Collection accounts generally stick to your credit reports for seven years from the time the account became overdue.
But you might want to remove them sooner than that; unpaid collections can make you look bad in the eyes of potential creditors. And while the new versions of the FICO and VantageScore credit scores ignore paid collectionsMany lenders still use older formulas that even count collections paid against you.
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Check your free credit report and see your score. Your information is updated weekly so that you can keep track of changes.
Here are the steps to remove a collection account from your credit report:
1. Do your homework
Get debt information from two places: your credit reports and your own records.
Until April 20, 2022, you can get a free credit report every week from each of the three major credit bureaus in using AnnualCreditReport.com. In addition, you can check your free credit report at NerdWallet as often as you like, plus a free credit score, both from TransUnion.
Gather your own records for more details about the account, including its age and your payment history.
In between, check these details:
Account status (paid, debited, closed)
The date the debt went unpaid and was never updated again
Once you’ve figured out the details, you can decide which approach is right for you.
2. If a collection is on your report by mistake, dispute it.
You may have a collection account on your credit report that shouldn’t be there. Maybe it’s too old to report again, or the collection itself is incorrect.
Too old to report: Overdue accounts should disappear from your credit report seven years after the date they became and remained overdue. But that doesn’t always happen. For debts that last longer than they should, File a dispute with any credit bureau that still lists debt.
If a credit bureau made a mistake on your report – if you don’t recognize the account or if a paid account shows up as unpaid, for example – gather documentation to support your case. Then file a dispute using the credit bureau’s online process, over the phone or by mail. The office has 30 days to respond.
The collection is incorrect: If you believe the error is on the part of the debt collector, not the credit bureau, ask the collector to validate the debt to make sure it’s yours. Note that you have 30 days from the date the collector first contacted you to dispute the validity of the claim. If the collector cannot validate, the collection should come out of your reports. Follow up to make sure.
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3. If you have already paid off the debt: request a cancellation of business assets
You can ask the current creditor – either the original creditor or a debt collector – what is called a “traffic suppression. “
Write the collector a letter explaining your situation and why you want the debt removed, such as if you are about to apply for a mortgage. There is no guarantee that your request will be accepted, but there is nothing wrong with asking. A record of on-time payments since the debt was paid will help your case.
Your credit report will still show late payments leading up to the collection action, but deleting the collection itself removes one source of damage to the score.
4. An unlikely option: pay to delete
Under a payment for deletion agreement, debt collectors remove the collection account from your credit report in exchange for a payment on the debt. The collection account will be deleted, but negative information about late payments to the original creditor will persist.
However, reaching a pay to delete is rare, potentially unethical, and soon to be obsolete. Since debt collectors must report accurate information to credit bureaus, removing the correct information falls into a gray area.