Get All Three Of Your Credit Reports
Your three credit reports from consumer reporting agencies Equifax, Experian and TransUnion are not identical.
The old debt in question might be listed in some credit reports but not others. To find out, get a copy of all three of your reports. Federal law entitles you to request a free copy of each report once every 12 months. You can download them for free at AnnualCreditReport.com.
Once you find out which bureaus are listing the debt, contact them. Your credit report will include contact information and dispute instructions. Equifax, Experian and TransUnion will give consumers free weekly credit reports until April 20, 2022.
Why this is important: If youre only looking at the copy of your credit report from one credit bureau, you may be missing inaccurate information that is on another report.
Who this affects most: Mistakes with credit reports can happen to anyone with old debt on any of your credit reports.
Errors By The Credit Provider
A credit provider may have reported information wrongly. For example, they:
- incorrectly listed that a payment of $150 or more was overdue by 60 days or more
- did not notify you about an unpaid debt
- listed a default while you were in dispute about it
- didn’t show that they had agreed to put a payment plan in place or change the contract terms
- created an account by mistake or as a result of identity theft
To fix this kind of error:
- Contact the credit provider and ask them to get the incorrect listing removed.
- If the credit provider agrees it’s wrong, they’ll ask the credit reporting agency to remove it from your credit report.
If you can’t reach an agreement, contact the Australian Financial Complaints Authority to make a complaint and get free, independent dispute resolution.
If you’re struggling to get something fixed, you can contact a free financial counsellor for help.
Is It Possible To Remove Them Before They Fall Off
No matter what you may have heard or been told to the contrary, it is generally not possible to remove accurate and timely data from your credit report. If you really did default on a loan or a credit card and it hasnt been seven years, that item is going to stay put.
This includes items that may be beyond your states statute of limitations . Items that are too old to be collected in court under the SOL that are less than seven years old are still going to show up on your credit report. It is also important to understand that until any legitimate debt is paid, you still owe it even if you cant be sued or if it has fallen off of your credit report.
However, inaccuracies and out of date items on your credit report can be removed. Well discuss that further in just a bit.
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Send A Pay For Delete Offer To Your Creditor
You have to approach accurately reported negative information differently. Credit bureaus wont remove accurate, verifiable information even if you dispute it , so you may have to negotiate to have some items removed from your credit report.
Pay for delete offer is a technique you can use with delinquent, or past due, accounts. In pay for delete negotiation, you offer to pay the account in full in exchange for having the negative details removed from your credit report. Some creditors will take you up on the offer.
Get Free Credit Reports
Visit annualcreditreport.com to order or download a free credit report from each of the three major credit bureaus.
These reports wont show your credit score, but you can check them for inaccuracies and new credit applications you didnt make all of which affect your credit score.
Federal law gives you the right to one free credit report from each credit bureau each year.
Temporarily, because of the Covid-19 pandemic, you can get one free credit report from each bureau once a week.
This provision is scheduled to expire in April of 2021. After that, youll have access to a free credit report only once a year.
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Work With A Credit Counseling Agency
Several non-profit credit counseling organizations, like the National Foundation for Credit Counseling , can help dispute inaccurate information on your record.
The NFCC can provide financial counseling, help review your credit history, help you create a budget and even a debt management plan free of charge. It also offers counseling for homeownership, bankruptcy and foreclosure prevention.
As always, be wary of companies that overpromise, make claims that are too good to be true and ask for payment before rendering services.
When looking for a legitimate credit counselor, the FTC advises consumers to check if they have any complaints with:
- Your states Attorney General
- Local consumer protection agencies
- The United States Trustee program
Dispute The Error With A Business Directly
Of course, you can also skip dealing with the credit bureaus and talk to the business that might have produced the false error. For instance, if a data furnisher like a credit card company reported a late payment that you know was on time, you can contact the company and demand that the error be corrected.
In this case, youll also write a letter and present your evidence in the same way as you would with a credit dispute letter to a bureau. It helps to inform them that they have a responsibility to report the error and the correction to all the bureaus once noticed.
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Write A Goodwill Letter
No luck with direct contact or a written dispute? A goodwill letter is another tool in your arsenal to nix those late payments from your credit report.
These letters are ideal in situations where you missed payments and are now in good standing. is already in collections, a pay for delete arrangement may be your best bet. More on that shortly)
In a nutshell, a goodwill letter is a written request to the bank, credit card issuer, or other creditor asking that they remove the late payment from your credit report.
Theres no guarantee that theyll remove the negative mark, but its worth a shot. Plus, you can plead your case again if they reject your request the first time around.
When drafting up your letter, be honest about why you were delinquent. For example, if you hit a rough patch because you became unemployed or dealt with medical issues, put that information in there. Or maybe your account was compromised, or there was a glitch in autopay, so the payment was returned or didnt go through.
Regardless of your reasoning, be as specific as possible and reiterate that the entry does not reflect your true character. It just resulted from a financial rough patch, and that youve worked hard to get back on track.
Send A Pay For Delete Letter To Your Creditor
Your credit score suffers when your credit report contains derogatory information . You can negotiate an items removal with a debt collector by using a pay for delete letter. It may not work, but its certainly worth a try since it is a legal request.
The gist of a pay for delete letter is an offer: Youll pay some or all of the amount you owe, after which the collector will remove the derogatory item from your credit report. Thats a win-win, as an item hurting your credit score is removed, and your collector receives at least some of the money you owe.
Procedurally, you should first request a debt validation letter from the collector verifying it has accurate information about your debt. You can request the letter within 30 days of the initial contact from the collector. If the letter reports accurate debt , you can then follow up within the next 30 days with a pay for delete letter.
However, if you dont recognize or agree with the debt in question, you can request the collector to prove you legally owe the money. If it cannot provide proof, it must drop its collection account request. This wont automatically remove the item from your credit report, but you can request that as part of the dispute.
You dont have to reinvent the format for your verification request letter or a pay for delete letter. Youll find many sample templates on the internet that are freely available or sell for a nominal price.
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How To Dispute Credit Report Errors
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Errors on your credit reports can cause your credit scores to be lower than they should be, which can affect your chances of getting a loan or credit card and how much interest you pay. Disputing credit report errors and getting those negative items removed can be a quick route to a better score.
Here’s how to dispute credit report errors and have them removed in four steps.
Common Credit Report Errors To Look Out For
According to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, these are the most common errors consumers find on their credit history:
- Wrong name, address or phone number
- Accounts from someone with a similar name
- New credit accounts opened by someone who stole your identity
Incorrect account status
- Accounts wrongfully labeled as open, past due or delinquent
- Accounts that wrongfully listed you as the owner instead of authorized user
- Wrong date for the last payment received, date the account was opened or delinquency status
- Same debt listed multiple times
- Information that is not removed, despite already being disputed and corrected
- Accounts that are listed multiple times, with different creditors
- Incorrect credit limit
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How To Get Something Off Your Credit Report
According to the Federal Trade Commission, no one can legally remove accurate and timely negative information from a credit report.
But, if the item is questionable or doesnt quite tell the entire story, you have the right to file a dispute and request an investigation with each credit bureau thats reporting it. You also have the right to file a dispute if an account results from fraud or identity theft.
Have A Professional Remove Collections From Your Credit Report
If this all seems like too much for you to handle, and you are worried about trying to take on a collection agency on your own, theres an entire industry devoted to credit repair that is ready to help you.
A professional credit repair company like Lexington Law could help restore your credit usually within three or four months.
They wont take any action you couldnt take yourself. Since credit repair is all they do, itll work faster and more efficiently.
You would need to budget some money for the monthly payments, which average about $100 depending on the plan you choose.
Theres also a one-time set-up fee for most .
But if you want to get your personal finances back on track without spending your free time on the phone or writing letters, you should consider this kind of service provider.
Debt collections come in many forms.
Whether its an unpaid medical bill, a cell phone bill, or even an $18 library book you never returned, unpaid debt can lead to negative information on your credit report.
It looks especially bad when the negative item comes from a collection agency.
Collections accounts tell other creditors you let an old debt go three or maybe even six months without paying.
When you apply for new credit, lenders know your old lenders lost money on your accounts.
So a collection account will have a negative impact on your ability to apply for new credit whether its a mortgage, a major credit card, or a personal loan.
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Will The Collection Agency Remove A Paid Collection From Your Credit Reports
In case youre wondering whether you can ask a collection agency to delete a collection account early from your credit reports as part of a settlement agreement, youll probably be disappointed again. Collection agencies typically wont agree to this type of settlement, which is known as pay for delete.
Why not, especially if doing so might entice more people to pay off old debts? The reason collection agencies generally wont agree to delete paid or settled accounts is because the major credit bureaus have asked them not to.
Collection agencies sign agreements with the credit bureaus to obtain the right to report the collection information they want included on consumer credit reports. After all, adding negative collections to credit reports is a big way that collection agencies put pressure on people to pay their old debts.
For example, someone might not care about an old medical bill that a collection agency is calling and writing them about. But if that old bill turns into a collection account that lowers her credit scores and gets her denied for a loan, suddenly things change.
So, as mentioned, collection agencies sign agreements with the credit bureaus to get those delinquent accounts added to consumer credit reports. In those agreements, collection agencies generally promise not to request the deletion of accurate information simply because the applicable accounts are paid.
MoneyFactWeight in Credit Scores
Work With A Professional
Now that Ive outlined the do-it-yourself methods for removing something from your credit report, lets get into your other option.
You have the option of using a credit repair service to remove negative items from your credit report. This is a great option when youre in a hurry, or simply dont want to deal with negotiating with creditors.
Because credit repair companies specialize in dealing with the credit reporting agencies, they are more likely to be successful than if you do it yourself.
Their credit repair service isnt free, but honestly, its more than worth the cost. Ultimately, youre going to save money by having a clean credit report and a higher credit score.
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When To Dispute With The Creditor
If the credit bureau has done its investigation and has verified with the creditor that the account was within the credit reporting time limit, you should now dispute with the lender that listed the negative information. Your dispute letter will look very much the same. State that your credit report shows an inaccurate delinquency date for the account. Give the true date of delinquency if you have it. You may be able to get the delinquency date from an old billing statement, past due notice, or previous credit report if you saved any of these.
Just like credit bureaus, the business is required to investigate and respond to your dispute within 30 days and have the credit bureau remove the account from your credit report.
File A Complaint With The Financial Consumer Agency Of Canada
If you have noticed inaccuracies or outdated information on your credit report, and have been unable to get a response from the relevant creditors, you can turn to The Financial Consumer Agency of Canada.
On their website, you can find forms to dispute both against inaccuracies from financial companies, as well as .
If you have a legitimate claim to have a negative item removed from your credit report, but have been unable to resolve it in any other way, filing a complaint is sure to get the notice of your creditors.
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How To Remove Negative Items Before The 7
If you cant wait 7 years for derogatory items to fall off your credit report, then you have three options.
The first method is a reliable way of deleting outright errors from your credit report. If you want to delete legitimate information, youll have to use the second or third method, both of which have a much lower chance of success.
Get Something Removed From Your Credit Report
Learn how to get something removed from your credit report and see why doing so might matter for your financial future.
Tim Fries is the cofounder of The Tokenist. He has a B. Sc. in Mechanical Engineering from the University of Michigan, and an MBA from the University …
Meet Shane. Shane first starting working with The Tokenist in September of 2018 and has happily stuck around ever since. Originally from Maine, …
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Your credit report holds considerable power over your financial future.
While this is great if you already have excellent credit, it can be worrying if you dont. And if youre like most of us you simply dont have excellent credit.
Negative items on your credit report might limit your options for loans, change your debt repayment strategies, and can stop you from purchasing big items like houses or cars. While negative items will eventually go away on their own, its often smarter to get something removed from your credit report ahead of schedule.
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