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Credit Repair Tactics

Can I Get Negative Information Off My Credit Report? 

The best way to get negative information removed from your credit report is to negotiate directly with the company reporting it (the subscriber).  Several steps in this credit repair program offer information about negotiating with creditors to remove true, but negative information. 

You can also let time take care of negative information for you.  Under the provisions of the Fair Credit Reporting Act, negative information, such as charge-offs, late payments, slow payments, tax liens and judgments, must be deleted from a consumer's credit report after a period of seven years.  The statute of limitations begins running shortly after the entry was placed on your credit report and these negative notations cannot be renewed so that they stay on your report longer than seven years.  (Note: A bankruptcy must be deleted from a consumer's credit report after ten years.  A judgment can be renewed in a few states.  If this is the case in your state, a judgment could stay on your credit report for 20 or more years). 

The Fair Credit Reporting Act was enacted, in part, to provide consumers with a perpetual chance to establish a good credit rating by requiring negative information to be deleted from credit reports after a seven year period.  This means that, even if you have a terrible credit score today, you can someday have an excellent credit rating and a FICO credit score higher than 720, which would allow you to obtain easy financing at the best available rate. 

Information Older than Seven Years Shouldn't Be On Your Credit Report.

Debt collectors, who purchase really old debt for pennies on the dollar, often will place the collection account on credit reports, even though the debt is older than seven years and shouldn't be on there.  It can be difficult to get these notations removed since the credit bureaus do not comply with the law, but you can get them removed if you send a certified letter to the credit bureau demanding the account be removed.  You can also dispute a notation on your credit report in the following circumstances:

(1)  When you don't believe you owe the debt.  When you receive a collection letter from a creditor or bill collector demanding payment when you don't think you are responsible for the debt, you need to immediately send them a certified letter denying that you owe the debt.  Written notice stops them from placing negative information in your credit report.

(2)  When you dispute the amount of the debt.  Same as above.  You need to notify them in writing, preferably by certified mail.

(3)  When you are accused of paying late or missing a payment.  When you receive notification from a creditor that you have paid late or didn't pay at all, you need to give them written notice that you dispute the accuracy of their contention to prevent them from reporting it to your credit report at least until they reinvestigate and determine whether your claim is valid or not.

You must notify the creditor or bill collector rather quickly.  Do it within 30 days.  If you do provide written notice, you have some ammunition to fight back with later on when you discover that they placed negative information on your credit report anyway.  This is particularly true of bill collectors, many of whom are extremely ignorant of laws and regulations affecting their own industry.

If this happens to you, you can try to get the negative notations removed.  Send the credit bureau a copy of the letter you originally sent the creditor or bill collector disputing the validity of the debt or their claim that you paid late or missed a payment, etc., and demand that the negative notations be removed.  If the credit bureau reinvestigates and informs you that the notations will remain on your credit report, send a stronger letter demanding that the negative notation be removed.

You can also send a letter to the creditor reporting the information and demand that they remove them.  Send a copy of your original letter and inform them that they violated the law by placing the negative information on your credit report in the first place.

You Can Get Negative Info Removed from Credit Report if Company Doesn't Respond to Your Dispute

You might get true and accurate negative information removed from your credit report if the company reporting it doesn't respond to a reinvestigation request (or dispute) initiated by you.  Remember that the FCRA requires that your credit report be stated as accurately and fairly as possible; therefore, you can sometimes get negative information removed from your credit report because (1) your creditors simply don't care to process your re-verification request; (2) have failed to report account information; (3) have made a mistake in reporting account information.

Note that your purpose in disputing information contained in your credit report is not to get it updated and corrected. Your real purpose is to try to get the entire negative notation permanently removed from your credit report by hoping that the party to whom the re-verification request is sent does not respond at all, forcing the credit bureau to remove the entire account history from your credit report.  This happens more often than you might think, particularly when it involves matters that occurred two or more years ago.  Consider the following:

  • Many creditors do not want to incur additional expense hiring clerks and such to handle paperwork such as re-verification requests from credit bureaus.  If they ignore these requests, the information is removed from your credit report.  The smaller the company, the more likely it is that they will not respond to a re-verification request from a credit bureau.

  • Contrary to popular belief, most creditors and debt collectors are not that interested in damaging your credit rating or making sure that the information the credit bureaus is accurate and up-to-date.  Often, when an account is written off, inactive, sold or closed, creditors and collectors don't bother to update them, leaving you the opportunity to get true, but negative information removed from your credit report.

This same indifference is also found among court clerks who maintain the databases of liens, judgments and bankruptcies reported to the credit bureaus.  If you dispute information in your credit report regarding a judgment, lien, bankruptcy or any court-related information, it is the overworked and underpaid court clerk who must verify it as true and accurate when a request is received from a credit bureau.  You're hoping that she never gets around to doing it. 

Examples of how you might succeed in getting negative information removed from their credit reports:

Example 1:  You defaulted on a credit card three years ago and the bank eventually wrote off the debt as uncollectible.  You subsequently settled the account with a collection agency, but there is not a notation on your credit report stating "account settled for less than amount owed".  You can legally dispute this notation as the account is not being reported accurately.  The credit bureau will send your dispute back to the original creditor, who will either verify it as true, update it, delete it or ignore your request entirely.  If the latter happens, the entire account history will be removed from your credit report as the FCRA requires.  If the creditor updates it with the correct information, there is nothing more you can do, but your credit score will improve because of the correct notation.

Example 2:  You filed for Chapter 13 bankruptcy three years ago but your bankruptcy is being reported as a Chapter 7 bankruptcy (as is often the case).  Since Chapter 7 is more negative than Chapter 13, you have the right to dispute the bankruptcy notation to have it corrected.  The credit bureau will send a request for re-verification to the bankruptcy court.  If the bankruptcy court does not respond to the request (which you are hoping will happen) within 30 days, the entire bankruptcy notation is removed from your credit report.  If the bankruptcy court does respond with the correction, your credit score is improved a bit.

Example 3:  The credit card account you defaulted on was written off and eventually sold to a debt collection company who you settled with for half the amount owed.  Debt collectors are notorious for shoddy recordkeeping and they fail to make a notation in your credit report indicating that the account has been settled.  You wait for a period of one year, check your credit report and find that the debt collector never reported your settlement to the credit bureau.  You dispute the accuracy of this account with the credit bureau, which in turn, sends a request for re-verification to the debt collector.  Having settled the matter a year ago, the debt collector doesn't bother to respond to the re-verification request and the entire collection account is removed from your credit report, improving your credit score.

Example 4:  A credit card company reported incorrectly that a balance of $800.00 was charged-off in May 2010 when in fact the amount that was actually charged off was $500.  Because the amount is incorrect, you have a valid reason to request a re-verification.  When the credit bureau asks the credit card company to re-verify the amount, there is always the chance that it will not respond since the account is about five years old.  If they don't respond, the entire record comes off of your credit report, improving your credit score.

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