If there is a mistake on a credit card bill, you should take steps immediately to fix the mistake. If you simply ignore the mistake or take too long in notifying the company, the incorrect debt may be assigned to a collection agency. This can make it very difficult to correct the mistake and could negatively affect your credit score until the mistake is fixed.
The Fair Credit Billing Act establishes a process to correct mistakes on your bill. To challenge a charge on a bill under the FCBA, you must send the company a letter describing the mistaken charge. Make sure that you:
- Send the letter within 60 days after the bill with the mistake was sent to you;
- Address the letter to the billing inquiries address shown on the bill; and
- Send the letter certified mail with a return receipt so that you have proof that the letter was received.
The company will then investigate the dispute.
What If an Incorrect Debt Has Already Been Sent to a Collection Agency?
Once a collection agency starts trying to collect on a debt, it can be very difficult to convince them that the debt is not yours. To remove the debt from your record after collection attempts have started can take a long time and a lot of convincing, and any attempt to do so will probably require the assistance of an experienced lawyer familiar with collection laws. This is why it is very important to catch mistakes on your bill early and avoid this hassle.
If a collection agency contacts you regarding a debt that you believe you do not owe, you should send the collection agency a letter within 30 days stating you do not owe money. Once you have sent this letter, the agency cannot contact you without providing you proof of the debt. However, a copy of the bill will meet this requirement so if the debt is the result of a mistake by the creditor and is present on the bill, they will continue to contact you. If this is the case, you will need to convince the credit company to correct the mistake with the collection agency.
Do I Need a Lawyer?
It is very important to catch billing errors as soon as possible because once they are on your record, they can be very difficult to fix. If you have an old mistaken charge, a qualified estate attorney can help you deal with the credit company and any collections agencies in order to fix the error. A lawyer can also represent you in court if the collections company has violated any collections laws.