Question: One of my subscribers had a question. She asked, “What’s the best way to have negative information removed from my credit report?”
Answer: Negative information can legally stay on your credit report for seven years. For some negative information, such as a bankruptcy, it can be as long as 10 years. The subscriber didn’t say if this is correct negative information or if this was inaccurate negative information, and so that demands a little bit more explanation.
Certainly if there was an error that was reported about you to Equifax, Experian, or TransUnion, you should dispute that negative information in order to have it removed from your credit reports.
The single best way to have negative information that is inaccurate removed from your credit reports is to contact the creditor directly, who said something erroneous and negative about you.
So if that was a utility company, a credit card company, perhaps your mortgage lender, an auto loan company, a finance company, a charge card company, a retailer, if any of them posted any negative information about you, such as you paid late allegedly; you had an account go to collections; you perhaps were 60 days or 90 days or more behind on your bill; any such negative information which indicates that you did not pay as agreed, and if that information is erroneous, contact that creditor first to try to have them to remove the information.
The reason I suggest going to the creditor first is that when they delete the information, they will update their records and that information is less likely to be reposted to your credit reports later.
Sometimes, consumers want to go directly to the big three credit bureaus, Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion, in order to get negative information removed, and you might be successful in doing that.
However, frequently what a lot of people will find is that a month, two months, three months down the road that negative information might pop up on the credit reports once again. So that’s why it’s always best to go right to the source, to the creditor who has posted information about you.
Now if the information is outdated, you are also legally entitled to get that information removed from your credit report. According to the Fair Credit Reporting Act, if it is outdated, let’s say it is more than seven years old, then yes, you can contact the bureaus directly for that and say listen, “This is something negative; this is outdated, old information on my credit reports. Please delete this information immediately.”
You can do so by contacting the credit bureaus online. Each of them maintains a website. They also have mailing addresses for Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion that you can write to them directly to get negative information removed.
I always suggest, though, to consumers that to have negative information that is inaccurate or outdated removed most expeditiously, it is best to use the online dispute services that are offered by Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion.
Negative information that is correct on your credit report, you don’t have a legal way, certainly, of getting the credit bureaus to remove that information.
If you have negative information such as a collection account that is say three years, four years, five years old on your credit report and you contact your old creditor or perhaps the collection agency that previously handled the account, you might be able to negotiate a lump sum settlement with them to do something called a PFD, a pay for deletion.
This essentially means that you recognize that you had a bill that went past due. You may not have the entire amount to pay but you do have something that you can pay.
In many cases, if it is a debt that is many years old‑three, four, perhaps may be five years old‑ that old creditor or collection agent, frankly, might be pretty happy to hear from you, because now they are going to get some money. After all these years when the debt has been written off as uncollectible, they are going to get some money instead of no money.
So sometimes, if you will offer them 0.25 on the dollar, 0.50 on the dollar, somewhere around there, they might be willing to delete that negative information from your account. If you are thinking of doing this strategy, get an agreement in writing upfront from the creditor or collection agency before you turn over a check or any kind of money to pay to have negative information removed from your credit report.