Submitted by Jen Jones on Sat, 01/09/2010 - 10:45am
By now most consumers know that one of the first things to take a hit when debt problems come knocking is the good ol' credit score. Sometimes people end up with a bad debt hanging like an albatross around their necks--and dragging down their credit scores--for years. But there is light at the end of the tunnel: negative information can only legally remain on your credit report for so long before it gets wiped away. After 7 years, you can expect a bad debt to be scrubbed from your report; but can you rely on the credit reporting system to ensure you're not getting a raw deal?
You should check your credit report periodically and ensure that the information being reported about you is accurate. You definitely want to make sure that negative information is being reported fairly; as many debtors have found, negative information not belonging to you can end up on your credit report as a result of mistake or fraud. Even if you are responsible for a bad debt listed in your report, mistake or fraud may have caused some details of that debt to be misreported. Debt "re-aging" refers to a bad debt whose date of expiration, so to speak, has been artificially extended; if you find this kind of mistake on your report, there are steps you can take to fix your report.
Keep in mind that there are three credit bureaus which report credit history. If you believe a debt has been re-aged, you will have to contact all three bureaus to request the removal of the debt from your file. Thus, you want to obtain a report that contains information for all three bureaus. Look at the date of last activity reported on your credit report for the bad debt. The clock starts at 180 days after the date the debt first became delinquent. If the original debtor has sold the debt to a debt collector, the debt collector may fraudulently move the date forward in an effort to coerce the debtor into paying, either by prolonging the bad effects of the bad debt on the debtors credit history or even just to bring the debtors attention to the debt once more. However, keep in mind that mistakes happen; sometimes a creditor may simply have received incorrect information about the debt from the original creditor.
When the original creditor no longer appears on the debt, the debt is past the 7 year deadline for reporting. Any debt that you know to be older than 7 years should be contested. If you find a re-aged debt, contact each credit bureau and request the removal of the incorrect information. You may be able to contest the debt online, on each credit bureau's website, but you may have to complete a dispute form and mail it in. Include documentation about the debt, for example, information that proves that the reported creditor is not the original creditor, and documentation of the date of delinquency, such as credit card statements. You may also want to include older credit reports that accurately reported the age of the debt. Keep a copy of each letter you send to the credit bureaus.
The credit bureaus have 30 days to remove incorrect information from your file. If the information is not removed, you may want to file a complaint with the office of your State Attorney General. You may also write to the Federal Trade Commission to complain about the creditor, or even attempt a lawsuit against the debt collector. It can be difficult to prove that re-aging was purposeful, but the right kind of pressure can cause a debt collector to respond to your request. Remember that your goal is to get the unfair negative information removed from your credit report, so you can also try to appeal to the bureaus to remove the debt from your report on other grounds.
On the other hand, if waiting for debt to fall off your credit report is not an option, and if what you really need is to get out of debt now, and to get a "fresh start", consider filing bankruptcy. And if you do, keep the Law Offices of John T. Orcutt in mind, a North Carolina bankruptcy law firm offering a totally FREE initial consultation out of 4 different offices: Raleigh, Durham, Fayetteville and Wilson. Just call toll free to +1-919-646-2654 or visit their website at www.billsbills.com .
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