From time to time, your credit score might take a sudden and inexplicable dip. When you take a closer look, you determine that the same negative information – like a late payment for an open debt account – has been repeated or duplicated.
This kind of credit report double jeopardy can be very hazardous for your financial health. Let’s break down what credit report double jeopardy is and how to fix it if you notice it on your credit report.
Credit report double jeopardy occurs when the same collection account is listed more than once on your credit report.
A collection account is any open debt, line of credit, or owed payment you have to another person or party. Some examples include mortgages, car loans, personal loans, etc.
Normally, a collection account should only be listed once on your credit report no matter how many times it changes hands or how many times the “owner” of the debt changes. But in some cases, you may notice that the same collection account is listed twice, damaging your credit score in the process.
Here’s a specific example of double jeopardy affecting a hypothetical credit report.
Say that you fall behind on a debt account, like a loan for your car. Your creditor charges off your account; that means that the creditor believes you will not pay down the debt, so it has written it off as a loss. It’s a huge negative mark on your credit report and may lead to your credit score decreasing by several points.
However, creditors can sell charged-off accounts to collection agencies, such as debt collectors. If the debt collector then lists the same collection account in a credit furnishing report to the credit bureaus, that car loan could be listed twice on your credit report by mistake.
As a result, you receive double the damage to your credit score. If you ever believe your credit report is affected by double jeopardy, you need to take care of the issue as quickly as possible.
Double jeopardy is never permitted on your credit report for one big reason: the FCRA or Fair Credit Reporting Act.
The FCRA states that credit furnishers, collection agencies, and the credit bureaus all have to use accurate, up-to-date information for consumer credit reports. If your credit report has been subjected to double jeopardy, it’s necessarily erroneous – the same collection account can’t be listed twice since two organizations can’t own or be responsible for the same debt.
Since double jeopardy is illegal, you have the right to contest any instances of it affecting your credit report. Furthermore, if a creditor or collection agency doesn’t correct any erroneous information, you may have grounds for legal action up to and including a lawsuit.
Unfortunately, credit report double jeopardy can have severe negative effects very quickly.
For starters, your credit score may decrease very quickly. The same collection account listed multiple times will have an outsized, negative effect on your creditworthiness, making it more difficult for you to qualify for loans, credit cards, and more.
In the long run, double jeopardy on your credit report can be so negative that it may prevent you from being hired by certain organizations. If an employer looks at your credit history, for example, then discovers that you have a very low credit score and “multiple” open debts, they may decide not to hire you, even though the information they used is inaccurate.
You can fix double jeopardy on your credit report by filing a straightforward, step-by-step process.
First, acquire a free copy of your credit report from each of the three big credit bureaus. The FCRA states that you have the right to a free credit report once per year from these agencies. You can request them online, then see a digital copy or get a physical copy mailed to you.
Look over each of the credit reports for double jeopardy or other credit issues. In many cases, if one credit report has an error, the others are likely to have the same error as well.
Should you locate double jeopardy problems or other issues, file a dispute letter with the affected credit bureaus. You can do this online, by phone, or by physical mail. Note that filing a dispute letter online is always faster and, thus, the best choice available to you.
In your dispute letter, break down the erroneous information and proof of your identity. That way, the credit bureau or collection agency knows how to find the inaccurate information and fix the issue promptly.
Once you file your dispute letter, the agency or organization has 30 days to investigate the issue and another five business days to get back to you. Most organizations are willing to fix double jeopardy errors once they are made aware of them.
Under the rights outlined in the FCRA, you have the right to up-to-date and accurate credit information. If an organization doesn’t fix double jeopardy errors, or if it refuses to investigate erroneous information in the first place, you could have grounds for a lawsuit.
If this is the case for you, you should contact legal experts like Fair Credit. The right legal representatives can help you file a lawsuit against the offending agency or organization. With their help, you could win a lawsuit and damages of up to $1000 or more depending on the specifics of your case.
Credit report double jeopardy occurs when a collection account is duplicated or repeated more than once, such as a charged-off account being noted twice. If you notice double jeopardy on your credit report, file a dispute letter at the earliest opportunity. That’s the only way to repair your credit score and minimize negative financial consequences.