I researched further and found that while the collection agencies are required to authenticate the collection within 30 days of receiving the letter from the consumer, this is only applicable to those instances when the collection agency sent the letter to the consumer first. In my case, I never received the letter so my 45 day period to contact them had passed as far as they were concerned. Due to oversight by lawmakers, when collection agencies receive request to authenticate outside of the dispute period they cannot call me to collect but legally they do not have to provide any authentication. They can sit on my letter and have the collections still show up on my credit report for as long as they want.
This put me in an uncomfortable situation where it looked like my options were to either 1) pay the collection or 2) hire a lawyer to dispute. While I would like to hire a lawyer based on principle, I imagine that would be thousands while the account in dispute is < $1k. Especially since I would like to get into real estate investing, having the collection remain on my account was not acceptable.
I decided to give it one more attempt before calling the lawyers to see how much it would cost. I went to the Better Business Bureau and filed a complaint through them. BBB clearly states that they do not deal with credit report related items, I submitted it as a customer service issue and that the issue isn’t the credit report but the agency’s refusal to provide more information. I attached my original request letter and the certified mail receipt again to my complaint.
2 weeks later I received a response from BBB, which had a letter from the collection agency claiming that they no longer own the debt (my guess is that it got sold to the collection agency that promptly responded to my request) and provided me with a contact number of their compliance officer. I gave them a call, recapped the process, then asked when the item will be removed from my credit report since they admit to not owning the account. I was given a story about how it was a system glitch with Experian and that they have submitted a request to all agencies asking for the item to be removed from my account. I say “story” because they are claiming the glitch happened on January 2015 and I can’t imagine they let the glitch remain for 1.5 years. Also, when she gave me the confirmation number of their request for removal, I was told to give the agencies the conformation number and tell them that the letter was sent the day before my call.
I sent the copy of the letter to Experian on my dispute and summarized they admit to not owning my account. Now, I have to wait and see if this finally gets me anywhere.
I am still shocked by this entire process. I can’t believe 1) the law allows collection agencies to never send you proof of the collection and 2) all Experian does with a dispute is ask the collection agency without performing their own research into the issue. It feels like this process protects the collection agency more than the consumers.