudice. That would help protect you from any credit reporting related to the apartment complex or any collector for the apartments.

      So give Bob a call at 1-888-979-9308 and see if he can help you — tell him I sent you his way. He’s a good guy.

      Have a great day and thanks again for your comment….

      John Watts

  15. Becky says:

    On July 18, 2012 I received a letter from MediCredit INC. stating I owed Winter Haven Hospital 1149.00 for lab/urology (220.00), emergency room service (927.00), and Motrin (2.00) minus 459.60 for uninsured Discount. This debt was not mine so I called MediCredit and disputed it. They verified the DOB and age of this person(16, i am almost 50) was indeed not mine, but somehow my SS# was tied to this account yet this bill from them states and entirely different SS# than mine. The only common factor i had to this person is we had the same first name. So, they removed all the negative reports to the credit agencies and I thought i was done with this.

    On July 29, 2014 I get a credit alert about possible negative actions on my credit report. I check my experian report and what do you know, there is the same debt, same amount, everything once again on my credit report, but this time with the Law office of Mitchell out of Texas. I called them and they refuse to remove it even knowing this is not my debt (different DOB and age issue). They gave me a consumer advocacy number to call and complain. They never communicated with me in anyway about this debt, but they immediately reported it to the credit agencies So, the only thing I can take from this ordeal is that Medicredit sold this old debt that they knew was not mine and did not inform the buyers of this debt (Mitchell) that I was not the person who owed it.

    I am not really sure what to do. Why is a collection agency allowed to sell old debt and not inform the buyer of this old debt that I wasn’t the person who owed this. Is this something I am going to have to deal with every 1-2 years. Did these companies just pick me out as a random debtor thinking i would just pay someone else debt because we have the same first name and now they refuse to remove it knowing it is not mine.

    Do I need to get a lawyer to stop these agencies? I feel like this is going to keep happening.

    Any help will be greatly appreciated.

    • John Watts says:


      This has been a frustrating experience for you I know. If you live in Alabama we will be happy to talk to you about representing you as it looks like the Mitchell lawfirm has violated the FDCPA. Medicredit may have sold the debt or perhaps it sent it back to the medical provider who then sent it to Mitchell.

      No debt collector should ever collect on or report a debt that is not yours — whether it is identity theft or someone mixed up the account this is clearly not yours from what you wrote. Often the only way to stop this is to sue under the FDCPA to get this off of your credit report, get money damages, and to make sure this never happens again to you on this “debt”.

      In any event, you should not have to deal with this, especially with a lawfirm. Some collection lawfirms are more of a collection agency which happens to be owned by a lawyer.

      If you live outside of Alabama we will help you find the right lawyer and if you are in Alabama we’ll be glad to help you directly. Give us a call at 205-879-2447 and we can set up a call or meeting with my law partner Stan Herring or with me.

      Talk to you soon.

      John Watts

      • Becky says:

        I did call Winter Haven Hospital to talk with them directly and they had no idea who I was or how I became involved in this. They actually asked my if this other Becky was my daughter. After stating I have never gave birth to any children and would take a test to prove it, they agreed that the debt was not mine and said they would inform the companies they have working for them to collect this debt that it is not mine. They told me I should receive a letter in 10 business days verifying this is not my debt. I’m waiting on the letter. This is crazy. I just purchased a house in April, if this would have happened then, I would not have been able to finance this home. These companies need to be more responsible.Thank you so much for your advise and I’ll keep updates on this and call if it comes down to it.

        Thank you

        • John Watts says:

          Glad that got taken care of.

          Do be careful of this happening over and over with different collection agencies. We just sued a debt collector who admitted we did not owe the debt, and then two years later puts a collection account on my client’s credit report.

          The way to make sure this goes away is to sue the collectors when they come after you and after they pay money, they will make sure not to bother you again. And other collection agencies will know that you sued and they tend to leave you alone also.

          Give us a call if you want to put a stop to this once and for all.



          John Watts

  16. So i was 14 and had braces, we moved to arizona so i never finished my appointments. I am now 19 and found out about a collection for 1500 on my credit. I tried to dispute it because i was only 14 and i don’t believe i should be held responsible. I have been denied for so many things because of the collection. I tried to dispute it and i just received a letter saying that the collection was verified and there will be no change. I WAS 14!!!!!!! and now they filed collections on me. I really need help, the dispute with the credit bureau didnt do anything for me….

    • John Watts says:


      That is crazy — this debt should not be on your credit report unless the law in Arizona is much different than everywhere I know of.

      Who is the collector?

      Best advice is to get with an Arizona lawyer who does consumer protection. He or she will probably have you send a dispute letter to the collector AND to the credit reporting agencies documenting your age, etc. and that you don’t owe this debt (if that is the law in AZ).

      That is just crazy sounding that they are coming after you for this.

      Keep us posted on how it is going and that you found a lawyer to help you there.

      John Watts

  17. Michele says:

    I have several inaccurate entries on my credit report. Two entries are from a hospital that worked with my doctor for reading xray reports. When they provided these services for me & my son, they were given my insurance info. Unfortunately, they did not file a claim with them. When I became aware of this, I contacted them in both instances to advise that he & I had insurance, which should have been provided by my doctor. But by this time in both instances, they had sent my info to collection agencies. They billed my insurance and reported to the credit bureaus that they have been paid but it is reporting that it was in collection so they are negative items on my report. I disputed the info because it was their fault that the accounts were sent to collection but they will not remove the collection agencies off my reports. The agencies are Merchants Adjustment Service & west asset Management.
    Also, I attempted to get a car loan financed through a car dealership. They submitted my account to multiple credit companies which led to an insane amount of hard inquiries on my credit reports. I was not aware or notified of this until I pulled my reports. I was livid. I only authorized the dealership to consider financing ( which they approved on the condition that I trade one of my vehicles in & I refused). Is this legal ?

    • John Watts says:


      Medical debt and collections and insurance — three ways to make you go crazy. It is very frustrating dealing with this especially when the medical debt is not properly submitted to insurance.

      You may have some options — get with a consumer lawyer to look into the details. If you are in Alabama you are welcome to call us at 205-879-2447.

      On the car dealership, did you discuss who they would submit applications to? Within a set period of time normally multiple inquiries don’t hurt you as the credit scoring companies don’t want to force you to go with the first loan offered. But there can still be violations of the law — just need some more details.

      Again get with a lawyer on this as it sounds like you have been mistreated.

      John Watts

  18. Josh says:

    I filed and was granted a chapter 7 discharge in Alabama My attorney was a horrendous screw up and cost me a vehicle by missing a hearing. I let it go because it was medical and are human. My wife was a cosigner and utilized her rights as such to retain vehicle we paid it off in full. I have sent numerous letters to Equifax to fix report they refuse. Come back as “verified” two other creditors that were included in discharge continue to report “in collections” I’m at the end of my rope and am getting nowhere while my credit is now worse then before filing due to continously allowing erroneous information to be re reported over and over.. Thoughts?

    • John Watts says:


      Sorry you had a bad experience with your bankruptcy and your former lawyer.

      I’m a bit confused — what exactly is Equifax showing on these accounts?

      What about Experian and TransUnion? If you haven’t already, pull all three from to get and save your reports as .PDF

      As a general rule, if there is false information, then we do have to dispute it through Equifax (and possibly Experian and Transunion if showing up there) and see what they do with it.

      Maybe easier if you want to contact us through our website or by calling us at 205-879-2447.

      Thanks and be glad to help you.

      John Watts

  19. Marybeth says:

    Hi John, I have a question regarding suing a hospital. In Oct. of 2013, we got a call from a woman in Arizona from a doctor’s office. (We live in NH.) She was just inquiring about a bill my husband owed from a month before when he had been seen at an E.R. in AZ. I was joking with him on the phone (and her) and asked him why he flew a few thousand miles to go to an E.R. Long story short, we got several bills from doctors who were on call for the person they treated. ALL of them realized it was not my husband and simply didn’t bother us again. All, that is, except the hospital itself. I contacted billing, they asked my husband to send a copy of his NH license, which he did, within the hour. They did receive it, and never did anything with it, and continued billing us. I sent a certified letter, with full info, and so forth, never heard back from them. It is my husband’s social, name, address, everything. 9 years ago he was in AZ for a family wedding, and had kidney stones, so he was at this E.R. one time 9 years ago. His name is fairly common, so chances are they started typing in the patient’s name, and it filled in with my husband’s info from when he was there that time years ago. Hospital sent it on to a collection agency, and we are in the process now of dealing with that. We disputed it, they said they had to go back to the hospital and present this info to them, and we never heard anything, until they sent a bill again, months later. No info on what the hospital said about it. The bill is just under $20,000. My question is, can a hospital (not the collection agency) be sued for this? While I understand the collection agency maybe can be, I don’t understand why a hospital can’t be sued, when they knowingly and continuously have billed the wrong person. They know it for a fact,and yet refuse to do anything about it. THAT is why they should be sued. If this hits our credit (hasn’t yet) it will hurt it, and we have excellent credit, and it is not our bill. Even though I’m not in your state, I found your informative web page, so thought I would ask, to try and figure out why a hospital can’t be sued (for this type of thing.) Just not fair. Thanks for your time.

  20. jeff says:


    I am a current VZ client in MA have been for many years, about 2 years ago i switched from my own plan to a family plan and was told my balance would transfer. I moved and never thought anything of it, when running my credit a few weeks back to try and by a house they told me i had a $115 balance in collections.

    I called VZ and they said balances dont transfer and that is from your old bill before u went over to a family plan. I told them i was told they do. They said you got inaccurate information. I told them it was VZ who gave me that info. They dont care. I am more than happy to pay the $115 if they would remove it, which they will not do…. any help on how to fight this? I have called 5 times and they just keep telling me there is no one else to speak to this will not be removed. It is my only blemish on my credit report and its killing me

  21. James Deckard says:

    Live in Texas…Friday June 12, 2015 EQUIFAX… requested/disputed online a good account that was paid in full 6/2008 however still showed a balance of 23,426.00 on old car lease. Also disputed an incorrect address along with some hard inquiry’s for auto loans over the past 3 months. I paid off my truck August 2014…I’m not looking for a new car/truck. After submitting the request got an automated email from Equifax stating need to fax in copy of dispute letter. SS#…DL…proof of res….June 17, 2015 received email stating that investigation is complete. Strange because I never set in the requested documentation yet….Results of investigation….deleted address in dispute….car loan balance was verified and the hard inquiry’s where verified. Now I knew for a fact they faulsified the verification….the updated report shows the Credit Union Of Texas verified the account balance and reported back to Equifax early Monday morning June 15, 2015…impossible….bank is closed over the weekend. Called Equifax talked to Mira and she stated that all was verified. I’m not stupid….I work in finance and know it takes longer than a few hrs to verify the requested information. I called Credit Uinion of Texas talked to Vivian in the Credit Adjustment department and she verified that they have never received a request from Equifax to verify the account balance. She is sending me a letter stating this as well. So wouldn’t this be a major violation in the FCRA and falsifying a credit report. Know for a fact they lied about verifying the account balance they also lied about a true verification of the hard inquiry’s. She told me that the reports cannot be updated manually it is all done electronically by the furnishers of the information. I ask her if that was the case then how did the incorrect address get removed and how could they do anything in that short of time specially when Equifax policy is nothing can proceed without the requested identity documentation is received and verified. Wouldn’t this be grounds for a law suit. Thank you for your time.

  22. Dustin says:

    I recently went to purchase a car and found that there was an open account for collection on my credit report for $51 from an apartment complex I had moved out of 7 months ago. So I called the property manager at the complex (as I knew I had no outstanding balances on my account) and spoke with her who confirmed that my account was clear and said that it must have been a mistake and that she was going to make some calls and get back to me. My question is what do I need to do to get this removed? Even with a letter from the complex stating it being a mistake, Im sure what I need to do next. Thanks.

    • John Watts says:


      Who is reporting this — the apartment complex or a collection agency?

      It changes a bit how you handle it but here is always a safe approach:
      **Send by certified mail a letter to the person reporting (apartment or collection agency) and to the credit reporting agencies (all three — Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion) saying this should be deleted, you don’t owe anything, etc. and enclose the letter you received from the apartment place.
      **Keep signed copy of your letter
      **Send it certified to the four places (furnisher — apartment or collection agency; and the 3 credit bureaus)

      This should solve your problem pretty easily.

      If for some reason it doesn’t, then you look at suing whoever is keeping this on your credit report. That tends to make them remove it and pay you and your lawyer money. And they keep it off so it doesn’t “pop back up” on your credit reports.

      I hope that was clear — if not let me know. And if you live in Alabama let us know and we can help you write the letter, walk you through the process, etc.


      John Watts

  23. Val says:

    Mr. Watts,

    I’m so very glad I found your site through Google search. I lost my job in 2008, resulting in a period of unemployment. Over the course of six months, I racked up housing, auto loan, medical, phone, cable, and utility debt. The eviction and a auto repossession were/are a combined total of 28k. I, admittedly, made a conscious decision to forego payment attempts towards each of these. I determined it to be in my best interest to wait them out. I decided to go with the seven year drop off. If I’d chosen to pay all of my debts, it would’ve driven me in further “in the hole” resulting in despairing poverty. Luckily I was able to move in with a loving relative rent free. I was also able to find a job in my field soon after. I’ve been regularly monitoring my report, and restoring my credit for five years. I’ve slowly, but surely paid off the feasible, lesser debts. Several thousand dollars later, I will finally be debt free early December. I’ve looked forward to this financial freedom. I’d never had debt before the layoff. Once gainfully employed, I moved forward as a fiscally responsible individual. As I’ve maintained a consistent good standing with zero late payments; utilized less than 30% of my two credit cards; and kept zero hard inquiries- I’ve anticipated an empowering boost to my credit score once these last anchors were removed. As it stands, my current score is poor and keeps me stagnant. I can’t get my own place until the eviction is gone. I can’t get a car until the auto loan charge off leaves. Having bad credit is its own limiting entity…

    The eviction drops off my report in November.
    My problem is, I logged onto Credit Karma this morning expecting to see the auto loan gone and it was still there. Based upon my free credit reports from the three bureaus, it should’ve dropped off Transunion and Experian in June, and Equifax in September. I’ve not checked my reports because I was waiting a bit for October to be well and truly here. I thought to give Equifax a little time because I wanted the pleasure of seeing it gone and viewing my new score!

    It’s on all three of them.
    I called each to verify because I was clearly confused as to why it was still appearing. Thinking I’d made some mistake or misread, I asked them what was the month and year removal estimate— April or May 2025!!!

    •This account was opened 6/16/2007
    •Last payment Made 9/26/2008
    •Date closed 9/30/2008
    It is a Charged Off account

    Again, It’s removal estimate was:
    •Transunion 6/2015
    •Experian 6/2015
    •Equifax 9/2015

    I have not had any contact with this company since walking in to make that 9/26/2008 payment. On every subsequent credit report I have, their remarks section have stated “no contact number or forwarding address; customer unable to locate consumer; and charged off as bad debt. No forwarding address” They haven’t had a number for me since the phone I registered with was cut off in 2008. I moved from the state and do not have a registered address. All of my mail is paperless, sent to my email.

    The representatives from the three agencies informed me that the account was updated 8/31/2015 and 9/10/2015; it’s currently listed as a satisfactory account; and it has no late payments.

    This has placed it in good standing, for that reason it will remain for ten years. That’s why it will not be removed until 2025.

    I feel this must be illegal. I believe it is fraudulent reporting to keep it on my record, and force payment. I’d like to know IS this legal. Can they do this? What options do I have?

    Thank you so very much in advance. All information is welcome/helpful. I tried to be as thorough as possible in my statement so that you have the info that I do. However, let me know if you need more.

  24. Baffled says:

    I live in the state of MO and have received a letter from Trans Union station that my Ssn, dob, and other sensitive information has been stolen. They offered me 2years free ID protection and gave me a certain period of time that I must reach out to them to gain this free ID protection. This was the actual credit bureau who’s system was broken into and who my information was stolen from. Can I sue?

    • John Watts says:

      I reached out to you directly — critical that we talk ASAP.

      Please contact my office at 205-879-2447 and ask to speak to Carolyn so we can get a copy of the letter you mentioned. We can help you with this but there is urgency as far as time so you preserve your rights.

      Be happy to help you think through your options — thanks for reaching out to us.

      John Watts

  25. Jessica says:

    I have two accounts in collections from AT&T wireless showing on my credit report. One of these accounts is a valid account, the second account is with a company called New Millennium Concepts, and has a balance of $1004. I have never received any type of documentation from his company regarding any debt, so I disputed this account. Now I am receiving calls from the collection agency stating that this is my debt and I will have to pay for it. I have contacted both AT&T and the legitimate company, AFNI and both companies are saying that I only show 1 AT&T wireless account. Neither company will give me written documentation of this. I have just received notice from Transunion that this second account, the one with New Millennium has been verified. This account could not have possibly been verified with AT&T because every time I call, I am told that I only have one account with AFNI. How can I get this information removed from my credit report?

    • John Watts says:


      Ultimately you should get with a lawyer who understands the FCRA (Fair Credit Reporting Act) and the FDCPA (Fair Debt Collection Practices Act). But until then, here are some thoughts for you.

      1. Ask for a letter from AFNI and from AT&T about there only being one account. If they refuse to give you one, ask them why? If asking over the phone doesn’t work, then ask in writing by certified mail. That is usually taken more seriously.

      2. The new company calling you — ask them to send you proof in writing. Again you can send them a certified mail — you can use this letter as a basis but add in there that you have been told by AT&T that there is only one debt so you are really confused why they are coming after you.

      3. If this new company is on your report you can send a dispute directly to the credit reporting agency.

      In situations like this it is not so much “sequential” — do step one, then step two, then step three, etc. You want to do stuff simultaneously — so step one and two and three are done at same time, etc.

      Keep me posted and if you live in Alabama give us a call at 205-879-2447 and we’ll be glad to help walk you through this by phone.


      John Watts

  26. Sheree says:

    I realize this post is a few years old but I need some advice. In 2014 I took out a payday loan after becoming aware that payday loans were illegal in Pennsylvania the state I reside in I notified the payday loan company that I would only pay the principle of the loan. The payday loan company never replied to me therefore I stopped paying the loan. Six months later I applied for credit and was denied after checking my TransUnion report I noticed the payday loan company reporting a charge off on my credit report in the amount well over the principle so I disputed the account online. The account was verified so I waited a few months and disputed over the phone explaining the account was illegal but it was verified again. About a year later I sent a certified letter to TransUnion explaining the account was illegal and void so I believed they were in violation of the FCRA by counting to report the account. The account was updated but I didn’t noticed any changes so I sent a second letter asking again for the account to be deleted. I also asked the procedures in how the verified the account this letter was also mailed to the CEO of TransUnion. I have contacted my state’s attorney general concerning this matter and yet this account is still on my credit report. Can I sue TransUnion under 1681.

    • John Watts says:


      You may be able to.

      First, if you still live in PA, I would get with a consumer protection lawyer there who knows about the FCRA.

      Second, alot of this will come down to whether the account is accurate or not. Is it iron clad this loan was illegal and uncollectible? Could the pay day lender collect the principal but not any interest? The credit reporting agencies love to argue they have no idea whether something is accurate or not so you have to be prepared for that.

      Third, we often sue the credit bureau AND the furnisher (pay day lender here). Sometimes we just sue the furnisher. That can be an easier option if there is some uncertainty about whether the credit bureau fully understands your position. But perhaps the pay day lender knows the loan is illegal, etc.

      So in summary you may be able to sue but look into suing the furnisher (pay day lender) and definitely get with a lawyer in your state who knows your federal judges and the way they rule on these issues. Unfortunately here in Alabama these loans are legal (we have lousy state consumer protection laws) but if these loans are illegal there, you may have a good argument.

      Best wishes!!

      John Watts

  27. Joy says:

    I have been with Verizon since it was Nextel.
    This company has taken advantage of me financially for many years.
    However, in the past 2-3 years the charges have escalated and now they have a collection company sending me letters over a mistake that they even admitted was their fault.
    I’ve also been getting overage charges for lines that do not even have data and yet they keep billing me $305 for overage fees.
    The bill I just had to pay was $1,200!
    I need to get advice from an attorney in Birmingham to know how to proceed forward.
    I very much want to sue this company but want to know the best route to go down.
    If there is someone that I could speak with about this I would greatly appreciate the name and number of that person.

    Thank you,


    • John Watts says:


      Be happy to help you. Call us at 205-879-2447 and ask for Randi — she helps me with credit report errors.

      Make sure you have all of your paperwork handy (including credit reports and collection letters) so we can see it and we’ll be happy to help you.

      Talk to you soon!

      John Watts

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