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How To Remove Collection Accounts From Your Credit Report

Stasie Tillman
Written by Stasie Tillman

A past-due debt going to collections is one of the most detrimental things to hit your credit report. But then again you’ve witnessed this first hand. You’ve watched your credit report crash and burn, from delinquent payments, to charge-offs, to collections, and possibly even bankruptcy. Now you’re seeking to recover after having fallen so deep down the rabbit hole.

There are certain items that you have to let time handle. For example, a bankruptcy will stay on your credit report for up to 10 years, while paid collection accounts can remain for up to seven years. Both reflecting poorly on your current good credit behavior and being a hindrance to you accessing new credit.

The bankruptcy being on your report is often seen as a fresh start to many lenders however those collection accounts can give pause. Can those collection accounts be removed? Here we take a look at your options to clear the scourge from your credit report and get you back on a path to attaining a good credit score.

To Settle or Not to Settle, That is the Question?

Once you have an account sent to collections, you’ll receive numerous notifications from the collection agency stating this is an attempt to collect a debt… and so on. But how to tackle those seemingly insurmountable balances?

In most situations the collection agencies will offer flexible payment options, a cancellation of the debt by full payment of a reduced settlement amount, or a combo option of installment payments on a reduced amount. These are great options to get the process started, especially if you cannot pay the full balance owed.

Look at the debt collector’s offer as the first in a series of negotiations. You can counter offer. Or if the collector does not offer a settlement, you can offer an amount you’d like to pay. There’s no law against lowballing. And once the offer amount is accepted, clearly state your terms. One would think that by paying off the balance owed the collection would immediately be erased from your report, but in many instances that may not be the case. State that you would like the collection record removed from your report once paid. Place all stated terms in writing and mail in letter with check.

Collection Account Errors

There are some cases where the balance was paid off in the past and somehow still ended up on your credit report. Back in college I remembered closing a credit card account and working with the creditor to pay of the remaining balance through monthly installments. A few months later I found a new collection listed on my report and after investigating determined it was from the credit card I’d paid off.

All I could think was that these creditors are out to get me. And I’m sure a few of you may have had the same sentiment. It took some back and forth between me, the collections, and the creditor before the issue was rectified, but it was removed within the month.

You may have collections accounts that are erroneous, being that they were reported after having been paid. Or some that are more than a decade old and are far beyond the statute of limitations for your particular state of residence. In these instances a simple written request for a validation of the claimed debt could serve to have it removed from your credit report as being unfound.

This method can be done directly with each credit bureau by using a 609 Credit Dispute letter. According to the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) section 609 requires credit reporting agencies to remove outdated or unverified negative items from an individual’s credit report. Otherwise the credit reporting agency is required to provide documented proof of the debt. If there is no documentation the debt info must be removed from the credit report. This is often the method many credit repair agencies use when you employ their services.

Pay or Dispute, Rinse, Repeat.

It starts with staying on top of monitoring your credit report. The best case scenario would be to keep paying your outstanding debts so that they do not get charged-off and end up in collections. But if you end up with accounts in collections, reach out to the debt collector and begin the process.

1. Ask for validation of the debt and once that is received proceed to negotiate a settlement amount and terms.

2. Establish terms that would delete the collection from your credit report. Most creditors are willing to agree with this provided you pay as agreed.

3. Put all terms in writing with the amount, due date, noting the collection agency will notify the credit bureaus of your paid in full status and removal from credit report (if applicable).

4. Follow-up by checking your credit report each month to verify that the debt was removed, and if not reach out to the debt collector or the original creditor.

If you’re initial request for validation of debts could not be validated, then follow-up in writing with the debt collector to request that these accounts be removed from your credit report. Keep checking your report each month to ensure these issues are taken care of. In situations where the collection agency is unable or unwilling to agree to your terms or help you remove the negative information from your credit report, you will need to dispute it with the credit bureaus. Thankfully, now the disputing process can be done easily on the credit bureaus websites.

Follow-up is the key! Remember at the end of the day it is your credit history and score that suffers, so it is imperative to stay on top of the debt-collectors and credit reporting agencies to ensure the issues get rectified. Give the debt collector a taste of their own medicine for once, and reap the benefit of watching your credit score climb in the process.

About the author

Stasie Tillman

Stasie Tillman

Stasie Tillman is a writer & an investment and personal finance analyst. She oversaw the Analytics department for a prominent Long Island, New York brokerage firm for many years. She’s on a quest to
live a balanced life in all aspects (mind, body, and spirit). Come be encouraged and find inspiration to live A Stoic Life.

63 Comments

  • A creditor can not by law agree to immediately remove your colkections from butmreau once paid .also paying all of your ccs down to zero balance destroys your ficos

  • Hello, recently found out that a judgment was entered against me 20 years ago in Florida. My mortgage company notified me that they received a subpoena for information on my loan application. I purchased a home last year 2017. After researching I found out that I was sued in 1996 for $6000 for the balance owed on a car that i purchased when I lived in Miami. After moving to NY in 1994, had financial problems and made arrangements for the bank to pick up the car. I did inform them that I had no means to pay them. At that time I was a 24yo student looking for work. Never heard from them nor received any court papers. I called the law firm on the subpoena which also turned out to be a debt collection agency who purchased the debt. They say I now owe $30,000 which includes legal fees and interests. I am trying to get a copy of the summons because I do not recall ever being served. Had I known, I would have addressed this years ago. This has never shown up on my credit report and when I purchased my home nothing showed up. They are threatening to garnish my pay, bank acct, and put a lien on my home. Does anyone’have any suggestions?

    • All debt has a statute of limitations in which they can come after you for the old debt. If it is over 7 years old in most states, they are not allowed to sue you over this debt and after 7 years it cannot show up on your credit report. You need to speak to a lawyer about this, someone is trying to scam you. Also ask the debt collection agency to send you the actual loan papers you signed before you agree to any payment or even agree that it i your debt.

  • Tell them to send you any documentation with your signature on it showing that the card is yours. If they don’t have any proof they are bound by law to remove it immediately.

    • Can you elaborate on that? I have been dealing with BofA regarding the “signature” proof approach and their written response has been that this was an online application and that is “proof” that the account was made. I have a charge off that I have been challenging for almost a year now.

  • I filed bankruptcy last year and I have four collection accounts that are still listed on my credit report even though they have a zero balance.

  • good comments. I had 2 accounts where I was an authorized user only. not a co-borrower. I had those removed by simply stating, that I have not signed anywhere on theses debts and I am only authorized user. This person listed me as a nice gesture, to show I have more available credit. when his credit was good, then he defaulted and it was hurting my score. He got sick and hospitalized. they removed them. I did have to write all three credit agencies. did online.

  • good comments. I had 2 accounts where I was an authorized user only. not a co-borrower. I had those removed by simply stating, that I have not signed anywhere on theses debts and I am only authorized user. This person listed me as a nice gesture, to show I have more available credit. when his credit was good, then he defaulted and it was hurting my score. He got sick and hospitalized. they removed them. I did have to write all three credit agencies. done online.

  • I had my credit score increased to 800, after i reached out to the best credit repairer with great concept and reviews about credit, I reached out to him for both credit score increase and removal of all unwanted items from my credit, which he did in 5 days, I believe *** is the best,reach out to him today to help you fix all your credit issues

    MODERATOR’S NOTE: The Credit Solution Program does not recommend using contacts you find in our comments to repair your credit. We have no way of guaranteeing they aren’t scammers. When in doubt, use a certified program. Here’s more information on how to spot scammers from the Federal Trade Commission: https://www.consumer.ftc.gov/articles/0225-credit-repair-scams

      • Hi Liz,
        Please don’t use the emails listed in these comments. We try to remove them as quickly as possible, but sometimes they slip through. We can’t guarantee they aren’t scammers. When in doubt, use a certified company (like Credit Pros.)

  • I signed up with a debt relief agency a year ago as this process was new to me. The company established a savings account for me and negotiated with a company for me to resolve an account through negotiations for an amount considerably lower than the actual debt. They also paid themselves handsomely for the negotiation process which was almost as much as they resolved.
    They did not negotiate to my benefit. My credit report was hit costing me 43 points, as the Collection company reported an open amount of $2000.00., although they had a written agreement to settle the initial bill in the amount of $2700.00 for $1000.00. How do I get this off of my credit history?

    • Stasie i have an old wells fargo secured credit card acct i was paying on it each month than got into sone minor but nevertheless legal trouvle where i was locked up for 6 months i asked my christian lady friend to resolve this with the bank but she didnt so even though the bank had the money in escrow they still liat ir as 60 days past due this was 4 years ago the acct has been closed since 2013 listed as paid but every tine i go fmto apply for credit i get a ding for the past due acct saying its past due what do i do its killing my credit

  • I received a letter from a collection agency telling me that I owe a debt from a credit card that I never had. I never received statements from this credit card, nor did I ever receive phone calls from the company to try to retrieve the debt. When I called them to explain this to them, they said they would investigate it. A week later I got a letter in the mail stating that the debt was mine. Now what do I do? I refuse to pay someone else’s bill!

    • Request a copy of :
      1)all statements that and 2)your signatures as they appear on each purchase alleged and
      3) validation documentation of your alleged card activation.
      #StayBlessed

  • I went to my credit union to get a credit card and when they ran my credit they denied my because they said my debt to income ratio was 5% higher than it should be to get a card. Sooo, they said they would see if i could get a $500.00 secured loan that i was approved for. Thing is, when it was approved and did it i did not know they ran my credit AGAIN and i didn’t know they did until i looked at my report. Questoin 1- Why would they run it 5 minutes after they just looked at it and Questions 2-HOW DO I GET RID OF (if i can?) 1 OF THE INQUIRES THAT HAS THE SAME DATE??? PLEASE HELP ME IF YOU CAN… THANK YOU IN ADVANCE. ..

  • Legitimate debts stay on the report, UNLESS a professional knows specific ways to lawfully remove them. As a credit and collections manager for more than 25 years, I often wondered why anyone pays any collection account, except to possibly buy a home or automobile. Paid collections will not increase your score by even one point because there is no benefit of available credit to lighten the debt-to- credit ratio. So, if it’s going to stay on your report anyway, DON’T PAY! Live with your mistake, and keep your money in your pocket, where it belongs. Your family will need it!

    • tMister K that doesnt make sense to not pay. They can take you to court, sue you, garnish your wages, and more. How do you simply not pay? Legally? also, I am aware that paying it does not increase credit score, but on the other hand, not paying it keeps it around forever. If you are truly a professional in this area I would really like to know how to avoid paying an almost $19,000 debt without getting sued, or other legal action…thanks!

  • Stasie: i acquired a Visa Rewards
    Card (secured) from my bank and every month I charged on it .
    I paid it off in full each month for
    3yrs, and my bank unsecured my
    card and said they would increase my credit line. A week later my friends wife took my card out of my wallet paid her utilities and retirned it to my wallet. I never saw a statement
    since I’m gone driving. Finally my banks collection agency informed me that my account was turned over for collection.
    My credit score hit the bottom
    and I have sent briefs to all 3 credit agencies and Lexington Law and nobody is doing anything. My Visa was$873.00
    and will be paid in full in 2mo.

  • I had a Macy’s card that I very seldom used. Then I used it for the amount of $11.00 and I forgot about it for 4 months. They only contact me recently after they closed my account and reported it to the credit bureau. I called them to reverse it but they declined. What can I do. This decreased my credit by a 100 points for 11 dollars!!!

    • call then talk to a live person and tell them that you did have a balance left but would love to do business with them in the future if it can be cleared up

  • I just can’t thank you guys enough for all the helpful information. I do stay on top of my credit with credit monitoring. My scores are now 720 to 770 and going for 800 + Thank you

  • There are some inquiries on my credit report from 2006 and it is saying it has not been updated in 3 to 4 months what can I do.There are also some inquiries that was removed and still not updated.

    • Hi Beverly,

      It’s great that you’re staying on top of your credit report and reviewing it often. Try to first dispute anything you disagree with through the credit bureaus’ online. If those items in question aren’t removed the following month, I would reach out to the creditor directly and have them update the bureaus. All the best with your credit repair efforts.

  • I have a child support collection on Trans Union and Equifax. I have an older that shows is was going to be deleted, and a current one where the date has been moved out to a newer date. Any advice?

    • Hi David,

      That sounds frustrating. See my response to Dan below. You could try doing the same, or simply disputing with the bureau online.

      Good luck!

  • What about collection companies that keep re-aging an account? I have 2 accounts that were original default dates in 2007, yet 10 years later as of this month the collection agencies updated them as new again.

    • Hi Dan,

      I’ve seen that practice used more often these days. I’d suggest writing to the bureaus to request they provide proof of these collection accounts. Typically, if they have no documentation they will remove it altogether.

      Good luck!

      • What happens, or what does one do if a request to validate a debt is basically ignored by the credit reporting agency? I disputed several collections accounts with both Transunion and Experian, requesting tangible proof that it was my debt, ie: signed loan docs, application, receipt for merchandise, etc. I received nothing, except a blurb on my credit report that the debt had been validated, yet I never received any form of validation. Now what do I do? Thanks, Carole (paralgl01@ gmail.com).

  • I’m with Sharon, Annette How Did You Ever Get a Federal Student Loan Discharge????
    That Loan Has Runied MY Credit for Life. The Government Ownes Me. Jobs, cars, house, renting anywhere to live. Salie Mae now Navient actually has a Salie Mae Succide Hotline of their own.

    It owns everything except my soul which they can not have. Ruthless they will leave you homeless and hungry.

    • Whether or not you are in school or out call the education.gov.org you are entitled to a new program to get out of default if you make 23,000 @5.00 a month after 6 months go back to school after 9 months out of default and choose a payment based on income not what they want 20.00 a month for 20 years it’s over!

    • My student loans were forgiven dye to permanent disability that will unfortunately lead to death. Call Ancient and ask for info on loan forgiveness. They’re very supportive on this subject.

  • I had a storage unit that was auctioned off by the storage company, the amount I owed them is on my credit , how do I get this off my credit beings they sold my unit. Thank you. Joe.

    • Hi Joe,
      Thanks for reading! It may be worth your time to contact the credit bureaus and request they remove these collections accounts. You will need information from the storage unit company about when the unit was auctioned off. Hope that helps!

  • Ive never used credit. So my available credit is 0. I have 2k in bad reports (medical) if i get a pre paid card for 3k and create a balance of 1k credit debt will this balance me out in 6 months? I cant remove the reports even if i pay them so i would just like to come up enough to be able to get a home loan.

    • Its a very good chance your medical is a HIPAA violation, the medical can not sell or share your record with anybody without your written permission, in turn neither can the collector, so in turn this means you have a viable lawsuit againt the medical facility and the collector for 1000.00 per occurance each, your collections if you write them and tell them you want them to validate, not verify their claims, and they dont, thats another 1000.00 per occurance you can sue for

      • I have about $40.000 in collection for MEDICAL BILLS. IT GOES BACK TO 2011. FROM THREE DIFFERENT HOSPITALS. PLUS THE DOCTORS. I am disabled, and only get Social Security I am 74 yrs old and in very bad health .I. Can’t even afford my MEDS every month. Also My Ins. Paid ALOT to Hospitals. .I am at my wits end, My credit score is 560. So I have no credit.

    • File a dispute on the credit burea, the courts DO NOT REPORT on your credit bureau, the actually have a department that seeks out public records and applies them results on your bureau, so in turn any court related report on your bureau is super easy to remove

      • The credit bureaus use a couple third party services to collect information from the courts. Any judgement that has been entered becomes public record. Because of this, it is not super easy to remove. In fact that is what the bureaus use to deny these simple disputes. What needs to be done is file a dispute asking the bureaus to provide you with a validation, not verification, of their information. The validation is the paper work RECEIVED DIRECTLY FROM THE COURTS, which as Faith states “the courts do not report” or do they request the bureaus to report anything, therefore, the bureaus need to remove the information as provided in FCRA, even though it is correct. The bureaus may try and fight you on this but be persistent and don’t give up. One thing to remember, you may be able to have this information removed from the credit report but it stays on public records.

      • Hi.. I had two judgements filed against me.. I settled and paid them without going to court.. the are on my report.. one has no file date and doesn’t say paid.. the other says paid.. I wrote to both courts to stop providing and to remove off their dockets.. one court returned my letter saying that I have nothing listed with them.. the other court returned my letter saying incorrect address. I got the address off the certified letter. Now what????? Help!

        • Ally financial. Auto lender that do not care about customers, only how much they can leach from you… I recently… last year.. suffered a total loss of my vehicle.. insurance paid, all extra warienties were credited back,, Thenni was told that the account was paid and closed… well. Not… i found out via a ding on my credit report that now they are saying i owe 9k more .. i call and can never get a straight answer . Now my scores have dropped to the botton.. and all my limits on my other cards have collapsed. Is there an honest bank out there any more.. any ideas..

  • what do you do if an installment loan keeps updating a very old account as if it were just yesterday and it be on you credit report several times from where it has been sold?

    • They are violating your rights and you can sue
      cace v. Lucas, 775 F. Supp. 502, 505 (D. Conn. 1990) $1000Creditors or collection agencies, and credit bureaus if they try and â??Re-ageâ? your account by updating the date of last activity on your credit report in the hopes of keeping negative information on your account longer Consumer protection afforded by the FCRA

      • It is also on my credit report way back from 2006 and it is telling me it has not been updated in 3 to 4 months what do I do.

  • I paid off three of the collections account, back on 9/28/16. why doesn’t my credit report show they were paid?
    My federal student loan has been discharged, in fact, they owe me money. I sent a copy of discharge notice to all 3 credit score people. When does this all go away?

  • A company inquired about leasing a car. I did not initiate this inquiry. How do I stop this from happening again?

    There is an incorrect judgement on my credit report. It was placed last year. How do I handle this?

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